37. [Inquisition of Mexico and Florida]. Printed broadside signed, 1 page (17 x 12 in.; 432 x 305 mm.), In Spanish, “Printed in Mexico in the house of Henrico Martinez,” 1 December 1601.
A decree aimed particularly at the Jews in Mexico and the Spanish provinces in Florida, accusing them of heresy which will be dealt with due punishment.
The Inquisition had formally begun in the West Indies in 1569 when Philip II established tribunals of the Holy Office at Mexico and Lima. It was specifically charged with vigilance against Moors, Jews, and New Christians. The great privileges it exercised and the dread with which Spaniards generally regarded the charge of heresy made the Inquisition an effective check on dangerous thoughts, whether religious, political, or philosophical. The Inquisition largely relied on denunciations by informers and employed torture to secure confessions. Indians were originally subject to the jurisdiction of Inquisitors but were later exempted because as recent converts of supposedly limited mental capacity they were not fully responsible for the deviations from the faith. The first execution occurred in 1574, and by 1596, the tenth took place. Many of the victims of the Holy Office were amongst the Portuguese settlers, who were persecuted for political rather than religious reasons. It was a symptom of the political and religious status of the country that such a court could flourish in an atmosphere where the greatest occupation of mankind might well have been the subjugation of nature, and the development of a normal Christian state.
The present broadside is headed, CONSTITUTION OF OUR MOST BLESSED LORD CLEMENT BY THE DIVINE PROVIDENCE POPE THE EIGHTH Against those who, not having been promoted to the sacred order of Priesthood, boldly take the authority of the Priests, dare and pretend to celebrate the Mass, and administer to the faithful the Sacrament of Penance. POPE CLEMENT THE EIGHTH AD PERPETUAM REI MEMORIAM.
The text of the broadside reads in part: Although at other times Pope Paul, our predecessor of happy memory, in order to refrain and repress the evil and sacrilegious temerity of some men, who not having been ordained priests, take daringly the priestly powers and presume the authority to celebrate the Mass and the administration of the Sacrament of Penance; having determined that such delinquents should be delivered to the Judges of the Holy Inquisition, to the Curia and secular body so that due punishment would be administered to them; and after Pope Sixth the Fifth of venerable memory, also our predecessor, had ordered that the so-mentioned decree be renewed and be kept and followed with all care; but the audacity of these men has gone so far that giving the pretext of ignorance of these decrees, the penalties, as has been stated, should be imposed against the transgressors who think they are not subject to them, and who pretend to liberate and exonerate themselves from them. For this reason we consider these persons to be lost and evil men, who not having been promoted to the Holy Order of Priesthood, dare to usurp the right to the celebration of the Mass; these men not only perform external acts of idolatry, in regard to exterior and visible signs of piety and religion, but inasmuch as it concerns them, they deceive the faithful Christians (who accept them as truly ordained and believe that they consecrate legitimately), and because of the faithful’s ignorance they fall into the crime of idolatry, proposing them only the material bread and wine so that they adore it as the true body and blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ; and that the same hearing the Sacramental Confession not only do not appreciate the dignity of the holy Sacrament of Penance, but also deceive the faithful, perversely taking the priestly role and the authority of absolving the sins with great danger, and causing the scandal of many.
For this reason, so that the ones who commit these very serious heinous deeds be punished with due penalty, in the proper manner and with our scientific certainty and mature deliberation, and with the fullness of the Apostolic power, in accordance with the conscience of the Judges of the Holy Inquisition, and so that from now on no one can doubt the penalty that has to be imposed on those such delinquents, following the steps of our predecessors, for this constitution of perpetual value, we determine and establish that anyone, who without being promoted to the Sacred Order of Priesthood, would find that he who has dared to celebrate Mass or to hear Sacramental Confession, be separated from the Ecclesiastic body by the Judges of the Holy Inquisition, or by the seculars, as not deserving the mercy of the Church; and being solemnly demoted, from the Ecclesiastic Orders, if he had achieved some, is later to be turned over to the Curia and secular body, in order to be punished by the secular judges with the due penalties . . . .
A handwritten statement that “It agrees with the its original” and signature of the notary appears at the conclusion of the text.
The history of the first half of sixteenth century Florida was marked by conflicts and unsuccessful settlements by the Spanish, French and English, who were all vying for possession of peninsula. Finally, in 1565, a colony of Protestant Huguenots established on the St. Johns River was wiped out by Spaniards, who boasted of slaughtering the French, not for their nationality but for their religion. This Spanish expedition founded St. Augustine near the decimated settlement.Shifting alliances and allegiances continued during the following centuries, until the acquisition of East and West Florida by the United States in the nineteenth century.