Ricardo picks up Cardinal Mendoza and makes ready for the confrotation.
|Chapter 21 Pathway to the truth
The next morning Ricardo joined the King and Queen for breakfast. They were embroiled in a heated discussion regarding whether or not to bring the Inquisition into Castile…The discussion centered on the “New Christians” and the point being discussed was the fact that many of the Conversos continued to practice Judaism in secret even after they claimed to have been converted to Catholicism. That an Inquisition was necessary to ferret out these hypocrites.
This was in truth a proxy argument because at the root was a strong national feeling of anti-Semitism. The Jews were intelligent, industrious and hardworking subjects who held many of the best paying jobs and controlled much of the wealth in the kingdom. The Catholics were the workers and soldiers who had liberated Spain and felt deep down they were being deprived of the benefits. The King and Queen were not blind to this schism of viewpoints. Isabella had worked tirelessly to institute reforms in finance, the church, commerce, the nobility and law and order and such was her brilliance that she had succeeded beyond all hopes and expectations.
She was herself surrounded by many of these Conversos, but found herself galled by the poverty of the Monarchy and having to go hat in hand to raise money to support the wars that insured the security in which a skewed minority of her subjects flourished. Ferdinand saw the opportunities the Inquisition would provide to bolster the treasury from the confiscation of property of those who straddled the fence using conversion as a pretext to reap the benefits of pretending to be Christians. This was an issue that Don Ricardo would normally have taken an active interest in however, on this morning he was still a slave to his passions, angered by the risks his sister was about to undertake. As he joined the Monarchs the subject shifted to do regarding Maria’s plan.
“I have given the matter some thought,” said Ferdinand, “and while I don’t carry the personal baggage that you do, I have some ideas on what might be your best course. In this case we are dealing with a violation of church law....solicitados. Normally this violation is the result of a priest using the sacrament of confession to obtain sexual favors but I believe it would also apply to this case. It is not a matter of civil law in which I would have any jurisdiction. What I propose you do is take the Cardinal with you on Wednesday evening and confront him with the evidence of catching Brother Bernardo red handed....Then see if he implicates Reverend Mother Sanchez. Then let the Church decide the matter in the Sacerdotal Court.”
"Yes and have them both receive a slap on the back of the hand."
"I think it will be more than a slap on the hand. I suspect they will be sent to the convents for several years and if that is the case the punishment can be much more server than it might seem. The orders do not take lightly the abuses of the sacraments and many do not long survive the harshness of the punishments they impose...There was a case I recall involving "Solicitados" where the plaintive begged to be sent to the dungeons instead."
"So once we catch them you would have me turn them over to the Cardinal, one his private secretary and the other a newly appointed head of the Convent at San Tomas."
"Not a perfect solution, however the church will try and suppress the scandal as much as possible and Isabella and I will remind the Cardinal of his need to act firmly."
Isabella spoke up. “There is a need for reform in the Convents and Monasteries….What we should take from this example is that the matter can be no longer deferred. It would be useful if you can provide us with as much evidence as you can to help stop the shameful practices that are going on.”
“In regard to that my dear, I think this case will give us some much needed leverage.”
“Indeed it will,” said Isabella.
“Feel free to take my marshal along with the Cardinal…..I don't want the church claiming you went over their head. What we need is some hard evidence, some proof of Solicitados... Right now we have nothing but hearsay.”
Isabella stepped in. ”Then we need to catch them in the act A full confession from both would be helpful. Once we get this scandal out into the open we can begin the remediation.”
A large and imposing figure walked into the room. It was Rodrigo Testaverde, the King’s first Marshal. “Rodrigo will be accompanying you and serve at your direction. Use him as you see fit”
Ricardo took a deep breath, ”Yes Sire, I’m glad you restrained me Rather than taking a personal vengeance I can see now the wisdom of what you’re proposing.”
Isabella went to her desk and penned the following letter
To whom it might concern,
Marshall Rodrigo Testaverde has authorization of the Monarchy to enter the Convent of San Tomas for the purpose of investigating claims of Solicitados.
Ricardo bowed. “I’ll act as your agent in this matter and render a full report of all that I discover.”
With that he excused himself and went outside to join Benvolio. “Ride to Segovia and tell Maria that we will be in readiness. Relate to her in full the plans we discussed last night and get from her any last minute changes.”
“I’ll leave at once!”
“The Marshall and I will pick up the Cardinal and follow in my Coach. We’ll meet you at the Inn before twilight.”
“See you tonight, my friend…”
Benvolio bid them adieu, hurried ahead, and rode off on his mission.
Tomas turned to the Marshall. “If you will join me at my coach in half an hour I will have the Captain form the escort and invite the Cardinal to join us.”
“I’m looking forward to a peaceful drive through the countryside,” the Marshall answered.
Tomas bowed respectively and went in search of the Cardinal. He found him seated in his study having lunch. He arose and smiled, a nervous look upon his face
“Don Ricardo, to what do I owe the pleasure?”
“It has to do with a charge of Solicitation…”
“Is that all?" asked Cardinal Mendoza rolling his eyes. It's not every day we get to see one of those... and what is the source of this allegation?”
“We have evidence that RM Sanchez is using her position to prostitute novitiates and nuns into the granting of sexual favors."
“Now that does elevate the charge to a matter of interest”
“It’s worse than you imagine and it’s been going on for some time. Teresa, the one you accused me of raping was cajoled into having sex with a priest… someone close to your Eminence. A priest who impregnated her and then tried to pass the blame off on me”
The light began to come on in the Cardinal’s mind, yet he couldn’t help but ask
“And who might this be?”
“Father Antonio Bernardo, your personal secretary…”
“And I assume you have some basis for this accusation?”
“As a matter of fact I do, but fear you’ll only believe it if you see the proof first hand…”
“That would help, if what you say is true."
“Excellent! I'm in route at this very moment to expose a practice that's been going on for too long.”
“Sounds like an interesting venture. Care to be more specific?”
“I'm going tonight to expose a rogue priest in the act of his debauchery….to catch the rogue seducing a young novitiate after demanding sex to pay for an annulment.”
“It sounds like an exciting evening, and I wouldn't miss it for the world, even though I find such it difficult to believe Antonio is capable of such an offense.
“Then tonight we have opportunity to witness the truth, one way or the other."
“If you wish to make a fool of yourself Don Ricardo, I appreciate being granted the amusement to watch.”
“Your willingness convinces me that you are truly in the dark.”
“And I presume your intention is to enter one of my Convents and find this proof.”
“And by who's authority do you undertake this bold inquiry?”
“By the Queens'…. She shares our interest and and a love for justice.” He handed the Cardinal the letter signed by Isabella. The Bishop read the commission and replied.
"If there's any truth to your allegations I would insist on being there.
“My Carriage is waiting Your Eminence, please join the King’s Marshal in the courtyard. We have some distance to travel before nightfall. “
Later that morning Brother Bernardo arrived in Segovia. He went with haste to the Convent anxious to speak with Consuelo. Inside he climbed the long winding staircase that led to the top of the chamber where the Reverend Mother’s office was located. Pausing at Hilda’s desk he inquired.
“Is there no door to this room?”
“It’s being repaired," Hilda told him.
Brushing past her desk he entered and saw Consuelo sitting at her conference table. He looked nervously about.
“Come in Antonio, said Consuelo looking up. “Sit next to me…Don’t worry about the door… the acoustics are terrible in here and nothing we say can be understood from outside.”
He settled into a seat next to her ….
“You look harried,” she told him with a smile….”I have a real treat for you tonight that should prove relaxing.
“Right now I fear Don Ricardo more than I do God….we must make sure he and Teresa remain apart. We must convince the Monarchs to allow her to take the vows so we can keep her under our thumb.” He was agitated and shook his head nervously.
She went to him embracing his shoulders….”Relax Antonio,” I’ve a surprise for you. After you finish with my little treat we can discuss matters further." She took his hand and placed it up under her skirt. Beneath, she was naked and he felt the soft and curly hair. It had been a long hiatus and his desire stirred.
“Be patient now and let me do the worrying….everything will be all right and tonight you will sleep like a baby.”