Queimar Vieira em Estátua: As Apologias (1738, 1743) do Senhor Inquisidor António Ribeiro de Abreu Em Resposta às Notícias Recônditas Atribuídas ao Pe. António Vieira (1608-1697), ed. Herman Prins Salomon. Lisbon: Cátedra de Estudos Sefarditas "Alberto Benveniste"/Rede de Judiarias de Portugal, 2014. ISBN: 978 989 96236 5-1.

Thomas M. Cohen1

The last twenty years have seen the publication of a series of superb editions of the writings of the great Jesuit preacher, writer and missionary António Vieira (1608-1697). These include the Obra Completa edited by Pedro Calafate and José Eduardo Franco (2013--); previously unpublished texts from Vieira's Inquisition trial: Autos do Processo (1995; second edition, 2008) and Apologia das coisas profetizadas (1994), edited by Adma Muhana; and three editions of the unfinished prophetic treatise Clavis Prophetarum edited by Pedro Calafate (2013), by Silvano Peloso (2007), and by Arnaldo do Espírito Santo (2000). Only a short excerpt of Clavis had previously been published (in Obras Escolhidas, edited by Hernani Cidade).

To these important publications may now be added Herman Prins Salomon's masterly edition of two previously unpublished treatises by the eighteenth-century Inquisitor Antonio Ribeiro de Abreu (Salomon was unable to ascertain the dates of his birth and death). The treatises constitute an extended refutation of Notícias Recônditas y Postumas del Procedimiento de las Inquisiciones de España y Portugal con sus Presos, an attack on the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions that was published anonymously in English translation in London in 1708 and has been reliably attributed to Vieira. Ribeiro's first treatise was composed in 1738-39. The second treatise, which is much longer and provides the more systematic exposition of Ribeiro's central arguments, was composed in 1743-1744. Queimar Vieira em Estátua includes a facsimile of the Spanish and Portuguese texts of the Notícias that were published (also anonymously) in Vila Franca in 1722. In addition, the book includes an exchange of letters between Ribeiro and the Coimbra Inquisitor João Pais do Amaral, and eight interrogations of António Monteiro (a prisoner of the Lisbon Inquisition) conducted by Ribeiro in 1734.

Vieira was preoccupied throughout his long career by New Christians, Jews and Judaism. During two extended stays in Amsterdam between 1646 and 1648 as a representative of D. João IV, Vieira met rabbis Menasseh ben Israel and Saul Levi Mortera (Vieira's meeting with Menasseh is well known; Salomon provides convincing evidence that Vieira also met with Mortera). Vieira's conversations with Menasseh—author of The Hope of Israel—would help to shape the millenarian thought that Vieira developed in his treatise The Hopes of Portugal, in his Inquisition defense, and in his other prophetic writings.

In the 1640s Vieira began a sustained campaign in defense of the Portuguese New Christians. Among many proposals that Vieira presented to D. João IV, whom he served as an adviser and court preacher, were the elimination of the distinction between New Christians and Old Christians; the reintegration of New Christians into the Portuguese mercantile economy; and the curtailment of the powers of the Inquisition, including the prohibition of the confiscation of the goods of New Christians accused of judaizing. Vieira's arguments of the 1640s anticipated the arguments of the Notícias, which included a detailed examination of 17 Inquisition trials dating from 1660 to 1672. The abuses that the Notícias denounced led Pope Clement X to suspend the Portuguese Inquisition in 1674. It was not reinstated until 1681, which marked the beginning of a sustained period of persecution of New Christians.

The principal argument of the Notícias

is that the Inquisition never sought to distinguish between guilt and innocence but only to draw confessions and denunciations of Judaism from every accused New Christian.  The fact of being a New Christian led to a presumption of heretical Judaizing…To the extent that [the New Christian community in Portugal] was diminishing, the Inquisition—fearing that it would lose control over the exercise of terror, given that the desire to “judaize” was by definition an ethnic phenomenon, transmitted by blood—categorized an ever increasing number of people as New Christians (Introduction, p.37).

Until now, the questions posed to Vieira during the course of his Inquisition trial have provided our best glimpse of the thinking of an individual Inquisitor. Ribeiro's two treatises and the texts that accompany them provide us for the first time with an account of the reasoning of Vieira's persecutors. Although Ribeiro began his work a generation after Vieira's death, the vehemence of his attack on Vieira demonstrates that the wounds that Vieira had inflicted on the Inquisition remained fresh.

Salomon's analysis of Ribeiro's treatises places them in the context of the history of the Portuguese Inquisition and of the early modern Catholic Church as a whole. Drawing on decades of archival work and an unrivalled knowledge of printed primary sources, Salmon introduces us to Ribeiro, a little-known Inquisitor, and to the world in which he lived. Ribeiro's treatises, in turn, provide a systematic defense of the Inquisition's condemnation of an ever-widening network of New Christians solely on the basis of lineage. The treatises also constitute a sustained personal attack on Vieira, whose opponents sought, over the course of several decades, to prove that he was a New Christian. These efforts failed. Vieira had a mulata grandmother, an element of his lineage that affected the career of his brother but not his own.

One of the most striking elements of Ribeiro's second treatise is the link that he draws between Jesuit attitudes towards New Christians and the treatment of Chinese catechumens by Jesuit missionaries. Ribeiro came of age during the Chinese Rites Controversy, which pitted members of the Roman Curia and the Portuguese church hierarchy against Jesuits who accommodated Chinese beliefs and practices in their ministry. Ribeiro's treatises allow us to understand how the Chinese Rites Controversy continued to affect relations between the Society of Jesus and the Portuguese Inquisition during the decades after the Controversy was resolved by the Curia.

Although Jesuits preached at autos da fé and served the Inquisition in other ways, the relationship between the Inquisition and the Jesuits was frequently strained. This strain could also be seen within the Society, especially during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when a vocal minority of Jesuits opposed the admission of New Christians to the Society. Many Jesuits, from the time of the founding of the Society in 1540 to its expulsion from the Portuguese empire in 1758, argued for a more inclusive policy both in admitting men to the Society and in ministering to non-Christians throughout the empire. Fr. Antonio Possevino (1533-1610) was among the most eloquent advocate for both elements of this policy. Among his successors in the Society, the Jesuits of the missions in China and India produced the most sustained arguments in favor of accommodation.

Ribeiro rejected accommodation. He explicitly condemned Fr. Matteo Ricci, one of the founders of the China mission, and looked instead to the teachings of Ricci's contemporary, Fr. José de Acosta (1540-1600), whose great missionary handbook De procuranda indorum salute rejected the accommodation of non-Christian religious beliefs and practices and insisted that idolatry be punished. Ribeiro went further by proposing that the Jesuit missionaries themselves be punished by the Inquisition for their accommodation of Chinese traditions. Citing the criticisms of the Jesuits advanced by Cardinal Charles-Thomas Maillard de Tournon (1668-1710), papal legate to China and India, Ribeiro argued:

The [Jesuit] fathers seek to live among the idolaters, equating the doctrines of the Church and of paganism…The many abuses of the sacraments of baptism, penance and marriage to which the decree of [Cardinal] Tournon refers oblige [the Jesuits] to recognize that if they do not lack the light of faith, they must acknowledge these errors and understand that the practices of their Fr. Riccio [Matteo Ricci] are clear and diabolical deceptions…All this constitutes obstinacy and formal disobedience to the Apostolic See, and there is no ready and efficient remedy unless the Holy Office investigates this matter…The Holy Inquisition should conduct a judicial investigation of these religious, many of whom in this kingdom lived in China, and it will discover which fathers have encouraged [pagan] rites, which have obstructed apostolic instructions, which have approved of things that are superstitious and repugnant, and contrary to the purity of our Holy Faith. And only the Holy Office of Portugal has the clear responsibility to investigate this matter (pp. 636-640).

Ribeiro's treatises provide an invaluable first-hand account not only of the views of an influential Inquisitor but also of the divisions between the Inquisition and leading members of the Society of Jesus. Salomon's wide-ranging and insightful introduction, his extensive notes on the texts, and the treatises, letters and interrogations themselves provide important new tools with which to understand the religious, social and political history of the Portuguese Inquisition in its global context.




1 Oliveira Lima Library, The Catholic University of America, USA. E-Mail: cohent@cua.edu

Copyright 2016, ISSN 1645-6432
e-JPH, Vol. 14, number 1, June 2016




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