VI. Difficulties in the Cause

A Against the Sanctity of Queen Isabel.

Before the beginning of the process there were some shadows over quite serious problems: the legitimacy to the succession of the throne with the exclusion of Juana "la Beltraneja", the legitimacy of her marriage with the Prince Don Fernando of Aragon, and King of Sicily her cousin; reorganization of the inquisition; tensions with Rome due to the business of the ecclesiastical reformation; the expulsion of the Jews: the conquest and subjection of other peoples. The documentation collected has dissipated all the doubts and has come to reveal to use the absolute moral correction of Isabel in all these questions. We will consider here only the "expulsion of the Jews", or the suspension of the permission granted to remain in the kingdom. March 31, 1492.

Juridical Condition – It was the one proper to foreigners. They were not part of the municipalities, neither did they have any right to citizenship. They were totally and exclusively dependent on the will of the sovereign. Their condition was precarious, and they could be dismissed at any moment, that is to have their "passport" recalled, if they broke the statute of tolerance. It was a condition exactly the same as existed in all the kingdoms of that period. The Queen, as much as the Jews themselves, was perfectly conscious of this situation.

Protection Granted by Isabel – She allowed them to practice in a perfect degree their religious freedom. With those that were Hebrew by religion: continuous defense against the municipal and ecclesiastical authorities, providing them with the "Seguor Real" (royal protection), (a document particularly unbreakable), favoring their worship, and building synagogues for them. There are letters of the Hebrews themselves confessing their fortune and happiness with the government of the Catholic Kings...They also held important offices and positions in the kingdom. – With Hebrews converted to Christianity Queen Isabel had an ostensible "weakness" for them. Her house and her court were full of Hebrews: Jews were her three private secretaries, the Maquis of Moya (Andres de Cabrera), her own confessor, Fray Hernando de Talavera ... In their hands, converted or not, the Jews had all the financial, military and ecclesiastical administration. "They were a strong State within the State itself.", says the last biographer of the Queen, (T. de Azcona). All this was a cause of envy on the part of the Christians and of a state of public restlessness.

Conduct of the Hebrews – These were attempting gravely against the constitutional law of the kingdom with great public disorder. Among others the following situation existed: many old laws limited the freedom of the Jews faithful to their religion; on the opposite the converts enjoyed in fact the royal favor. This stimulated the conversions, but most of them converted apparently or hypocritically, and after their baptism continued being Jews and practicing secretly their Hebrew religion. To top it all they induced many Christians to Jewish practices.

Remedies Adopted by the Catholic Kings – Separation of the Jews in "ghettos" (Cours of Toledo, 1480, after diverse councils); the inquisition against heretical Christians. (Many of the "false converts"); the expulsion of the Jews from Andalucia as an exemplary punishment. Finally the suppression of the permit to continue in the kingdom. Things had gone to such and extreme that as Pastor says, "it was already a matter of 'to be or not to be' for the Catholic religion in Spain."

The essential motive of the expulsion is in fact that they were putting the State in grave danger. Spain was massively a Catholic nation by right and by fact. The Catholic religion was the official religion; the fundamental and constitutional law was the law of Christ. The laws of Moses and Mohammed were only tolerated in their respective minorities. It was demanded from the kings to take the oath of maintaining and defending the Catholic Faith in their very act of coronation. To attempt against this fundamental and constitutional law of the State was a crime of treason against the community and against the sovereign majesty; heresy was made equal to high treason in all of Europe. The alternative (either or) "either convert or leave the kingdom", that would have been imposed by the Catholic Kings is a too simplistic formula, apt only for a vulgar and sentimental slogan; so much the more since at that time nobody believed anymore in the conversions. The real alternative for many years was this: "You either stop your crimes or you will have to leave the kingdom." Besides, it is important to remember that the Hebrews were expelled from England in 1390, from France in 1394, from Portugal in 1397, and from the Kingdom of Navarre in 1497. In the Kingdom of Castile the coexistence of Jews and Christians was very deteriorated when Isabel ascended to the Throne; in fact there were massacres of Jews in Valladolid (in 1470), in Cordoba (1474) and in Seville (1478).

Character of the Decree: It was strictly political, for public order and security of the State. Even if it carries also with it certain religious motives. It was done without counting on the Pope at all, and it doesn't matter for the Church whatever judgment could be elicited upon the very fact of the expulsion: It could have been even a political error, perfectly compatible with sanctity.

Consequently if the Hebrew community of today wants to present any complaint for the purpose it should be done in front of the civil authorities, if we accept that the ones of today could be responsible for its predecessors of five centuries back.

Of the remaining nobody puts in doubt the universal practice that the crimes against the security and peace of the State would be punished with more severe penalties. The doctrine and the praxis to defend the political and social body with severe penalties has not changed. If the State at that time would have been Hebrew, would such a State have consented to its transformation into a Catholic State, especially if the Catholics were tolerated foreigners as the Hebrews were in Castille?

Or, would the actual State of Israel consent to be transformed into a Muslim State of Palestine? The argument has been studied in depth by Professor Luis Suarez Fernandez in his work, "Documents about the Expulsion of the Jews". (Valladolid, 1963, pp. 564. Editor prepared for this Process 266 documents and a critical introduction of 72 pages. This quoted work makes Vol. IX of the documentation of the Cause.)

B Against the beatification of Queen Isabel.

It has been said that this beatification would make difficult the ecumenical dialogue; but we cannot forget that in the practice of ecumenism the Church cannot in any way renounce to Her institutional and inherent duties to Her high mission; this has been taught, proclaimed and practiced by not only Pope Paul VI but also the actual Pontiff, happily reigning, John Paul II.

The former says in his apostolic exhortation "Evangelii Nuntiandi", n. 53: "We want to reveal, above all today, that neither the respect and the esteem towards these religions, nor the complexity of the problems are for the Church an invitation to silence the announcement in front of the non-Christians. On the contrary, the Church thinks that these multitudes have the right to know the richness of the mystery of Christ...", and we add as incarnate and visible in the Christian heroes and heroines. (cf. 1 Thes 2, 15-16).

The actual Pontiff has also a clear conscience of this apostolic imperative formulated by Paul VI, and he has declared expressly in his discourse to the Bishops of Malawi in 1988: "the Church maintains that Her interest for the dialogue does not excuse Her from Her essential mission of proclaiming Jesus Christ." (Agency FIDES, May 8, 1988, p. 124). In our days, referring to the Pontifical Council for the inter-religious dialogue, the Supreme Pontiff says that "such a dialogue or collaboration should be practiced always with the absolute loyalty to the Catholic identity, and with the full respect to the other." (Messagio per la Celbrazione della Giornata della Pace, January, 1991, n. VIII.) Still, in the quoted encyclical n. 56 speaking of the inter-religious dialogue he affirms: "...there must not be any abdication, neither irenicism, but the reciprocal testimony for a common program on the way to the research..."; for example the mystery of the Trinity must be confessed, also the Divinity of Christ, and the Eucharist...even if such mysteries are repugnant to the Hebrews, and to proclaim without fear the sanctity of the Church, which in a few things is as brilliant as in the saints.

Moreover, John Paul II not only has taught the doctrine, but also he has taken it into practice: beatifying Edith Stein in Germany regardless of the international protest of the Jews; he has beatified Fray Junipero Serra regardless of the opposition that found in the United States; he has beatified some of the martyrs of the Spanish Civil War of 1936, and continues the study of many other martyrial causes of the same war, against the opposition of the socialists in power and of other elements which play along with them in the political arena. He has beatified the English martyrs when many thought it would be an impediment for the ecumenical dialogue in England, and nevertheless nothing has happened.

Continue >

close window