April 29, Hasta la Vista, Spain — Parchments discovered in the dungeon of a 15th-century Spanish fort being excavated for a Wal-Mart suggest the Grand Inquisitor Torquemada may have sought legal parameters to ensure his methods in conducting the Spanish Inquisition would withstand legal challenge.
“There is one request that deals specifically with the application of physical pain,” said an archeologist familiar with the discovery. “The document lists the various apparatuses to be used by Torquemada in conducting his trials and investigations of potential heretics.”
In listing devices such as the Rack, the Maiden and the Judas Chair, the documents say the determining factor would be the level of response elicited by the apparatus’s application.
“If the heretic merely whimpers or perhaps occasionally cries out, the document suggests it is not torture,” the archeologist, Todd Gack, believed to be Dutch, told the Bubble News.
One of the more ironic twists of simple common sense, notes Gack, is the document’s own tortured logic of investigative methods involving fire.
“A parchment was uncovered that actually suggested that unless the internal temperature of the heretic exceeded 160 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees for Bulgarians for some reason), then either burning at the stake or the more prevalent Foot Roasting method would not be considered torture.”
The documents also differentiate among the various types of water tortures that were used, some of which, Gack points out, have survived to this day.
“It was pretty amazing to find sections of the so-called “water package” that govern whether activities such as dunking or forced drinking were similar in their logic to the Bush Administration’s own efforts to more conveniently define what exactly constitutes “torture.”
While there is little in the record to indicate that Torquemada himself ever adhered to these legal limitations (Gack told the Bubble News that Torquemada believed that as the Grand Inquisitor, whatever it was he did, it was legal), the parchments are believed to govern the behavior (“and the butts”) of the lesser Inquisitors that roamed Europe to extract confessions seemingly for the sheer pleasure of the exercise.
“There was a certain ‘circus is in town’ excitement in a village whenever there was an announcement that an Inquisition was imminent,” said Gack. “It seemed to give the village a sense that they were being tough on the kinds of heresies they believed were threatening their safety.”
Gack stated that the methods of the Spanish Inquisition proved so effective they eventually spread to other parts of Europe, where they were employed against all enemies, “real or imagined.”
Gack said the Inquisition managed to extend well into the 19th century until “more rational types” realized the methods of extraction were probably doing more harm than good.”
In a related story, there is a report former Vice President Dick Cheney has asked the CIA to release documents he believes will show that U.S. waterboarding techniques did uncover terrorist plots, “as well as one instance of a suspect being a witch.”
Gack added that the apparatus used during the Inquisition’s “heyday” did not dissolve into oblivion, but in many instances were rechristened as exercise equipment in modern fitness programs such as Pilates.