Copyright © The Malta Historical Society, 2005.
Source: Melita Historica. [Malta Historical Society]. 6(1972)1(106)
[p.106] ALESSANDRO BONNICI O.F.M. Conv. Evoluzione storicp-giuridica dei poteri dell'Inquisitore nei processi in materia di Fede contro i Cavalieri del Sovrano Ordine di Malta. Roma, 1970. 51 pp.
Fr. Bonnici's scholarly interest and serious research in matters touching the Tribunal of the Inquisition in Malta require no introduction.
In this monograph - an extract from the Annales de l'O.S.M. de Malte, - Fr. Bonnici presents us with the results of his research in a clearly delimited area of activity of the Inquisitors in Malta, namely their jurisdiction over members of the Order in matters of Faith and, by extension, in matters somehow or other, however remotely, connected with the Faith. He traces the vicissitudes of this authority over the whole period during which the delegated Tribunal of the Inquisition was active in Malta, a period covering almost two and a half centuries (1561-1798), which he wisely divides into three sub-periods constituting as many distinct stages of development. A fourth section of the monograph is devoted to the attention Inquisitors gave to freemasonry in Malta, particularly among the members of the Order, from about the middle of the eighteenth century, when this phenomenon first appeared in Malta, onwards.
Since the author examines this problem over such a long period and at considerable depth, gathering information from a wide variety of sources, mostly unpublished, to ensure not only historical accuracy but also a balanced view of how matters stood, he prudently and correctly concentrates on a very precise point of relations between the Order and the Inquisitor. It is true that the number of cases strictly concerning the Faith and involving members of the Order was extremely small, as the author repeatedly admits, with the result that it would seem that the subject of this monograph may have had little practical effect on relations between the Order and the Inquisitor. Yet the principles of jurisdiction involved and their 'political' consequences were such, given the socio-religious atmosphere of those times, that this matter led to an antagonism of the Order towards the Inquisition that would appear to the unwary to be out of all proportion to the material number of cases involved. The author substantiates this importance by a judicious use of anecdotes. While making the monograph more readable, these anecdotes not only detract nothing from scientific value of the work but clearly enhance it.
We should be grateful to Fr. Bonnici for yet another contribution to our knowledge of the Inquisition in Malta and of the history of the Order in Malta. While one may beg to differ from his apparently apologetic appraisal of the Order and its members among his concluding remarks, one cannot but agree with him on the need of hard work, diligence and accurate examination and distinction of sources for successful research in this field.