I  am writing in response to the book review by Neill Brown of the Rodney Stark book, For the Glory of God (TOPIC, May). The review contains statements which I must take exception with, as they seek to redeem the irredeemable. Coming hot on the heels of a film which apparently hopes to rehabilitate the bloody work of the Crusades, it is another example of a trend to whitewash the Church’s historical warts.

Our spotted history is cause for penitence and reflection; not an occasion for historical revision and renewed triumphalism. By all means, may we be proud of what we’ve done right. By the same token, may we recognize our wrongs and repent.

The problematic portion of this article has to do with the Spanish Inquisition. The author’s claim that the Spanish Inquisition was “not that bad” is patently false. His attempt to place the atrocities of the Inquisition in the realm of the civil is ridiculous, and does not acknowledge the political realities of the day.

The Spanish Inquisition’s very existence was a matter of royal edict. Ferdinand and Isabella asked the Vatican to institute it, out of “fear of Jewish influence” - read: anti-Semitism. The Inquisition, then, was an arm of the fully Catholic government of Spain, the civil courts of which worked in harmony with the Church, as Spanish society was quickly yielding to Christian theocracy.

Their targets were the “secret” Jews who had converted to Christianity. That they had made outward conversion was not good enough for the royals. As a result, the Inquisition held 25 autos-da-fe in the City of Toledo alone between the years 1486 and 1492, during which 467 people were burned alive. In all, 700 conversos were burned and 5,000 “repented” - and this word means that their religious freedom was annihilated. In Portugal where many Jews fled after the expulsion from Spain in 1492, 40,000 were put on trial and 1,800 were burned.

During the long history of the Spanish Inquisition, it was responsible for the burning of almost 32,000 people in Spain and Portugal, as well as in the colonial outposts of Mexico, Brazil and Peru.

This attempt to rehabilitate the Spanish Inquisition is profoundly insulting to Jews, particularly Sephardic Jews and also to the memories of all those who perished and were persecuted by it. My husband is a Sephardic Jew whose family was driven into Turkey by Ferdinand and Isabella, where they received considerably better treatment at the hands of Muslims than in Spain at the hands of Christians.

As a Christian, I am repelled by any such rehabilitative project, as it points to a failure on the part of the Church to acknowledge and fully internalize its own errors. As an institution that calls people to repentance and reconciliation, it is inexplicable that we continually refuse to answer this call ourselves.