Catholic League president Bill Donohue has raised some concerns about a four-part docudrama on the Inquisition. “The Secret Files of the Inquisition” will air on PBS, starting tonight.
Donohue bases his critiques on the advertisement of the film on the PBS website, which states: “For over half a millennium a system of mass terror reigned. Thousands were subject to secret courts, torture and punishment.”
“This is plainly dishonest,” says Donohue.
Donohue cites British historian Henry Kamen, author of The Spanish Inquisition: A Historical Revision, who posits that almost all the conventional wisdom about the Inquisition is wrong.
According to Kamen, the Inquisition’s courts were more human than the secular courts at the time, since the former allowed defendants to be represented by an attorney.
Historian Edward Peters also argues against the commonly held view of the Inquisition. “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,” Peters states.
Donohue also claims that contemporary scholars refer to the commonly held view of the Inquisition as “the Black Legend,” a tale of lies spun by Elizabethan England.
Donohue offered the following facts:
Of the approximately 125,000 cases tried by the Spanish Inquisition, 1 percent resulted in the death penalty.
Of the so-called witch hunts, 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.