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The Sacrament of Penance and Religious Life in Golden Age Spain

By Patrick J. O'Banion

Publication Year: 2012

Published by: Penn State University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

After being so long at work on a project about sin and its forgiveness, it’s difficult not to feel a strong sense of the debts I owe and the mercies I have received, for they are many. Like a good confessor, Hal Parker has served as a mentor for many years, always encouraging and available, both trustworthy and probing, ...

Abbreviations and Conventions

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pp. xi-xii

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pp. 1-18

During the summer of 1581, the inhabitants of Los Sauces on the island of La Palma in the Canaries alerted the Inquisition that one Pantaleón de Casanova had, for some years, shirked his annual duty to confess.1 The witnesses were sworn to secrecy, but perhaps Casanova got wind of trouble; ...

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1. How to Be a Counter-Reformation Confessor

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pp. 19-42

In 1590, a group of Spanish novices in the Society of Jesus sent a letter to the Holy Office of the Inquisition. In that letter, later forwarded to Pope Sixtus V, the novices complained that their superiors had ordered them to confess every six months to the rector of their college and then to repeat those confessions to other officials when they made their rounds. ...

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2. How to Behave in Confession

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pp. 43-69

From an ecclesiastical perspective, the sacrament of penance constituted a struggle of unparalleled dimensions for the heart, mind, and soul of the Spanish populace. In confession, penitents not only revealed their own particular sins; they laid bare their worldview and theological presuppositions. ...

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3. Regulating the Easter Duty

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pp. 70-90

The fathers at Trent viewed confession as an integral part of reforming the church. They reinforced the significance of the sacrament in no uncertain terms, anathematizing those who denied the Lateran precept requiring that all Christians commune and confess annually. ...

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4. Confession on Crusade

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pp. 91-109

In 1585 Ysabel Martínez found herself in a predicament. Pedro de Ortega, her confessor, was making her feel uncomfortable. Rather than listen chastely to her sins, he made a habit of touching her face and speaking in an altogether inappropriate manner. Ysabel could have reported Ortega to the local representative of the Holy Office; ...

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5. Confession at the Intersections of Society

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pp. 110-141

Theologically, the sacrament of penance divided society into two groups: representatives of God and everybody else. All penitents took an equally subservient position before their confessor. While prescriptive literature enjoined priests to pay close attention to their confessants’ position in society in order to effect the best confession possible, ...

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6. Confession and the Newly Converted

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pp. 142-167

Most early modern Spaniards found themselves able to navigate confession with relative ease and experienced a remarkable degree of flexibility in fulfilling even their Lenten obligation. Yet Spanish society proved to be deeply concerned about purity of blood, and those who belonged to highly marginalized groups of dubious ethnic ...

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pp. 168-182

In 1584 Juan Rodríguez, an old cooper, found himself before the Holy Office for the second time in his life. Eleven years earlier he had endured public penance for blasphemy and for failing to fulfill his Easter duty. Now eighty years old and living in Santiago de Compostela, he still had trouble complying with the demands of the church. ...


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pp. 183-210


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pp. 211-228


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pp. 229-233

E-ISBN-13: 9780271058306
E-ISBN-10: 0271058307
Print-ISBN-13: 9780271050843
Print-ISBN-10: 0271050845

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2012