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Excluded Souls: The Wayward and Excommunicated in Counter-Reformation Spain
Vol. 88, No. 3 (291) (JULY 2003), pp. 437-450
Published by: Wiley
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/24426762
Page Count: 14
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In the late sixteenth century, one of the main weapons used by the Catholic and Counter-Reformation church to discipline its faithful was the application of excommunication. In theory this was the gravest spiritual punishment because it meant not only deprivation of the sacraments but also of communication and human relations. However, the abuse of excommunication from the late middle ages onwards led to its discredit and the loss of its former significance. In 1563 the Council of Trent made a decisive move to re-establish excommunication as a punishment for disobedience, rebelliousness or contumacy, no matter what the reasons were for the contumacy. Detailed analysis of the excommunicated in Counter-Reformation Spain through the writings of contemporary theologians and the actual policy practised by the two institutions in charge of ecclesiastical justice (episcopal courts and the Inquisition), reveals a picture in which many people were excommunicated not because of their rebelliousness, as the Church claimed, but rather as a result of either their carelessness or indifference or because they practised a kind of religiosity that was alien to the official religion.
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