Open main menu

Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/306

This page needs to be proofread.




prayers and psalms to lip rocitcd on certain days of t lie year, carrying green candles, confiscation of property, etc.

The ordinary penitents were those whose faults did not merit the death sentence. They wore the plain San lionito, that is, similar in form to the other, but decorated with the cross of St. Andrew, and they wore no coroza. N'arious pvniishment-s were imposed on them, always less than those of the rcconciliados, and at times almost grotesciue, e. g., the case of the criminal condemned on 7 December, 16(54, of whom it is recorded, "The sentence having been read, he was taken out into the court of the convent, placed on a scaffold, and strijiped to the waist. Indians then smeared him with honey, feathered him, and left him in the sun for four houi-s. " From the list made liy I). Jose Pichardo of the Oratory of St. Philip Ncri, who copied every tablet in the transept of Mexico cathe- dral, we see "that the crimes usually condemned liy the Inquisition were and Judaism. Many were condemned for lilasphe'my, bigamy, perjury, forgery, and witchcraft , as idolaters, lUuminati, Freemasons, and apostates ; for ha\ang heard confessions and said Mass without Holy orders, for haN-ing, with intent to deceive, received " Holy orders before attaining the prescribed canonical age, for rebaptizing, abetting polygamy, and feigning revelations {autos de fe 21 June, 1789 and 8 August, 1795).

A rfeum^ of the autos de fe from the figures of Fr. Pichardo, supplemented by others, gives the follow- ing result: —




Auto of Fray Martin de


12 774

1 1


Fray Juan de Zum^rnga Fray .A.lonso de Montufar


The Inquisition (1574-






The list published by J. Garcia Icazbalceta, includ- ing only the autos providing for capital punishinent, is somewhat different: — •







Fray Martfn de



Fray Juan de Zumdrraga



Auto of 1574

„ „ 1596

.. „ 1601



„ „ 1635


„ „ 164!)



„ „ 16.59



., „ 167S


„ ., 16SS


,. ., 1699


„ „ 1715


„ „ 1795


Total in 277 years



This number can be increased, as the autos from 1703 to 1728 (except 171.")) are not included, although during this period cases were rarely turned over to the secular arm. And even allowing for this it is evident that the number of victims commonly attributed to the Inquisition of New Spain Is greatly exaggerated.

From this it maybe seen how erroneous it is to de- nounce the Intpiisition as one of the greatest blots of the Spanish domination in Mexico. The Inquisition existed in Spain, and it was natural that it should be established in the new colonies. As the Indians were exempt from its jurisdiction, the full measure of its severity fell upon the Spaniards and heretics, pirates

or otherwise, of other nations who infested the coasts o"f New Spain. In fact, in the diilos il ion, covering a period of three hundred years, and extend- ing its jurisdiction far beyond the confines of the Aztec empire, barely reached fifty victims. The In- quisition pardoned readily, and those who recognized their errors and repented it easily reconciled. When it found or thought it found (for this tribunal like every other human tribunal made its mistakes) a criminal, he was turned over to the secular courts of justice, which passed and executed the sentence. In fact the Inquisition did no more nor less than the jury of to-day. It k true that it made use of the torture, but this was a practice common to all tribunals of that time. It also made use of the secret process — a method not unlikely to be productive of error — but it was easy to set aside the punishment or at least to mitigate it by repenting if one were guilty, or by frankly professing the Catholic Faith if one were not.

Nor can the Inquisition be blamed for judging her- esy a crime punishable by death; it was so held by all the civil courts of the times, and not without reason, because the heretics of those days were the initiators of rebellion in Catholic countries. At that time in England to be a Catholic was a crime punishable by death (see Penal Laws). Judged impartially, the In- quisition in New Spain appears as a tribunal which shares, it is true, the defects of contemporary methods, subject to mistakes like all other human institutions, more merciful than any other court under similar circumstances, above all if the relatively small num- ber of death sentences and the large number of recon- ciled be taken into consideration, as well as the glory of having accomplished at the cost of a small num- ber of lives, what the nations of Europe could not achieve even through the medium of long, bloody, fratricidal wars, the unity of religion and the preserva- tion of the faith. As regards the auto dc fe of 27 November, 181.5, which condemned D. Jos6 Maria Morelos, the principal leader of the war of independ- ence, see Morelos.

(7) The Spanish Government and the Colony. — Mexico having been conquered, Cortes, in virtue of the famous election of Vera Cruz and through force of circumstances, became the ruler. When, however, Charles V realized the importance of the conquest, without deposing Cortes, he began sending over other officials who, it may be said, were not very wisely chosen. Cortes, though outwardly complying, did not receive them well, doubtless because he foresaw that they would be a disturbing element in the re- cently conquered territories. When, however, he started on his famous expedition of the Hibueras, he showed equally little tact in selecting the men he left to fill his place. In the selection of the first Audiencia (152S-.31), composed of Nufio de Guzman, Juan Ortiz Matienzo, and Diego Degadillo, the emperor was even more tactless. The excesses and injustices of these judges were innumerable, and the ent ire colony suffered. Everything changed under the government of the second Audiencia (1531-3,5), composed of Bishop Sebastian Ramirez de Fuen Leal, D. Vasco de Quiroga, D. Francisco Ceinos, and D. Juan Salmeron. Be- ginning the work of reconstruction with zeal and per- fect integrity, they met at the very outset with an obstacle that greatly hampered them. The ancient legislation destroyed by the conquest had not been re- placed by any ot^her, while the Spanish code was en- tirely inadequate for the new dominions. To meet this situation, Spanish kings began formulating and