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Article: Christianity And The Witch Hunt Era (5/12)

April 17, 2007

The Witch Hunts: A Historical Aberration

* 1611: Local courts were again disciplined by the Inquisition. The magistrates were actually arrested and prosecuted by the Inquisition for abuses of authority:

‘When the local magistrates were proceeding as usual to arrest suspects, the alcaldes of the Royal Court of Navarre, early in 1611, interposed by arresting them in turn for exceeding their powers and prosecuted them to punishment.’

Charles Lea, ‘A History of the Inquisition In Spain’, volume 4, book 8, chapter 9, page 228, 1906-1907

The secular tribunal complained that since the interference of the Inquisition accusations and confessions of witchcraft had stopped, and even those who had previously confessed were now withdrawing their confessions:

‘.. .this had now all ceased, and those who had confessed were beginning to retract; the tribunal had relied upon the court [the Inquisition] for aid in exterminating this accursed race and now it was protecting them.’

Charles Lea, ‘A History of the Inquisition In Spain’, volume 4, book 8, chapter 9, page 228, 1906-1907

This was of course the best result possible. The Suprema published an ‘Edict of Grace’ (granting forgiveness without penalty to those who confessed), and ordered Inquisitor Salazar to have it made known in all the affected areas he visited:

‘On March 26th it had ordered the publication of an Edict of Grace, which Salazar was deputed to carry with him on a visitation to the infected districts and, after some delay, he started with it, May 22d, on a mission destined to open his eyes and put a permanent end to the danger of witchcraft epidemics in Spain.’

Charles Lea, ‘A History of the Inquisition In Spain’, volume 4, book 8, chapter 9, page 228, 1906-1907

The decision to issue an Edict of Grace was an startling innovation in the treatment of witches during this era. Although initial responses to the Edict were unpromising (the local people hesitant to denounce themselves, despite the promise of forgiveness), the strategy was used again the following year with great effect.

Article here.

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