Thursday, May 10, 2007

PBS: Propagation of BS

After seeing the Catholic League Bill Donahue's press release about the PBS "documentary" called The Secret Files of the Inquisition I figured I should check it out. If for nothing else just to see what kind of information they were peddling. I watched as much as I could (30mins?) until I had to turn it off. I expected some mild anti-Catholic stuff of the typical flavor. You know the type, "The Church is bad and here's why." I expected them to parade a bunch of scholars on the program to offer a sentence or two to back up their propaganda.

Well. What I didn't expect was to have my intelligence insulted. They did everything to show that the Church in Spain was a seething hate filled blood thirsty organization. Not only did they offer almost zero proof to back up the claims they were making, but the they they framed the narration in a laughable way.

For instance, in one section, they made some stupid claim against the Dominicans. They described them as a mendicant order put in place to run the Inquisition. Of course the narrator said this is the most slithering way possible. I wonder if the any joe-schmoe watching PBS will realize what the word "mendicant" means.

Mendicant (from Wikipedia)

The term mendicant (Latin mendicans, begging) refers to begging or relying on charitable donations, and is most widely used for religious followers or ascetics who rely exclusively on charity to survive.

In principle, mendicant orders or followers do not own property, either individually or collectively, and have taken a vow of poverty, in order that all their time and energy could be expended on practicing or preaching their religion or way of life and serving the poor.

Sounds really disgusting of them doesn't it? I wonder what St. Thomas Aquinas would say about PBS's perspective on his order. Thats just one example. I found that while they did mention that the government in Spain was a big offender, they succeeded in obliterating that perspective all together by linking the King and Queen with doing Rome's bidding. They also showed hoards of people attacking Jews and other people, or demanding they be baptized. The series doesn't take into account the perspective that Inquisitions were set up to STOP mob rule, not encourage it.

One thing that really annoyed me is the idea that the Church brought torturers along with lawyers and court stenographers to Spain. The show implied they came from Rome and filled a specific office in the Church. At least that's what I got out from it. Here is a little perspective on those tortures...

From Historical Revision of the Inquisition (Wikipedia), put together from new information from Edward Peters and others:

Procedure and torture

Evidence and witness testimony was gathered before an arrest was made. Once an arrest was made, the accused was given several opportunities to admit to any heretical behavior before the charges against him/her were identified. If the accused did not admit to any wrongdoing, the inquisitors dictated the charges and the accused was required to respond to them immediately (Peters 1988: 93). Torture was used; however, it was only allowed in cases that only involved charges of religious heresy. Because many inquisitorial trials did not involve only heresy, torture was relatively rare. Additionally, the restrictions on torture in the inquisitorial courts were much more stringent than those that regulated the torture in the secular courts. Torture was only used for extracting confessions during a trial and was not used as punishment after sentencing. If torture was utilized, the accused was required to repeat their repentance freely and without torture (Peters 1988: 92-93). The Inquisition also had a rule that they were only allowed to use torture once, however, they were able to 'suspend' sessions and resume them the following day, so that this rule was effectively negated.

As seen in the French inquisitions, the purpose of Spanish inquisitorial torture was to gain either information or confession, not to punish. It was used in a relatively small percentage of trials, since of course the threat of torture if no confession was given was often enough to induce one, and was usually a last resort (Kamen 1997: 174-192). The “scenes of sadism conjured up by popular writers on the inquisition have little basis in reality, though the whole procedure was unpleasant enough [even] to arouse periodic protests from Spaniards” (Kamen 1997: 189).

My point is that there is a lot of good information out there you can find on the Inquisition, but PBS is not where to find it. The docu-series is more anti-Catholic screed/entertainment than it is worthy content. There are plenty of people we can honest about in the Church who were ruthless and vile. There are no shortages of them during the middle ages. But to take a sweeping brush and paint it all black is another matter.

I'll close with the Catholic League's press release:


On May 9 and 16, PBS will air a four-part docudrama called “The Secret Files of the Inquisition.” Catholic League president Bill Donohue raised some concerns today:

“PBS will not air a movie that its officials say paints Muslims in a bad light, ‘Islam vs. Islamists,’ but it has no qualms about showing a flick that Catholics have every right to question. This film is advertised on PBS’s website with an eerie black background depicting all the ‘T’s’ as crosses. All that is missing is Dracula’s voiceover. ‘For over half a millennium a system of mass terror reigned,’ it says, and ‘Thousands were subject to secret courts, torture and punishment.’ This is plainly dishonest.

“As British historian Henry Kamen has shown in his magisterial work, The Spanish Inquisition: A Historical Revision, almost all the conventional wisdom about the Inquisition is wrong. By comparison with secular courts at the time, the Inquisition’s methods were more humane, e.g., defendants could be represented by an attorney. Edward Peters, another student of the period, says, ‘Modern historiography has completely blown the old Inquisition propaganda out of the water. No one seriously contends that hundreds of thousands or millions were killed, or that the Protestant countries were any more humane than Spain was.’ Indeed, scholars today refer to the old school mythology as ‘the Black Legend,’ a tale of lies spun by Elizabethan England. No wonder that in 1994, BBC/A&E aired ‘The Myth of the Spanish Inquisition.’

“Here’s what we know. Of the approximately 125,000 cases tried by the Spanish Inquisition, 1 percent resulted in the death penalty. Of the so-called witch hunts, where women were burned at the stake, secular courts executed 50,000 (not all of whom were women); less than 100 were killed by the Inquisition. Solzhenitsyn once compared the killings that took place in the Soviet Union in 1937 and 1938 to the killings that took place during the Spanish Inquisition and found that 20,000 were killed per month in the U.S.S.R. and 10 were killed per month during the Inquisition. But don’t look for such comparisons on PBS. To do so might get in the way of the truth.”


Anonymous said...

i'm not particularly devout, but was irritated by
the sensationalistic, one-sided, never-ending
stream of simplifications.

i also noticed that almost EVERY single person
on the board of consultants is Jewish.

isn't it fair to assume they would have an axe
to grind?

thank you!

St. Ambrose said...

When will PBS do a special on the Talmud (Babylonian and Jerusalem) text?

Or a special on the Spanish Marrano Converso's?

Brothers and Sisters in case you haven't notice there is a war going on and its hidden behind the pretense of such things as the "neutral and objective documenty" lie.

I know an attack when I see one. Wake up!

"The whole truth is generally the ally of virtue; a half-truth is always the ally of some vice." - G.K. Chesterton