Appeared in Winter 1992, Vol. XVIII, No. 4

Long did old-fashioned English protestants and other anti-Catholics put their attention upon words such as “jesuitical,” “popish,” “jansenistic,” and “inquisitorial” in their polemics. But possibly the most odious, and the most successfully repromoted, is the idea of the hated Inquisition as the cruel tool of the Catholic Church to crush its enemies. By this means, especially for English-speakers, Catholic spain was portrayed as the arch-enemy of all Protestantism. In the United states, whether it be the vulgarized Chick comics, or the sophisticated Ivy league intellectuals in 1960 who feared the Kennedy campaign, the Inquisition is generally assumed to be the Roman part of the triad denounced by clergyman Samuel Dickinson Burchardl in 1884 in the famed expression “rum, romanism, and rebellion.” American Know-Nothings and John Foxe’s Book of Martyrs constantly reprinted, or even the purveyors of the post-1968 sexual revolution or abortion-on-demand today, bring up the ghost of the Inquisition to suit their diverse purposes. But what do they know of its history? Are they aware the Inquisition was never primarily an anti-Protestant body, and that Philip II of Spain never had a consistently anti-Protestant foreign policy?

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