EDITED TITLE: PBS Documentary "Secret Files of the Inquisition"

NEW YORK, May 09 (CNA) - Catholic League president Bill Donohue has raised some concerns about a four-part docudrama on the Inquisition. “The Secret Files of the Inquisition” will air on PBS, starting tonight.

Full article…

Okay, this sounds like a bad History Channel program, but it is going to be broadcast on PBS tonight. Is anyone else in the U.S. planning on watching it?

The Truth Behind the Most Notorious Suppression in Religious History Told in the Words of the Victims Themselves; An Epic, Intimate Look at Thousands of Innocent Men, Women and Children who Suffered During a Reign of Terror that Spanned More Than Six Centuries -

Murder, betrayal, terror and torture - every detail of the Inquisition was documented by the Catholic Church in secret files that have been locked away for centuries. But in 1998, more than 700 years after the Inquisition began, the Vatican finally opened the heretofore sealed archives of the longest and most notorious suppression in religious history. As Pope John Paul II said at the time, “the Inquisition belongs to a tormented phase in the history of the Church, which … Christians [should] examine in a spirit of sincerity and open-mindedness.”

On Wednesdays, May 9-16, 2007, 9:00-11:00 p.m. ET, PBS presents the American television premiere of SECRET FILES OF THE INQUISITION, an extraordinary look at one of the darkest chapters in Christianity’s history. Narrated by actor Colm Feore, the four-part docudrama portrays the true stories of the tragic victims of the religious intolerance of the Inquisition, spanning time periods and locations from medieval France to 15th-century Spain, Renaissance Italy and even into the 19th century.


I think I’ve seen some such documentary myself - somehow I don’t remember a lot about it. Most of these type of programs actually end up being a lot less sensational than they’re made out to be.

There was a write up about it in the Catholic paper here in Los Angeles (The Tidings). It did not point out any glaring biases or sensationalism so I plan to check it out.

Tough subject, but I think it is important to be informed. Hopefully, it has accurate information.

The first episode was interesting. I learned a bit about Catharism and the beginnings of the Inquisition. I hadn’t realized that it began so early (1308 AD).

The show dramatized one town and a few of the characters in it. Interspersed with that story, the program presented the testimony of modern day experts who provided the "big picture’.

I thought it was worth watching, although the bit with the horsemen riding through town and the townsfolk scurrying in front of them got to be a bit silly after awhile. :o

I just watched it at the instigation of my Dad (a non-practicing Protestant). My response? P.T. Barnum lives! (“There’s a sucker born every minute.”) I was amazed how thick they laid it on. What do you think their thesis is? :wink: I might even order the DVD as an example of just how far the enemies of the Church will go.

Even so, it is not completely useless - it is a good catalyst to learn more about the Inquisition(s) and hopefully be able to add some balance to any discussion. I found this link in another thread:


The next episode is on the Spanish Inquisition. I’m going to watch it, and then do what I always do - give Mother Church a chance to explain (which she always does, and always in a compelling manner).

I’ve just watched Episodes 1 and 2. Completely one-sided and as such it was virulently anti-Catholic. The context of European cultural and political elements are virtually ignored. But what else is to be expected from PBS?

I saw most of it last night. Didn’t know about this series before.
My blood boiled. The thing that mad me most angry was the naration, and the reading of quotations from the records.

First, the quotations seemed (probably were) always read with emotion and emphasis that put the church and the monarchs in the worst possible light and put the best light on the others. I listened carefully to many of these quotations and relized that they could have been read in a very different way that would have slanted things the other way. (Same words read differently).

Second, the naration was so blatantly biased as to be rediculous. Most glaring was when they would show one of the experts describing the situation and motives and then the narrator would speek often with a sneering voice stating conclusions of motives and actions that were the oposite of the expert had just said or implied! Also, many times the naration presented non-specific facts that seemed intended to create wrong interpretation. While showing the condemned being exicuted the narrator declared that someone of the time said about 15% of the population was affected by the Spanish inquisition. I am guessing that would include those found inocent, the questioners, etc.

This kind of stuff might be showable on on private networks. but there is something terribly wrong about public TV showing this (at my expense). Grrr.


Gee, i’m glad i’m not the only one who sees so many weeds…:frowning:

i thought i was being my usual negative self, but then also, i didn’t want to believe there were so many weeds…

Well, do i believe waht i want or the truth?? :shrug:

The second episode was much more negative than the first episode, at least it seemed to me. I was disappointed that they jumped from the 1320s to the 1470s without any explanation. What happened during those 150 years?

I guess I wanted there to be more of an overview about how the Inquisition worked. I get the impression that it wasn’t monolithic but rather sporadic and regional in scope, with authorization from Rome being required before an Inquisition could begin.

Economic and political jealousy (of the Conversos) seemed to be the impetus behind the Spanish Inquisition. This suggests that the Church was being manipulated but the episode didn’t really identify by whom.

I don’t know if I will watch it next week. I learn stuff, but come away with more questions than answers. Thank goodness for the Internet!

Aren’t these hyped up stories what are called the Black Legends in Spain? Maybe this is the latest instance of them rearing their ugly heads. Methinks PBS is trading on its snooty reputation to promote bigotry and bad history.

New York, May 9 (CNA).-Catholic League president Bill Donohue has raised some concerns about a four-part docudrama on the Inquisition. “The Secret Files of the Inquisition” will air on PBS, starting tonight.
Donohue bases his critiques on the advertisement of the film on the PBS website, which states: “For over half a millennium a system of mass terror reigned. Thousands were subject to secret courts, torture and punishment.”
“This is plainly dishonest,” says Donohue.
Donohue cites British historian Henry Kamen, author of The Spanish Inquisition: A Historical Revision, who posits that almost all the conventional wisdom about the Inquisition is wrong.
According to Kamen, the Inquisition’s courts were more human than the secular courts at the time, since the former allowed defendants to be represented by an attorney.
Historian Edward Peters also argues against the commonly held view of the Inquisition. “Modern historiography has completely blown the old Inquisition propaganda out of the water. No one seriously contends that hundreds of thousands or millions were killed, or that the Protestant countries were any more humane than Spain was,” Peters states.
Donohue also claims that contemporary scholars refer to the commonly held view of the Inquisition as “the Black Legend,” a tale of lies spun by Elizabethan England.
Donohue offered the following facts:
Of the approximately 125,000 cases tried by the Spanish Inquisition, 1 percent resulted in the death penalty.
Of the so-called witch hunts, secular courts executed 50,000 (not all of whom were women); less than 100 were killed by the Inquisition.
Solzhenitsyn once compared the killings that took place in the Soviet Union in 1937 and 1938 to the killings that took place during the Spanish Inquisition and found that 20,000 were killed per month in the U.S.S.R. and 10 were killed per month during the Inquisition.


Here’s an article on that. It took me a while to find it, even with an internet search engine (are they trying to help hide these critiques, I have to wonder??).

I tried watching part of the 1st show, but was bored. They seemed to really play up the sexual liaisons of a priest who was leading a double life as a Catharist. Catholic bashing at its best, IMO.

15 days until Pentecost!!
Thank you God for the gift of our Church. May God Bless the Pope and Magisterium!

The answer to this kind of bigotry is to create factual pieces that tell the historical truth of the Church. There must be catholic historians, cinematographers and production companies. And I do not mean that the history needs to be ‘cleaned up’. I believe the history of the church can and should be dipicted accurately, worts and all.

We also should be proactive and not reactive…

The world is hungry for this information…real, honest and true…that is why the programs [and books like the daVinci Code and PBS, Dicovery TLC biblical series, etc] are popular. People are interested and hungry for faith…The Passion of the Christ and the Nativity Story were good…

I hope someone will take this on…

What was depicted is mostly accurate, but totally one-sided, simplistic, and overdramatized in a manner clearly and (no doubt) intentionally negative to the Church. I can’t recall ever seeing such “romantic” scenes in other PBS history documentaries. All information that would explain, temper or positive portray the Church’s actions was excluded.

They didn’t include any reference to the social and political contexts or contemporaneous social upheavals, violence by heretical movements, etc. The Vatican theologian who was one of those interviewed in the program probably didn’t realize he was being party to a “hit” piece. Its shameful that PBS still receives Federal funding from the government.

I stopped watching after the first episode because I did not feel the show’s intention was so much to portray the facts of these incidents as it was to paint the worst possible picture of everything about the church that was involved with these bad times

can’t be denied that these were pretty dark times for the Church and Europe in general, but the way they made it sound like the heretics were some kind of heroes and that everyone and everything catholic was the enemy was not acceptable. I expected a little more class from PBS but, alas, they are worse than others.

I do not watch or support PBS because of their leftist bias. As for the Inquisition, I have read Peters’ book on it and thinking of getting Kamen’s book.

I suppose you like Fox News better!

I just emailed the station telling them I was very unimpressed with their choice to air such a program and that I would not watch anything from them again.
Maybe all Catholics should do the same. Boycot companies and stations, etc. that promote anti-Catholic garbage.:mad:

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