Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

L'eresia Dei Perfetti: Inquisizione Romana Ed Esperienze Mistiche Nel Seicento Italiano

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

L'eresia Dei Perfetti: Inquisizione Romana Ed Esperienze Mistiche Nel Seicento Italiano

Article excerpt

L'eresia dei perfetti: Inquisizione romana ed esperienze mistiche nel Seicento italiano. By Adelisa Malena. [Terni e testi, 47: "Tribunali della fede."] (Rome: Edizioni di storia e letteratura. 2003. Pp. xviii, 318. euro39.00 paperback.)

Adelisa Malena has provided a fine study of mystics who were investigated for heresy in late-seventeenth-century Italy, based primarily on research in the Vatican's central archives of the Roman Inquisition or Holy Office. Inquisitions tried numerous charismatic mystics, most of them women, who purportedly had divine visions and prophesied. From the 1680's on, people who demonstrated such abilities, which might be suggestive of mystical perfection, were generally suspected of Quietism, the heresy associated with Miguel de Molinos. A Spanish cleric condemned as a heretic in 1687, Molinos preached that the human soul must be entirely passive; spiritual union with God was possible only through contemplation and the complete annihilation of the will. Malena takes issue with recent literature that distinguishes between cases of "pretense of holiness" and "Quietism," claiming that both fall under the broader rubric of "mysticism," which strove for spiritual union with the divine.

Typical of those tried by the Holy Office was Francesca Fabbroni, a Benedictine nun in Pisa who was posthumously condemned of pretense of sanctity. Shortly after taking the veil as a teenager, Fabbroni allegedly began having frequent ecstatic religious experiences. Fabbroni, who, like many other female mystics, received encouragement from her confessor, was eventually credited with the ability to prophesy, heal the ailing, communicate with the deceased, and penetrate and change the souls of others. She purportedly claimed that, having surrendered her free will to God, she no longer had the temptation or even the ability to sin. In 1689, eight years after her death from natural causes, Fabbroni's remains and a portrait of her were burned by order of the Inquisition in a public square in Florence.

Through the records of both the Inquisition and the Index of Prohibited Books, Malena also examines actions taken against mystical publications that church authorities deemed dangerous. Interestingly, among these treatises were two written by an inquisitor. Tommaso Menghini, Inquisitor of Ferrara, composed an important guide to the rules of the Holy Office for the vicars under his supervision. …

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