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Article: Christianity And The Witch Hunt Era (4/12)

April 16, 2007

The Witch Hunts: A Historical Aberration

* 1540: Antonio Venegas de Figueroa, Bishop of Pamplona, sent a circular to the priests in his diocese, explaining that witchcraft was a false belief. He recommended medical treatment for those accused of witchcraft, and blamed the ignorance of the people for their confusion of witchcraft with medical conditions.

In 1610, he sent a letter to the Inquisition saying that until the witch persecutions had been introduced to his region, the local people ‘had known nothing about witch sects or aquelarres [witches gatherings, or ‘sabbats’] or evil arts’. This extremely perceptive observation would be noted also by the brilliant Inquisitor Salazar, who likewise realised that the witch hunts were a manufactured evil caused by suggestion.

* 1550: The Suprema investigated the secular courts. Inquisitor Francisco Vaca condemned their systematic malpractice, and specific officials were reprimanded for abuses of authority, and for failing to obey the procedures commanded by the Inquisition:

‘The result of the visitation of Francisco Vaca was a long series of rebukes, in 1550, largely concerning the procedure in witch cases and eventually leading to the dismissal of Inquisitor Sarmiento, although his offences were simply what was regarded, everywhere but in Spain, as the plain duty of those engaged in a direct contest with Satan, represented by his instrument the witch. Sarmiento is told that he made arrests without sufficient proofs and accepted the evidence taken by secular officials without verifying it, as required by the practice of the Inquisition, and, whereas the Suprema ordered certain precautions taken before concluding cases, he concluded them without doing so, and subjected parties to reconciliation and scourging that were not included in the sentence. Although the Suprema had ordered all sentences of relaxation to be submitted to it, he had relaxed seven persons as witches, in disregard of this, and when repeatedly commanded to present himself, he had never done so. Then the fiscal was taken to task because he had been present at the examination of witches, conducting the interrogation himself, putting leading questions, telling them what to confess and assuring them that this was not like a secular court, where those who confessed were executed.’

Charles Lea, ‘A History of the Inquisition In Spain’, volume 4, book 8, chapter 9, page 218, 1906-1907

Article here.

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