In the fifteenth century, the Holy Office of the Spanish Inquisition was at its most powerful state. Although the original intent of the Inquisition was to ensure the Catholic orthodoxy of Jewish and Islamic converts in Spain, the effort intensified by eventually demanding non-catholics to convert or leave.
There have been several motives proposed for the establishment of the Inquisition, such as an effort by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabela to obtain greater political power, and an attempt to weaken opposition to the Crown.
Among the many who were oppressed by the Inquisition was Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, a Mexican nun. She attracted much attention from the Viceroy of Spain as she was a leading intellectual of the time in fields such as philosophy, language, theology, and science. Eventually, she was forced into silence, halting all of her poems and essays. This occurred following a published spat between the archbishop and herself. She used biblical evidence in order to support her right as a woman to an education. However, no matter how right she was, she was proving the archbishop and the church to be wrong.
In present day, the New Jersey Charter Schools Association has filed an ethics complaint against Dr. Julia Sass Rubin for using her title as a professor of public policy in her report that critiqued some aspects of charter schools. The NJCSA explained the reasoning for filing the complaint as follows; “We cannot sit back and allow our accomplishments, our achievements, to be questioned in the way that they have been questioned by Dr. Sass Rubin”.
It’s probable that the archbishop said something of the sort while Sor Juana was proving the church to be wrong, especially because she had the archbishop and the church factually and biblically pinned. So, since the archbishop could not prove her wrong, or even slightly inaccurate, he capitalized on the oppressive gender and religious power structures which existed in the 15th century, and he forcibly silenced her.
So far, it has yet to be seen that the NJCSA is able to prove error with Dr. Sass Rubin’s research. They’ve merely stated that they don’t appreciate her questioning their progress while stating that she is in fact a professor at Rutgers. And on social media, it appears that members of the NJCSA have flat out stated that Dr. Rubin has indeed violated policies without allowing the final ruling of the ethics committee. There is a big difference between an accusation and a statement, and when a statement is provided before a ruling, some individuals would regard that as “slander”.
Is this present day situation comparable to the oppressive tale of Sor Juana? Well, that is up to the readers of this post to decide. Of course I believe it to be very comparable. After all, I wrote this, and as an American I have the freedom to do so…
Carpe diem et scribere