I couldn’t watch the PBS series, Secret Files of the Inquisition, when it aired, but my mother taped it for me and sent me the tape; I watched the first two episodes tonight.
Bill Donohue condemned it sight unseen, brandishing statements about the Inquisition that are irrelevant to the program.
What are the facts of the case? It isn’t a series of sensationalized dramatizations as some other bloggers have suggested. Four specific local case studies are presented in the course of the series. Scenes from the detailed files released by the Vatican in 1998 are dramatized while narrators read from the record.
The first episode deals with one town in France, Montaillou, that was infected by Catharism–largely because of a priest who both pandered to the Cathars and who preyed upon the women of the village. Some bloggers complained that one of the “experts” in this episode was a novelist, Charmaine Craig. Why was she included? Because she had used the records of this village (which she learned about while studying at Harvard) as the basis of an historical novel, The Good Men. (Craig, formerly an actress, was also the model for Disney’s “Pocahontas”).
The second episode looked at the beginnings of the Spanish Inquisition, which targeted conversos (Jews who were either forced to convert on threat of death or chose to convert to better their status, and yet continued to observe Jewish practices in secret). The program made clear that the Spanish Inquisition targeted the baptized, not Jews who had never been baptized.
Let it be emphasized that the program makes no effort to portray the full history of the Cathars or of the Spanish Inquisition. It looks at specific towns, like Montaillou and Zaragoza, telling the story of particular individuals as they appear in the record. One wonders why that’s such a threat to some folks.