« Bible for PDA | Main | Garments or Hearts? »

March 22, 2006

Pure Bloods

Many people regard the Harry Potter series with a great deal of suspicion. I don't wish to argue the point now (or ever, for that matter), but to lift a major theme from the works for a moment of reflection.

Throughout the six-book series thus far much emphasis is placed by some on being "Pure blood" wizards. In almost every case, those who insist upon purity of blood are at best loathsome and most often outright evil. Rowling isn't writing allegory, but if we look in the world at those who insist upon purity of blood as a mark of rank, we will more often than not encounter ideologies that are antithetical to life.

What brought all of this to mind was a minor passage in Wilfrid McGreal's At the Fountain of Elijah: The Carmelite Tradition, a well-written and brief survey of the history of the Carmelite Order. In the chapter on the contributions of St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila, McGreal notes:

It is also interesting that both Teresa and John, to use a modern terms, were 'disadvantaged' and were therefore in a special way already poor. Neither Teresa nor John possessed limpieza de sangre--'purity of blood.' They had Jewish forbears, and this ancestry was viewed with suspicion and could be the reason for persecution. By the end of the sixteenth century religious orders in Spain had made limpieza de sangre a condition for admission. Fortunately the Carmelites did not put such legislation into place until 1596.

What a crime against love! Today, many of us can see that this is simply unacceptable for any Christian. It would be difficult to say and believe "You will know they are Christians by their love," under such conditions. And yet, such is the history of humanity--not merely of Christianity. And it is horrifying to think of what we would have lost had this edict been in place some years before.

Prejudice is ugly whenever and however it occurs. We have grown too haughty and proud--we think ourselves beyond it. But prejudice raises its ugly head in every corner and every precinct. Even now, each day, we are tempted to formulate opinions based on appearance, creed, or opinions. Prejudice hates a person for an artifact of that person. Christianity stands in firm opposition--loving the person but showing no mercy to the illicit accidents of the person. Whenever the cry of "Pure blood!" is raised, it is certain the the inevitable end is that blood will be spilled--"pure" and otherwise.

Posted by Steven Riddle at March 22, 2006 9:46 AM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


Steven, your point is well taken, but the history you quote leaves out a few interesting facts. Teresa of Avila's grandfather discreetly purchased a false certificate of purity of blood, as was common for wealthy Jewish converts.

His 4 sons, including Teresa's father, married women from the Spanish nobility. Her father had to obtain a certificate called "on purity of blood" from the royal chancery in order to marry Teresa's mother. The evidence probably was not very convincing, but her father's Catholic faith was true, and he was known for his charity and had made friends among the nobility.

The fact that his ancestry was partly feigned was an open secret. However, Teresa covered it up at times, speaking privately of "cheap and low villains and converts". She did not mention it in her Life, but possibly because she was embarrased at the deception involved.

Since her father had obtained a certificate of purity of blood, it is likely that Teresa would have been the madre even if the law had been in place when she entered the convent. She was a bright, friendly person whose friendships often carried her through times of difficulty with the Inquisition and conflict with the calced Carmelites.

As for St. John of the Cross, I am not sure if he was in the same kind of situation.

So, your point is well taken, but the disadvantage may not have been as great as thought by the author you mentioned.

Take care!

Posted by: Teresa Polk at March 23, 2006 1:07 AM

Dear Teresa,

I think the author may have been wrong about St. John of the Cross. I have always read that he was of the even more despised "Moorish" ancestry--In fact the one Icon I have of him has him distinctly swarthy and includes an Arabic version of his name.

As to your other point--I honestly don't know. It would largely have depended upon the availability and validity of such documents at the time. True, in all times money can get you pretty much whatever you want in the way of means in the world, but given that her conversos grandfather was known to lapse into the old practices from time to time, it is entirely possible that she would not have profited by such a venture.

I do know that the "crackdown" in later Spain was far more severe than earlier and the Spain that had been known for the ability of three cultures to live together and thrive vanished utterly--with that any sense of collegiality that might have remained from earlier time.

So, as with all speculation, it is very difficult to say. Nevertheless, it is God who clears the path where none is available, and so you are likely correct. Even when the governments enforced policy, the Church has always had a deft way of ignoring the policies that did not agree with God's law.



Posted by: Steven Riddle at March 23, 2006 9:30 AM

An interesting issue! I wonder if there are records somewhere on how Teresa's neices and nephews fared under those new laws.

Posted by: Teresa Polk at March 23, 2006 10:42 AM

Post a comment

Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)

Please enter the security code you see here