Copyright © The Malta Historical Society, 2005.
Source: Melita Historica. [Published by the Malta Historical Society]. 5(1969)2(187-188)
ANNETTO DEPASQUALE, Ecclesiastical immunity-and the powers of the Inquisitor in Malta (1777-1785), Malta, 1968, pp. XIV-172.
The vicissitudes of the Inquisition Tribunal have always excited a considerable number of historians. Sensational facts about trials, tortures, and burnings at the stake have bewildered and plunged into a sense of distress even faithful Christians. But if history is based merely on scandalous trials and terrors, facts can be hardly called objective. Though the Inquisition Tribunal should never have been established, history scarcely ever attributed full justice in dealing with the Ecclesiastical Inquisition. Annetto Depa-quale tried to solve some of the complex problems that often puzzled the minds of historians.
As it is clear from the title itself, the Author meant to examine the problems from a juridical point of view. All his assertions are built on the theories of famous canonists of the past. Besides, particular facts are carefully chosen, not only from studies that deal with local history, but also from among numerous official documents scattered across different Archives of Rome and Malta.
Though some historians have published the results of their studies about the Malta Inquisition, this is the first dissertation that takes into consideration the last years of that famous Tribunal. The Author did not find it really difficult to trace abundant material for his scientific research. For the first 150 years, the Inquisitors used to leave in Malta just the denunciations, trials, and correspondence with the Supreme Congregation of the Holy Office. But during the period of Inquisitor Zondadari (1777-1785), anything which was not strictly personal had to be left in the Inquisition archives.
We feel that the Author should be praised for the fact he confined himself just to one particular aspect. Otherwise, he would have run the risk of being superficial.
The book is divided in two parts. The various problems of ecclesiastical immunity are clearly explained. The persons who enjoyed this immunity were either clerics dependent on the bishop of Malta, or officials, familiares, or gabellotti who depended on the Inquisitor.
The second part is really the argument of the dissertation. The Author carefully explains the difference between the powers of the Inquisitor as such and his powers as an Apostolic Delegate. Without this distinction, any study that investigates about the Maltese Inquisition would be mere confusion and ambiguity.
A. Depasquale meant to dedicate himself just to a single aspect of Inquisitor Zondadari's period. Consequently, the door is still open for further [p.188] research about this Inquisitor. We are grateful to the Author for his juridical and historical contribution. Historians, however, would have liked to see an introductory chapter with brief biographical notes about the Inquisitor here taken into consideration. Notwithstanding this, the Author did not miss to give us a hint about the abundant material which exhaustively contains any aspect of Inquisitor Zondadari's activities in Malta. From a historical point of view, the most important sources that deal with Zondadari as an Inquisitor and as an Apostolic Delegate are to be found in the Vatican Archives and in the Malta Archives of the Inquisition.
Alexander Bonnici O.F.M.Conv.