The Latin word abiurāre came to Castilian as abjure. This verb refers to renege, revoke, annul or dismiss a thought, creed or faith that was previously defended or professed.
The subject who abjures or denies his religion is described as renegade by the faithful of the belief that he has abandoned. Instead, the adherents of a religion call a convert who has accepted their dogma. In this way, the same individual can be, simultaneously, renegade for one group and convert for another.
The act of abjuring a religion was very frequent in the Middle Ages, when Muslims and Christians struggled to try to impose their beliefs on different territories. Currently, only a few minor groups try to force people to abjure their faith.
An example of abjuration was what was done by Galileo Galilei in 1633, when the Catholic Church forced him to maintain that planet Earth did not revolve around the sun, a fact that the Italian physicist, astronomer and mathematician supported based on his studies.
It is important to highlight that the act of abjuring can go beyond religion. In 1581, several provinces of the Netherlands signed an Abjuration Act stating that they were no longer going to obey King Felipe II.
A person, on the other hand, can abjure his nationality, his political ideas or his affiliation to any institution or group: “After abjuring the terrorist group, the young man became an important collaborator of the local government”, “I’m not going to abjure my ideology no matter how much they pressure or threaten me ”, “ The leader, disappointed by the acts of corruption, could abjure his political party ”.
The Spanish Inquisition and abjuration
During the time of the Spanish Inquisition, an institution that the Catholic Monarchs founded in 1478 with the purpose of protecting orthodoxy from Catholicism in the territories under their rule, the individuals accused in the trials had to recognize the acts of heresy that had committed and be adequately sorry for it, and this was called abjuration.
This act in which a person persecuted by the Inquisition abjured his beliefs was an indispensable step for the authorities to give him the opportunity to reconcile with the Catholic Church. In this context, the following three kinds of abjuration were recognized: de levi, de vehementi, and forma. Let’s see below a brief explanation of each:
* de levi: this was the class that included those individuals who had not committed acts considered very serious, such as bigamy, blasphemy and deception. In cases like these, the Church did not suspect a significant level of heresy;
* de vehementi: unlike the previous type of abjuration, this includes people who were very seriously suspected, or those who refused to offer a confession, even when there was clear evidence against them. On the other hand, the abjuration of vehementi was also adopted if the defendants had only two prosecution witnesses, that is, two natural persons who testified against them;
* in form: this type of abjuration is not necessarily opposite to the previous ones, but complementary, since it was applied once the accused confessed, as happened with the Judaizers (a term that includes those who practiced ceremonies and rites of Judaism despite of being Christians, either publicly or privately, or those who appeared to belong to that religion due to their physical characteristics, which is why they had to face many episodes of discrimination).