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Thursday, September 06, 2007

The secular and spiritual courts were left to fight the losing battle with industrial and commercial progress

THE LIBRARY OF IBERIAN RESOURCES ONLINE A History of the Inquistion of Spain Volume Four Henry Charles Lea BOOK 8: Spheres of Action CHAPTER 16 Miscellaneous Business
The ecclesiastical definition of usury is not, as we understand the term, an exorbitant charge for the use of money, beyond the legal rate, but any interest or other advantage, however small or indirect, derived from a loan of money or other article. Forbidden by the Old Law, between the Chosen People, and extended under the New to the brotherhood of man, it has been the subject of denunciation continuously from the primitive Church to the most recent times. Ingenuity has been exhausted in devising methods of repression and punishment, only to show how impossible has been the task of warring against human nature and human necessities.
From an early period, usury was regarded as an ecclesiastical sin and crime, subject to spiritual jurisdiction in both the forum internum and forum externum. In 1258 Alexander IV rendered it justiciable by the Inquisition and, at the Council of Vienne, in 1312, the assertion that the taking of interest is not a sin was defined to be a heresy, which the Inquisition was in duty required to prosecute. (111) During the later Middle Ages, when the greater heresies had been largely suppressed, the prosecution of usurers formed a considerable, and the most profitable, portion of inquisitorial activity. It is true that the heresy consisted in denying that usury is a sin, but, as the Repertorium of 1494 explains, the usurer or simonist, who does not affirm or deny but is silent and tacitly believes it not to be a sin to commit usury or simony, is a pertinacious heretic mentally. (112)
In Spain, the usurious practices of Jews and Conversos were the principal source of popular hostility, but Jews were not subject to the Inquisition and, in its earlier years, it appears not to have recognized its jurisdiction in this matter over the Conversos, for I have met with no trace, at this period, of action by it against usury, whether in Castile or in Aragon. As regards the latter, indeed, it was impeded by a fuero of the Córtes of Calatayud, in 1461, prohibiting the prosecution of usurers, by both the secular and spiritual courts, and the procuring of faculties for the purpose by the Inquisition. To ensure the observance of this, Juan II was required to swear that he would not obtain any papal rescript or commission authorizing inquisition into usury and that, if such rescript were had, it should not be used but be delivered within a month to the Diputados. (113) It may be assumed that the Inquisition sought relief from this restriction, for Julius II issued [373] a motu proprio, January 14, 1504, reciting the fuero of Calatayud and stating that the usuraria pravitas had so increased that a measure of wheat would be multiplied to twenty-five within three years, chiefly because the Inquisition, in consequence of this fuero, was precluded from the exercise of its lawful jurisdiction. He therefore ordered Inquisitor-general Deza to prosecute all Christian usurers and compel them to desist, by inflicting the penalties prescribed by the general council, while Ferdinand was summoned to aid the inquisitors, and he and his successors were released from any oaths to observe the fuero. (114)
As all commercial and financial transactions at the time were based on interest payment and, as the agriculturist habitually borrowed seed-corn before sowing, to be repaid with increase after harvest, the Inquisition thus had an ample field opened for its operations. That it did not neglect the opportunity is fairly inferable from the opposition excited. It was the subject of one of the most energetic remonstrances of the Córtes of Monzon in 1510, and the Concordia of 1512 bore an article in which Ferdinand promised to obtain from the pope the revocation of the faculties granted to the inquisitors; that he would allow no other grant to be obtained, and that meanwhile he would arrange that no prosecutions should be brought except for open assertion that usury was no sin. For this, as for the other articles, he swore to procure the papal confirmation. Inquisitors were likewise sworn to obey the Concordia and, when Ferdinand was released from his oath by Leo X, in the brief of April 30, 1513, a motu proprio followed, September 2d, to the effect that, as heresy and usury are the most heinous of crimes, to be prosecuted with the sharpest rigor, the inquisitors were released from their oaths and directed to employ the faculties granted by Julius II for the suppression of usury. (115) This serves to explain why, in the compromise embodied in Inquisitor-general Mercader's Instructions of 1514, there is no allusion to usury--the inquisitors were not to be disturbed in the exercise of their functions in this respect. (116) When, however, Leo, in 1516, [374] confirmed the Concordia of 1512, he removed usury from inquisitorial jurisdiction and prohibited its prosecution unless the culprit should hold it not to be a sin. (117)
It has already been seen how completely the Inquisition ignored all these agreements, in spite of royal and papal confirmations. So, when Charles V was obliged, in 1518, at the Córtes of Saragossa, to take the specific and elaborate oath imposed on Juan II, it proved equally futile. (118) Inquisitors continued to exercise jurisdiction, but, in Aragon proper, they were impeded for a time by a brief of Clement VII, January 16, 1525, ordering them to confine themselves in future to heresy--a brief procured by Juan of Austria, Archbishop of Saragossa, who claimed jurisdiction over usury for his own court. (119) This afforded slender relief, for he employed the inquisitorial process and the Córtes of Saragossa, in 1528, adopted a fuero, confirmed by Charles V, reciting that the laws provide for the punishment of usurers by the secular courts, but that the ecclesiastical judges were prosecuting them, wherefore, at the desire of the four brazos, his majesty ordered the ancient laws of the kingdom to be enforced without exception. (120)
So long as the Inquisition was not involved, Charles was indifferent as to how usurers were treated, but, when the Catalans, at the Córtes of Monzon, in the same year, complained of the prosecution of usury by inquisitors and petitioned that it be prevented, he drily answered that the laws should be observed and justice should be done. (121) No greater satisfaction than this could be had when, a few years later, the Córtes of the three kingdoms reiterated the complaint of the prosecutions for usury by the Inquisition, inflicting an ineffaceable stain upon parties and their descendants, even though they were discharged without penance. The reply of the inquisitor-general to this was a simple denial, coupled with the demand that the names of injured parties should be produced. (122) In the absence of documents, it is not easy to understand why the Inquisition suddenly abandoned a jurisdiction for which it had contended so strenuously, but so it was. In 1552, Simancas asserts that inquisitors have no cognizance of questions arising from usury, but must leave them to the Ordinaries, for usurers [375] are not moved by erroneous belief, but by the desire for sordid gains. (123) In this Simancas evidently spoke by authority, for the Suprema, in a carta acordada of March 17, 1554, forbade the tribunals to take cognizance of usury, and the subject disappears from inquisitorial records. (124) The secular and spiritual courts were left to fight the losing battle with industrial and commercial progress, which eventually compelled the recognition of the fact that payment for the usance of money is customarily profitable to both parties.
The object of the Inquisition was the preservation of the purity of faith and not the improvement of morals. The view taken of its duties as to the latter is set forth in the comments of the Suprema on the report by de Soto Salazar of his visitation, in 1566, of the Barcelona tribunal. Clement, Abbot of Ripoll, was prosecuted for saying that so great was the mercy of God that he would pardon a sinner who confessed, even though he had not a firm intention to abstain in future, and also for keeping a nun as a mistress. He was fined in four hundred ducats, and was ordered to break off relations with the nun under pain of a thousand ducats. The Suprema sharply reprimanded Inquisitor Padilla for inflicting so heavy a penalty and for exceeding his jurisdiction in prohibiting the unlawful connection. So, when the inquisitors fined Jaime Bocea, an unmarried familiar, in twelve ducats for keeping a married woman as mistress, the Suprema told them that it was none of their business. It is true that in two other cases of familiars, fined in twenty ducats each for keeping mistresses, the comment is simply that the rigor was excessive. (125)
The same principle, as we have seen, was observed in the treatment of solicitation. The question of morals was studiously excluded, as a matter entirely beyond the purview of the Inquisition, and the only point considered was the technical one whether cases came within papal definitions drawn up to safeguard the sacrament of penitence. The same remark applies to the vigorous prosecution of those who held simple fornication to be no sin. [376] There was no attempt to repress the sin itself, for this was beyond the faculties conferred on the Inquisition, but merely to ascertain and punish the mental attitude of the accused.
As time passed on, however, and as the heretics who were the legitimate objects of the Holy Office grew scarce, there arose a tendency to enlarge its sphere of action and to assume the position of acustos morum. This has been seen in the censorship, which, during the later period, came to be applied not only to obscene books but to all manner of works of art that did not accord with the censor's standard of decency.
From this it was an easy step to intervene in the private lives of individuals, in matters wholly apart from its legitimate jurisdiction, of which we find occasional examples in the later period of decadence. Thus, in 1784, Josef Mas was prosecuted in Valencia for singing an improper song at a dance, and in 1791, there is a prosecution of Manuel de Pino for "indecent and irreligious acts." In 1792 the Barcelona tribunal takes the testimony of Ramon Seroles of Lloc, with respect to the scandalous life of the parish priest of that place and his abuse of the holy oils. In 1810 the Valencia tribunal is investigating Rosa Avinent, keeper of a tobacco-shop, for suspicion of maltreating some children in her house. In 1816 the Santiago tribunal sentences Don Miguel Quereyzaeta, a post-office official, to leave the city where he has led a disorderly and scandalous life, and charges him to reconcile himself to his wife and to live with her. In 1819, Don Antonio Clemente de Polar is prosecuted by the Madrid tribunal for propositions and for dressing in such wise as to satisfy the passions and for other excesses. (126)
In these and similar cases, it may be assumed that the parties inculpated richly deserved correction, but this sporadic defence of virtue and punishment of vice was much more likely to encourage the gratification of malice than to elevate the standard of public morals, and the employment of the tremendous machinery of the Inquisition in such matters marks the depth of its fall from its former height. Had its object from the beginning been the purification of morals as well as of religion, possibly the awe which it inspired in all classes might have resulted in some ethical improvement but, during the time of its power, the impression that it produced was that morals were of slender account in comparison [377] with faith and, in the day of its decline, thesa occasional attempts to extend its jurisdiction could only produce exasperation without amendment.

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