Hispanic heritage acquisitions: Judicial sins in colonial Mexico

Moreno's Reglas ciertas y precisamente necessarias para juezes (1637)
October 9, 2015

The next acquisition in our Hispanic Heritage Month series is a catalog of judicial sins in colonial Mexico. Reglas ciertas, y precisamente necessarias para juezes, y ministros de justicia de las Indias, y para Sus confessores (Mexico: en la Emprenta de Francisco Salbago, Ministro del Sancto Officio, 1637) was written by Fray Jerónimo Moreno (1561-1631), a Dominican friar. This acquisition was purchased with the Gertrude (Gigi) and Arthur Lazarus, Jr. Fund.

In his introduction, Moreno writes that he was inspired to describe the typical sins of New Spain’s judges as a service to the priests who heard their confessions. He described the judges as for the most part unjust and corrupt, and unrepetent of their sins against the Indians. Compounding the problem were ignorant confessors who made little effort to examine the consciences of the judges.

Among the sins that Moreno lists are conflict of interest, bribery, intimidation, extortion, wage theft, and price gouging. He cautioned priests that these unjust judges could receive absolution only by confessing these sins and by paying full restitution to those whom they had cheated and abused. In his denunciation of abuses against the Native Americans of the New World, Moreno followed in the footsteps of Dominicans such as Bartolomé de las Casas and Francisco Vitoria.

Fray Jerónimo Moreno was born near Seville. Upon entering the Dominican Order he was sent to the University of Salamanca and earned a reputation as a brilliant student. In 1595 he arrived in Oaxaca, where he preached and taught theology. In 1627 he was named as the head of the Dominican province in Oaxaca.

The first edition of Moreno’s Reglas ciertas was published six years after his death. A second edition was published in Puebla in 1732, and in 2005 Mexico’s supreme court published a facsimile edition of the 1732 edition.

For a detailed analysis of the book, including a biography of the author, see Alejandro Mayagoitia, “Notas sobre las Reglas ciertas y precisamente necesarias para jueces y ministros de fray Jerónimo Moreno, O.P.”, Anuario Mexicano de Historia del Derecho 8 (1996).

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Moreno's Reglas ciertas y precisamente necessarias para juezes (1637)

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