The Dublin Review
"A Quarterly and Critical Journal"
London: Burns Oates and Washbourne Ltd., pp. 232-252
Reply to Dr. Cecil Roth
William Thomas Walsh
Dr. Roth begins by accusing me of reading Spanish history "with the eyes of the wildest anti-Semite". There are two errors here. The term "anti-Semite" is inaccurate. Surely Dr. Roth does not mean that I am against the Arabs, Babylonians, Assyrians, Phoenicians, and other Semitic peoples? He really means that I hate Jews. And that is false. If anything, I commenced my researches with a prejudice in favour of the poor persecuted Jews. It was a popular prejudice that shrank considerably in the strong light of historical truth. He finds me "in some respects lamentably ill-informed" (although he has written above that my book is competent and "well-informed"!); and to my note on page 621, proving that in the Catholic Church philosophy and faith have been reconciled, whereas in Jewry they have been at odds, he retorts that it is impossible to mention even a single Jewish philosopher of the Middle Ages who was not a rabbi! If he will read my note more carefully, he will see that it does not refer to the Middle Ages alone, including, as it does, Cardinal Mercier and the neo-Thomists. Since he raises the point, however, I will observe that the greatest mediaeval Jewish philosopher, Moses Maimonides, of whom the Jews have said "From Moses to Moses there is no one like Moses", was only an imitator of the Moslem Averroës. He was, to be sure, a rabbi as well as a physician. Nevertheless he illustrates the conflict I refer to: his work was bitterly attacked by pious Jews; after his death his followers were excommunicated, and his Guide of the Perplexed, the greatest of his philosophical works, was publicly burned. Among later Jewish philosophers, Spinoza was excommunicated by the rabbis with terrifying curses, and Acosta was driven by the attacks of the orthodox to despair and suicide. I have never heard that either was a rabbi. As for the Jewish colony at Saloniki, the single sentence in which I refer to it, and which Dr. Roth singles out for specious criticism, was not intended to convey a detailed history of the community; and it was based upon information I received from Dr. Morris Cohen of St. John's College, New York, whose accuracy I have had no reason to believe inferior to Dr. Roth's.
The less proof my mentor has to support his violent and gratuitous assertions, the more angry he is. My "crass credulity" in believing that Jews of the first Christian centuries "had cut out of the Old Testament the prophecies that seemed to Christians to refer so definitely to Jesus" grievously offends his crass incredulity. It does not require a very credulous mind, I think, to believe as I do, when one considers the astonishing hatred with which Jews, even to this day, attempt to explain away the teachings and miracles of Our Divine Lord, if not His very existence. However, I can give authority for my statement. Saint Jerome declared that the Septuagint suppressed the doctrine of the Holy Trinity in Osee xi, 1, Isaias xl, 1, Zach. xii, 10, Prov. xvii, 1, Isaias lxiv, 4. Saint Justin mentions passages from Esdras and Jeremias that the Jews had cut out of the Scriptures. When Dr. Roth offers only his unsupported word against the testimony of saints, he will not consider me discourteous, I hope, if I declare myself, to borrow a phrase from Disraeli, on the side of the angels.
He accuses me of showing "a strange want of proportion" (p. 264) in placing the number of Conversos, or converted Jews in Spain, at three millions. He ignores my explanation on page 260: In Castile the Jews alone "paid a poll-tax of 2,561,855 maravedis in 1284. As each adult male Jew was taxed three gold maravedis, there must have been 853,951 men alone; hence the total Jewish population may well have been from four to five millions—and this leaves out of account large communities in Aragon and other sections." Allowing for the growth of the Jewish population during the following century, and their losses by the Black Death and other misfortunes, the estimate seems very moderate.
Dr. Roth blandly repeats the old Jewish error of attributing Jewish blood to King Ferdinand the Catholic, in spite of the fact that I demonstrate clearly on page 214 of my book that contemporary sources refute the theory. The Jewish ancestry of Cardinal Torquemada is questionable. Luis de Santángel, who financed Columbus's first voyage—and out of public finds, as I have shown in my book—was, to be sure, a powerful secret Jew; it was in his house that the conspiracy to murder St. Peter Arbues was organized, and he later did public penance as an abjuring heretic. Even the Jewish writer, Jacob Wassermann, admits that his interest in Columbus is still to be accounted for! And it is, unhappily, a fact that, in writing to the great Marranos of the court, Columbus mentioned, among the advantages of the islands, that he had discovered a supply of slaves. However, far from "putting forward" the "fantastic theory" that Marranos supported Columbus in the hope of profit from the slave trade, I state (page 433) that proof is lacking!
As for the derivation of Marrano, I am not willing to accept, without further investigation, the opinion of Dr. Roth, that the hypothesis I mentioned is the most remote and discreditable. In any event, the point raised is one of academic interest only. By way of illustrating his otherwise unsupported statement that "Mr. Walsh . . . accepts unquestioningly, with the utmost naivety, all accounts, however improbable, which reflect the prevailing popular prejudice against the Jews and conversos", Dr. Roth accuses me of recounting "with horror" how "the Jews of Spain encouraged, or even invited, the Arab invasion of 709". He must have noticed that my authority for the statement is the Jewish Encyclopaedia (vol. xi, p. 485). Far from "recounting with horror", I merely quote this Jewish authority verbatim as follows (page 17): "It remains a fact that the Jews, either directly or through their coreligionists in Africa, encouraged the Mohammedans to conquer Spain." Dr. Roth says there were no professing Jews in Spain at the period. I am convinced that there were. "Quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur." Again he says that I "regard the decadence of Spain in the seventeenth century as the result of the deliberate machinations of the Marranos". I gave the machinations of the secret Jews as only one of the causes, though probably an important one; and here again my authority, as I stated (page 586), was the Jewish Encyclopaedia, which I quoted as follows:
There can be no doubt that the decline of Spanish commerce in the seventeenth century was due in large measure to the activities of the Marranos of Holland, Italy, and England, who diverted trade from Spain to those countries .... When Spain was at war with any of these countries, Jewish intermediation was utilized to obtain knowledge of Spanish naval activity. (vol. xi, page 501)
Furthermore (vol. v, page 168):
They formed an important link in the network of trade spread especially throughout the Spanish and Portuguese world by the Marranos or secret Jews. Their position enabled them to give Cromwell and his secretary, Thurloe, important information as to the plans of Charles Stuart in Holland and of the Spaniards in the New World. Outwardly they passed as Spaniards and Catholics; but they held prayer meetings at Cree Church Lane and became known to the government as Jews by faith.
Here we have a Jewish authority boasting of the part the crypto-Jews played in ruining the nation that had rejected them; but when a Christian writer repeats it, it is evidence of his uncritical naivety, if not of his mediaeval ignorance and credulity! Yes, Dr. Roth, I do realize "that the sole cause for the Marrano emigration was the persecutions of the Inquisition", but I do not grant that these persecutions "sent myriads of inoffensive persons to the stake for no other crime than practising in secret a few harmless ancestral rites". Of the 2,000 persons burned during the lifetime of Isabella many were criminals who would have been sentenced to death in any case by the State courts. The Inquisition punished bigamists, blasphemers, church robbers, usurers, religious impostors, pseudo-mystics. Granting, however, that many of the Conversos were executed for their opinions alone, it is unfair to ignore the fact, as Dr. Roth does, that those opinions at that time were considered treasonable, if not worse, by a large majority of the people. The Spanish were at war with a brutal, remorseless Oriental enemy, whose successes and atrocities were reported daily. They had been defending Christendom from that enemy for seven hundred years. The Jews within their borders, having incited the Mohammedan conquest in the first place, still sympathized with the enemy, sharing their hatred of the Church of Christ, and desiring the destruction of Christian civilization—facts amply attested by Jewish writers. The Jews and Conversos had angered the people, moreover, by their ostentatious display of wealth, by their turbulence, by their usury, by their immorality, by their corrupting of Church and State, by their purchase of the taxing privilege and their abuse of it, by their open gibes and foul blasphemies against the Christian faith, and particularly against the Blessed Sacrament and against Mary the Mother of God. Does Dr. Roth ask us to attribute these charges to "mediaeval bigotry" alone, in face of all the evidence supporting them? And does he seriously expect the historian to reject them as slanders, when it is obvious to any well-informed person that the Jews (as a race) are playing the same part in history today that they played in the Middle Ages? From the time they caused the crucifixion of their Redeemer and called down upon themselves the curse that so unmistakably has followed them, they have been the persistent enemies of Christian culture. Jewish writers boast of it. They boast that the Jews not only incited the terrible ravages of the Moslems, with the consequent shedding of so much innocent Christian blood, but actually bored from within so successfully that they had something to do with setting in motion most of the great heresies that have divided and corrupted the Western world; they boast that the Jews encouraged the pernicious Albigensian sect and fostered or instigated Protestantism. And today, when the atheistic tyranny of Communism assumes the place that Mohammedanism once held as the arch-foe of Christian liberty and decency, we find that it was a Jew, Marx, who laid down its principles, that it was a Jew, Trotsky, who, with Lenin, translated it into action, and that nearly all its active apologists in Western Europe and America are Jews, who look forward to the destruction of the present social order because they conceive that under Communism the Jew will rule openly at last over the races he considers inferior. In America the Jews are becoming as insolently assertive as in fifteenth-century Spain. The New York Times of 7 December, 1930, quoted Rabbi Stephen S. Wise as demanding, in a sermon, "Is Western civilization with its grimmest, grimiest social injustice and wrong, worth saving? Or is it not the function of the Jew to bring about the supercession of that decrepit, degenerate, and inevitably perishing civilization, so-called?" What is really at the bottom of Jewish hatred against our civilization is revealed every now and then in attacks by Jewish rabbis on Christ and the Church of Christ in the principal American magazines; and only last year Jewish publishers brought forth a foul and blasphemous book by a Chicago Jew, Ben Hecht, in which one of the Jewish characters is made to say something that I set down with great reluctance, and only because I believe the cause of truth demands it: "One of the finest things ever done by the mob was the crucifixion of Christ. Intellectually it was a splendid gesture. But trust the mob to bungle it. If I'd been there, if I'd had charge of executing Christ, I'd have handled it differently. You see, what I would have done was had him shipped to Rome and fed to the lions. They could never had made a saviour out of mincemeat." And he, Roth would have us believe that the Jews in the Middle Ages did nothing to earn the resentment of the populace!
"Any person who plays a discreditable part in the history of the period is ipso facto set down by the author as a New Christian," says Dr. Roth. This is not so. I did not say that the degenerate King Enrique IV was a New Christian; nor the quarrelsome Archbishop Carrillo; nor the fatuous Charles VIII of France; nor the insane Juan de Canamas, who stabbed King Ferdinand—I could multiply instances. But to most of Dr. Roth's gratuitous charges a gratuitous denial on my part must suffice. I did not suggest (page 182) that the Jews and Conversos had a "monopoly" of bribery in Spain. I did not say that "it was by their Converso brethren" that the Jewish exiles were despoiled. And surely I do not "condone the pogroms of inoffensive citizens of Segovia, Toledo, and elsewhere"; whoever says that I do, whether a Times reviewer or Dr. Roth, says what is not. First, I do not grant that they were inoffensive; even the Jewish Encyclopaedia says that the "Spanish Jews were quarrelsome and inclined to robbery, and often attacked and insulted one another even in their synagogues and prayer houses, frequently inflicting wounds with the rapier or sword they were accustomed to carry".
In Segovia the most brutal of the massacres of Conversos was perpetrated by soldiers paid by Don Juan Pacheco, Marqués of Villena, a Converso descended on both sides from the Jew Ruy Capon; and I said (page 125) that this massacre "brought upon his memory the just scorn of Christians and Jews alike". Is this condoning the massacre?
The Córdoba massacre was occasioned by the throwing of a bucketful of dirty water from the upper window of a rich Converso's house upon a statue of the Blessed Virgin which was being carried past. The mob retaliated by massacring the secret Jews. This incident I related (page 124) objectively; adding (page 125) that even more deplorable was the reaction in other cities. Is this condoning the massacres?
The massacre of Conversos in Toledo in 1467 was the result of the oppression of the poor by Jews. They had bought up the obnoxious privilege of taxing bread. On page 74 I related the consequences:
A Christian of influence named Alvar Gomez ordered an alcade to beat the Jews and drive them out of the city. This was done. The canons had the alcade arrested, but while they were deliberating as to his punishment and the settlement of the whole dispute, Fernando de la Torre, a wealthy leader of the Conversos, decided to take the law into his own hands. A rash and violent man, he announced that the Conversos had secretly assembled 4000 well-armed fighting men, six times as many as the Old Christians could muster; and on July 21, he led his forces to attack the Cathedral. The crypto-Jews burst through the great doors of the church, crying, "Kill them! Kill them! This is no church, but a congregation of evil and vile men!" The Christians in the church drew swords and defended themselves. Others ran to their aid, and a bloody battle was fought before the high altar. Christians came from neighbouring towns, hanged Fernando, and massacred the Conversos.
Is this "condoning" the massacre, and were those massacred all "inoffensive" persons?
Furthermore, on page 128 I speak of the proposed massacre in Valladolid as "nefarious work". And I went to some pains to demonstrate that one of Queen Isabel's aims in establishing the Inquisition was to put an end to the massacres, in which innocent Conversos so often perished with the guilty. It was her purpose to establish a tribunal with legal sanction, from which hypocritical Conversos, immune from the secular courts, which they controlled or corrupted, might be brought to justice. The Inquisition did in fact put an end to the massacres. When, in 1485, during the most critical period of Queen Isabella's ten-year struggle against the Moors, the Jews and Conversos of Toledo conspired to seize the city and slay the leading Christians, the plot was discovered by the Inquisition. The ringleaders were executed, but there was no massacre.
Dr. Roth is equally inaccurate when he accuses me of accepting, tacitly or otherwise, the story of the ritual desecration of the Host in 1405. The point I wished to make was that the Spanish people implicitly believed the Jews guilty of this and other crimes. The Spanish people have been found guilty by Jewish and other anti-Catholic historians of butchering the secret Jews and driving the professing Jews wholesale out of the country, without cause or justification. Yet it is plain that the Spanish believed themselves justified. They pointed to certain crimes which they ascribed to Jews. There devolves upon the historian, then, the difficult task of judging whether or not the alleged crimes were committed. The record usually says that certain Jews were executed; they were found guilty of such and such a crime. Jewish writers generally admit the fact of the execution, but deny that the crime was committed. Why admit part of the record and reject the rest? At any rate, there is no escape from this dilemma: either the Jews were guilty, or their judges sent innocent men to a cruel death.
I am not willing to give the Jews a general acquittal, four or five centuries later, on a priori grounds. I will not commit myself to the principle that Jews are incapable of committing detestable crimes, when I see evidence in the world about me that Jews do commit detestable crimes; when I see a Chicago judge convicting two young Jews, sons of two of the wealthiest Jews in the United States, of the fiendish and cold-blooded murder of a boy; and when I see a jury in the town of my birth convict a Jew of having his store burned by another Jew to collect insurance, and causing two little Christian boys, who lived over the store, to be burned to death in the night. I am not willing to admit, without a critical study of the facts, that, when a Christian judge or a Christian bishop in the Middle Ages condemned certain Jews to death, the judge or the bishop must always of necessity be guilty of barbarous injustice, and the Jews must be innocent. It is a question of fact, and those glib historians who have assured us, after several centuries, that certain accused persons, such as Alguadés and his companions, were innocent, and their judges guilty of heinous and perhaps deliberate wrong, seem to me quite as presumptuous as he who categorically maintains the contrary. I do not assert the guilt of the accused; neither will I venture to proclaim them innocent. My book gives no account of the alleged desecration of the Host in Segovia in 1405 and the consequent trial and execution of Mayr Alguadés (the Dr., by the way, was a misprint for the Don which appears in the text of the source document). I devoted only one sentence to it, and the context shows that my purpose was to explain the bitter feeling against Jews that existed among the citizens of Segovia.
Dr. Roth does not mention the source of his version of the alleged crime. I assume that it was the usual one, the Fortalitium fidei (fo. 223) of Fray Alonso de Espina. He wrote his account in 1458, fifty-four years after the occurrence, so that there must have been men living who remembered the occurrence and could contradict any errors in the principal features of the story. He was a man of great learning, noted as a preacher. His unusual judgment and ability are indicated by the fact that he was for many years superior of the house of studies of the Franciscans at Salamanca, and in 1491 was made Bishop of Thermopylae in Greece. Incidentally, he was a Jewish convert to the Catholic faith.
Now, turning to this learned Jewish priest's account of the alleged desecration of the Host, I find the discovery of the sacrilege attributed to a "supernatural feature", indeed; but not to the one which Dr. Roth mentions. The text relates a miracle that may astonish and scandalize him even more. It appears that the Jews plunged the Host into boiling water, and that it arose and stood in the air before them.
Tunc indeus quidam medicus emit sacratissimum corpus christi a quodam cupido sacrista ecclesie sancti facundi eiusdem civitatis. Judeus ergo ille sacramentum illud accipiens et suis immundis manibus pertractans ad synagogam cum aliis suis complicibus perduxerunt, et in bullientem aquam sepe projicientes, in altum elevabatur ante oculos eorum.
The Jews in terror took It to the prior of the Dominican convent. The Bishop investigated. The physician and several other Jews confessed under torture, and were executed. Of the synagogue Fray Alonso simply records:
Synagoga vero ubi accidit, facta fuit ecclessia (sic) et vocatur corpus christi.
No one can deny that this story contains improbable elements. But only a mind blinded by rationalistic prejudice will deny a fact, if it is a fact, merely because it is improbable or even supernatural. The sole question is whether or not the evidence is adequate; otherwise no value is to be attached to any human testimony, and all history, including even the alleged birth of Dr. Roth and his alleged election to the Royal Historical Society, must be set down as unproved and unprovable. The curious intellectual perversity which denies the miraculous by appealing to a general principle which is a universal negative—"miracles never happen"—is as unscientific as if a man were to deny that any electric fishes have been found in the Atlantic, because "there are no electric fishes". Many miracles, modern as well as mediaeval, are as amply supported by trustworthy testimony as any fact in history. And among these are numerous miracles by which God, at His own chosen times, has confirmed faith in His great mystery of the Eucharist, and confounded those who desecrated it. Incidentally several of the occurrences clearly demonstrate that Dr. Roth's rationalistic explanation, based upon "recent researches" into the habits of the micrococcus prodigiosus, falls ridiculously short of covering the facts of the case. In 1273, at Bolsena, a Bohemian priest, celebrating Mass, saw not merely stains resembling blood, but as many as twenty-two drops of blood fall from the Host upon the corporal. He took the corporal to Pope Urban IV, who in the following year instituted the feast of Corpus Domini; and twenty-seven years later Pope Nicholas IV laid the first stone of the Duomo of Orvieto, where the corporal is preserved to this day, with the miraculous bloodstains still visible upon it. Drops of blood fell from the Host in the Church of Saint Mark of Astip in Piedmont, in 1533, and Pope Paul III, who investigated the miracle and made certain of its truth, granted special indulgences to those who should visit the church. Sometimes the miracle has occurred to expose the guilty, as in Paris in 1290, when a Jew, filled with diabolical hatred of the Sacrament, bought a consecrated Host from a woman, stabbed it with a penknife, and saw blood gush forth. In 1608, while the Blessed Sacrament was being exposed in the chapel of the Benedictine Abbey at Faverney, a fire consumed the tabernacle, the linens, and the entire altar, but the ostensorium remained suspended in air, without support, for thirty-three hours, during which period it was witnessed by thousands of persons. One of the two Hosts in the ostensorium is still preserved in the parish church at Faverney. This undeniable miracle is of particular interest here, because the suspension of the Host recalls that of the Host in the affair at Segovia in 1405.
Equally inept is Dr. Roth's argument that the desecration of a Host by a Jew would be "completely paradoxical". To say nothing of the possibility that a Jew, having no faith in the presence of the body of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, might yet insult the Host as representing Christ, whom Jews often so bitterly hate and blame for their misfortunes, the question again is one of fact; and the evidence that Jews have, in many places and in many centuries, desecrated the Host is overwhelming. Human conduct, moreover, is full of paradoxes. It is paradoxical for a man to lay down his life for others, but many have done so. It was a gigantic paradox for the Jews to expect the Messias for centuries, and then, when He appeared at the time and place and in the manner predicted by their own prophets, to have Him crucified. The history of the Jews ever since has been a paradox, and every thinking Jew knows this in his heart.
The rabbinical oath denying the blood-accusation is, as Dr. Roth quotes it, most solemn and impressive, and I, for one, have no wish or reason to doubt its sincerity. Its value as evidence in the present discussion would appear greater to me, however, if I did not recall that the Kol Nidrei, a prayer of Talmudic origin, has for centuries been recited in the synagogues each year on the eve of the Day of Atonement. The Jewish Encyclopaedia (vol. vii, p. 539) gives the text of this prayer as follows:
All vows, obligations, oaths and anathemas, whether called "konam", "konas", or by any other name, which we may vow, or swear, or pledge, or whereby we may be bound, from this Day of Atonement until the next (whose happy coming we await), we do repent. May they be deemed absolved, forgiven, annulled and void, and made of no effect; they shall not bind us nor have power over us. The vows shall not be reckoned vows; the obligations shall not be obligatory; nor the oaths be oaths.
The Jewish Encyclopaedia explains that
it cannot be denied that, according to the usual wording of the formula, an unscrupulous man might think that it offers a means of escape from the obligations and promises which he had assumed and made in regard to others. The teachers of the synagogues, however, have never failed to point out to their co-believers that the dispensation from vows in the "Kol Nidre" refers only to those which an individual voluntarily assumes for himself alone and in which no other persons or their interests are involved. In other words, the formula is restricted to those vows which concern only the relation of man to his conscience or to his Heavenly Judge.
Whether the oath of the two rabbis falls in one category or the other I leave it to my learned critic to explain.
The Colmenares passage to which Dr. Roth objects so violently has been omitted, to be sure, from some Spanish editions, most probably through the influence of the descendants of Jews remaining in Spain. But that is no reason why I should refrain from quoting it, and I make no apologies for so doing. I quoted it as an example of the crimes imputed to the Jews. I did not accept it as a fact. However, since Dr. Roth raises the question, I am equally reluctant to dismiss it as a fable, especially when I consider that the judge who condemned the seventeen Jews to death was himself the son of converted Jews. Dr. Roth says this makes no difference, since the New Christians often attempted to avert suspicion by a special display of zeal for the faith. Yet I cannot believe that such zeal would carry a sane man of any principle so far as to condemn seventeen innocent men to be burned. History gives Don Juan Árias de Ávila quite a different character. So loyal was he to the memory of his parents and grandparents that he dug up their bones, when there was danger of their being disturbed by the Inquisition, and hid them away. Denounced in consequence by the Inquisitors, he defied them, and fled to Rome, where he lived under the kindly protection of Pope Alexander VI for several years. He was a man of courage and conviction, whose Catholic faith was as sound as his filial devotion. Yet it was he who passed sentence of death, as a judge, on the seventeen Jews. If he was mistaken—and there is no doubt that torture sometimes extorted false confessions, though not invariably, as Dr. Roth appears to assume—what new evidence have we on which to reverse his judgment after five centuries?
So much, as Dr. Roth says, for the general question.
His account of the La Guardia case is just such a piece of misrepresentation and evasion as I exposed in Lea—precisely the sort of thing that made it necessary for me to summarize the evidence as fully and objectively as possible, that the reader might judge for himself. And it is precisely because my book gives the most adequate version of the trial yet published in English that Dr. Roth goes to such pains to seek to discredit it. He has the effrontery to mention the work of Dr. Lea, Mr. Sabatini, and M. Loeb, as though I had not demonstrated how much even the lengthy account of Mr. Sabatini left to be desired, and how utterly misleading were the other two. The case may have been a commonplace in Jewish circles, but the reading public in English-speaking countries knew little or nothing about it, and Dr. Roth knows this to be true. It is a piece of insufferable impudence on his part to object to the publication and examination of the evidence in a case of such crucial importance, historically, that it not only furnishes the best information we have on the actual working of the Spanish Inquisition, but provided the final argument that moved so enlightened, just, and capable a ruler as Queen Isabella the Catholic to decide, rightly or wrongly, upon the expulsion of the Jews from Spain. It is a piece of impudence paralleled only by his accusation that I had revived the ritual murder charges against the Jews, when the very passage he quotes from my book shows that in considering the crimes confessed by certain Jews I took care not to indict the whole race.
The charge seems to have travelled a long distance, unhappily, before the printing of my book. The "ignorant police official" who revived it in a Middle Western state, according to Dr. Roth, is not an isolated phenomenon. The accusation was made in the State of New York in 1928; in the State of California, where a twelve-year-old girl was found mutilated during Lent, in 1931; and, lest Christian bigotry alone be blamed, among the Arabs in Palestine within the last year or two. This I deplore. The fact that Jews have been massacred on account of the blood-accusation I deplore. But so have myriad innocent Catholics been put to death by people who believed false accounts of the Inquisition circulated by Jews; and yet I know of no reputable Catholic scholar who would object to the publication of a single fact concerning the Inquisition or any other historical subject.
Dr. Roth has no such devotion, so far as I can discern from his article, to the cause of abstract truth. He does not even attempt, he does not dare, to meet the issue I raised about Lea's intellectual honesty. Instead, he shifts his ground, and tries to throw dust in the reader's eyes by stooping to the tu quoque argument, which is no argument at all. My mistranslation of a subjunctive verb as if it were indicative, thereby changing the meaning of a clause, is obviously unintentional, obviously such a slip as any man is bound to make somewhere in the course of a 600-page book, and one that fortunately does not concern the major issues of the La Guardia case. This is the only point he makes in all his long tirade to which I must say, "Mea culpa." The slip will be corrected in the next edition of my book, and I will thank Dr. Roth to point out any other errata that may have escaped my eye. But the "slip" of "that superb historical craftsman", Dr. Lea, is of an entirely different sort, and Dr. Roth knows it.
In his four-volume work on The Inquisition of Spain, Dr. Lea, far from "amply" discussing so crucial a test-case, dismisses it with a sneer in two pages, as "evidently the creation of the torture chamber". Here is a false statement to begin with. The record of the trial of Yucé Franco, made by a notary, shows clearly that he confessed without torture. The notary seems to have had no compunction about recording the tormentos when they were used; in one place he says that Yucé was threatened with the "water cure", and the threat sufficed to draw further confessions from him. He describes the torturing of other prisoners. Dr. Lea says further that when Benito Garcia, a Converso, was arrested in June 1490, with a stolen consecrated Host in his possession, the story of the crucifixion of a Christian boy emerged only after another year spent in torturing the accused. This too is false. In the following month (July 1490) Yucé Franco, one of the Jews implicated in Benito's confession, and held in ignorance of the accusation against him, confided to a supposed rabbi that he must have been arrested for the murder of a boy after the manner of "that man"—a term used among Jews to designate Christ.
In a footnote Lea refers his readers to his Chapters from the Religious History of Spain, and there he devotes twenty pages to belittling the evidence. He says (p. 452) that the Prosecutor, or Fiscal, Guevara, on December 17, 1490, accused Yucé merely of "a conspiracy to procure a consecrated Host with which, and the heart of a child, a magic conjuration was to be wrought". Lea then adds:
Curiously enough, up to this time, the crucifixion of the victim and the insults offered to Christ, which ultimately formed so prominent a part of the story, seem not to have been thought of .... It was not until the close of the trial …. that on October 21, 1491, the Promotor Fiscal asked permission to make to his denunciation an addition which charged the crucifixion of child, with the blasphemies addressed to Christ.
This can be called a "slip" only by one who sees no difference between a slip and a falsehood. For the record plainly shows that on 17 December, 1490, Promotor Fiscal Guevara swore a solemn oath in court that he believed that Yucé "was associated with others in crucifying a Christian boy one Good Friday . . . mocking him and spitting upon him and giving him many blows and other injuries to scorn and ridicule our holy Catholic Faith and the Passion of our Saviour Jesus Christ". The crime was committed, he said, "somewhat in the way, and with the same enmity and cruelty with which the Jews, his ancestors, crucified our Redeemer Jesus Christ (—"quasi de la formaé con aquella enemiga é crueldad que los judios sus antepasados crucificaron á nuestro Redentor ihesu christo," etc.). He demanded sentence of death, saying, "And I swear before God and before this cross, on which I place my right hand, that I do not make this demand and accusation against the said Yucé Franco maliciously, but believe him to have committed all that I have said."
Two lawyers were assigned by the Inquisitors to defend Yucé, and a third, of his own selection, was added at his request. He made his confession voluntarily, hoping to put the blame on certain Conversos. Unfortunately their confessions incriminated him. After the various defendants had confessed separately, they were confronted, and confirmed their depositions. Some of them were tortured. All repeated their confessions at the stake before death.
If Torquemada's inferiors were deceiving him, they certainly went about their work in a strange way. For they took the pains to submit the evidence not merely to one, but to two separate juries; first to a jury of seven of the most distinguished professors at the University of Salamanca, and later to five of the most learned men of Ávila. Now it seems to me that in trying to get at the truth of this matter we should allow considerable weight to the fact that, besides the Inquisitors, twelve men of more than average intelligence reviewed the evidence, not only the process of Yucé which is available to us, but several others as well, and that these twelve men, living at the time and near the scene, found the accused guilty and worthy of death. It is quite as improbable that twelve such men should conspire to send several innocent men to a horrible death as that several Jews and Conversos should murder a child and desecrate a Host in hatred of Christ and with the superstitious hope of some gain. Yet of the two juries Dr. Lea has not even a word, either in his major work or in the twenty pages of his "separate study".
As for M. Loeb's contentions, they have been refuted long since by Father Fita (who, by the way, is quite as erudite as the Abbé Vacandard, and better informed on Spanish matters), and even by that indifferent scholar Mr. Rafael Sabatini. No one, to my knowledge, has ever disputed M. Loeb's assertion that the wretches who confessed that they had planned to make a charm by using a consecrated Host with the heart of a Christian boy, in order to cause the Inquisitors to die and all the Christians in Spain to go insane, so that the Jews might possess the land, were, if guilty, involved in black magic. It is not true, however, that the outrage "had nothing to do with any religious question". If by that M. Loeb meant that the foul ceremony is not a part of the Jewish religion, and cannot be charged against Jews as Jews, I grant the argument, as I plainly did, and as Dr. Roth admits, in my book. But when the prisoners confessed to having scourged, crucified, and mocked a boy of some four years of age, to injure Jesus Christ through him, and all Christians as well; when they called the Blessed Virgin "a corrupt woman", and cried, "Death to this little traitor, our enemy who goes deceiving the world and calls himself the Saviour of the world and the King of the Jews!"—it can hardly be claimed that this "had nothing to do with any religious question", call it ritual murder or black magic or what you please. And as for the assertion that the perpetrators were "baptized Christians, and not Jews", it is demonstrably false. Five of the alleged conspirators were New Christians; and five, including the ringleaders, were Jews. Tazarte, the physician who performed the filthy rite and related a vile anecdote about the person of Jesus Christ, was a Jew. Yucé Franco, who admitted without torture having shared in the crucifixion of the innocent victim, was a Jew. His father, Ca Franco, was a Jew. His dead brother was a Jew. "The name of the child remained unknown", says Dr. Roth, "until nearly one hundred years after the event." The Memorial in which the boy's name is given as Christopher was written in 1544, seventy-four years after the alleged crime. It professed to be based on the process of Benito Garcia; hence the author seems to have had access to information not available to us. It cannot be said with certainty that the name remained unknown until that time. The discrepancies as to the boy's place of origin are easily reconciled, if one remembers that certain of the prisoners were trying to incriminate one another. They all agreed at last; and one of them admitted having brought the boy from one of the gates of the Cathedral at Toledo. "No body was ever found." The record shows that one of the accused took the Inquisitors to a place where they found a hole, in which he said the body had been buried. It is possible that it had been removed by friends or relatives of the accused. Nor can it be proved that "no enquiry was ever made to ascertain whether any child who answered to the description had actually disappeared". From the assiduous questioning of Yucé on the subject of the child, it is evident that the Inquisitors were highly curious as to his origin and identity; and it would be strange if they did not enquire elsewhere. When M. Loeb declared that no body had ever been found, and that the "pretended martyr never existed", he questioned with equal boldness the existence of Rabbi Moses Abenamias, to whom one of the wretches confessed a Host had been sent for conjuration purposes. But another document found in the archives of the Inquisition at Valencia shows that the rabbi did exist! Documents still hidden may shed further light upon the boy. And the discrepancy as to the provenance of the Host is more apparent than real. The evidence indicates that two, and perhaps three, Hosts had been stolen, at various times and places. The sacristan of the Church at La Guardia, nephew of one of the accused, later confessed to having provided one of the Hosts, thus confirming the testimony of Yucé. The discrepancy as to the time of the alleged crime likewise appears less formidable upon examination. Dr. Roth has already said that "a priest posing as a rabbi had obtained a confession" from Yucé. He does not tell us that this priest was a learned master of theology, Fray Alonso Enriquez, himself a converted Jew whose name originally was Abraham Shesheth. Meanwhile the Inquisitors had a physician, Antonio de Ávila, listening; and it is in his sworn deposition as to what he had overheard that the apparent discrepancy occurs. He said he heard Yucé tell the "rabbi" that the crime had happened eleven years before. Now it must be admitted that a man overhearing a conversation, perhaps, from another room might easily have made a mistake. Yucé certainly would not have shouted such a damaging confession, and, as Father Fita suggests, the physician might even have been somewhat deaf. The ear of unbelief must be dull indeed if it cannot discern a certain similarity between Shte (two) and one of the elements of a word for eleven, Ngashte-Ngassre. It is quite conceivable that a preceding word, imperfectly heard with Shte following, may have conveyed the impression of "eleven" to a man in the next room. The record, moreover, does not say that they spoke in classical Hebrew, but in a jumble of Hebrew and Romance, a dialect of the Jews in Spain.
All these discrepancies together are not weighty enough to destroy the probability that a crime was committed, but they do effectually dispose of the hypothesis of some Jewish critics that the Inquisitors manufactured the story to justify the expulsion of the Jews. They do demonstrate that Torquemada could not possibly have made it up out of whole cloth. They are the naive discrepancies of actual life, the discrepancies that are inevitable whenever half a dozen men attempt to relate the same happening. They are like the apparent discrepancies in the four Gospels, which, while they resist the efforts of some Jews to prove their history inconsistent, refute the claim of others that it is an invention, and leave it standing like a rock before the winds of unbelief. This is not to claim divine inspiration for the Inquisitors of Ávila; but their story does read like the artless and sometimes puzzling account of something that did happen. If it is not quite consistent enough to be an invention, it is far too consistent to have been wrung from separate imaginations by torture. Men may have bad dreams, but seldom do several have the same nightmare. And if any further argument were needed to justify the printing of this evidence, the long and successful attempts to suppress it, and the persistent distortions of it by those who have discussed it, would indicate a fear that is highly significant—a fear that, if the complete story were told, it might be believed.
For the rest, my book itself must remain the refutation of the false charge that I have striven to stir up prejudice among Catholics. I have sought, with God's help, only to clarify one small portion of the vast field of historical truth, believing, as I do, that truth, strong truth, however unpleasant for some to look upon, and not the sort of sentimental "tolerance" that flatters and cajoles while it secretly waits to destroy, is the only ground, the only rock, on which Jews and Christians can ever stand in true and lasting amity. It is a pleasure therefore, to read his paragraph, omitted from his original article in a Jewish paper, about his efforts to bring about a better appreciation of the noble ideals and traditions of the Catholic Faith among his coreligionists. I sincerely hope that, continuing to walk in the direction of truth he will at last be able to interpret it a little more accurately to them from the clearer perspective of one within its walls, and that when that joyful day comes he will confer on them the immeasurable benefit of turning their faces toward the Light they have refused to see, and to demonstrate to them what is so clearly written in the pages of history, that all their miseries, for which I could weep, are not the result, fundamentally, of the hatred and misunderstanding of others, but the consequence of their own stubborn rejection of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ who predicted in unmistakable language exactly what has befallen them.
WILLIAM THOMAS WALSH