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Learning to confess: The Inquisition in the age of reforms

Margaret Ishbel Mott, University of Massachusetts Amherst


While the English-speaking world explored the possibilities of liberalism, their Catholic neighbors to the South continued to develop the political and social theories developed by St. Thomas Aquinas. The principles and values of Thomism continued to inform the organizing of empires and the distribution of justice. This work focuses on the early modern reforms of Thomism, particularly the Jesuit influence, and how those reforms were practiced within the Spanish Inquisition. Relying on philosophical texts of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries as well as inquisitorial archival materials, this work considers both the confessional relationship and the process of reconciliation within a Thomistic framework. Rather than a juggernaut of death, as the Black Legend would suggest, or a vehicle of discipline, as Foucault argued, the handbooks used within the Holy Office suggest a commitment to the corporate and corporeal principles of St. Thomas Aquinas. While not an apology for the Inquisition, this research suggests that the Holy Office may offer a valuable alternative to liberal jurisprudence, particularly in cases when social connections are more pertinent than individual rights.

Subject Area

Political science|Religion|European history

Recommended Citation

Mott, Margaret Ishbel, "Learning to confess: The Inquisition in the age of reforms" (2002). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3039380.