Northern Illinois University

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Stephen Haliczer
Stephen Haliczer

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News Release

Contact: Tom Parisi, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-3635

May 7, 2007

NIU historian Stephen Haliczer featured
in Inquisition miniseries to air on PBS

DeKalb, Ill. — Stephen Haliczer, distinguished research professor at Northern Illinois University, will be prominently featured this week in the American premiere of a four-part docudrama, “Secret Files of the Inquisition,” on PBS.

Haliczer is one of the world’s top experts on the Spanish Inquisition and an expert on the history of the Roman Catholic Church. He appears frequently in on-camera interviews in the miniseries.

The first two installments will air at 9 and 10 p.m. respectively Wednesday, May 9, on WTTW Channel 11 in Chicago, with the final two episodes airing at the same times on Wednesday, May 16. Encore high-definition episodes will be broadcast throughout the month as well. (See

Based on secret documents

According to its Web site (, the docudrama “tells a story of epic proportions and powerful themes of holy wars and crusades, of torture and terror, of the struggle for human rights and dignity.” Award-winning director David Rabinovitch created the docudrama, which is based on previously unreleased secret documents from European archives, including the Vatican.

Shot in Spain with Spanish actors, the miniseries contains historical recreations of events as well as interviews with noted experts on the Inquisition. The series has already aired to rave reviews in other parts of the world, including Europe, Australia and Canada.

“It’s a brilliant piece of work, and it’s quite unique in its approach, drawing upon and dramatizing material from actual case files,” Haliczer said. “It brings the Inquisition down to a very human level, showing its impact on communities, families and individuals.”

Haliczer said the filmmakers benefited greatly from the 1998 opening of previously sealed Vatican archives on the Inquisition. The vast archives hold a treasure trove of material, including records of the Roman inquisition and provincial tribunals, case files, related letters and financial and personnel documents.

History of Inquisition

During 2005, Haliczer spent several days in Vancouver being interviewed and filmed by Rabinovitch. He said the miniseries covers virtually the entire history of the Inquisition, a term that broadly refers to the tribunal or institution of the Roman Catholic Church for combating and suppressing heresy.

The first miniseries installment deals with the Medieval Inquisition that began in 1233 with the suppression of the Cathar movement. The second episode examines the great tribunals of the Spanish Inquisition, established in 1478. The final two installments are related to the Roman Inquisition, established in 1542 to combat the Protestant movement and deal with issues of censorship.

“Most people think the Inquisition ended hundreds and hundreds of years ago, which is certainly not the case,” Haliczer said. “The Spanish Inquisition ended formally in 1835, and the Roman Inquisition continues today as a department of papal government, known as the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, or CDF. It is still charged in the same way with promoting and safeguarding the Catholic faith, but the CDF’s primary responsibility today is to evaluate the orthodoxy of the work of Catholic theologians.”

In 2000, Pope John Paul II apologized for the sins committed in the name of the church through the ages. The current CDF undersecretary, the Rev. Joseph Di Noia, is interviewed in the miniseries. “He’s the highest ranking official of the CDF to ever appear on television in an Inquisition documentary,” Haliczer said.

About Stephen Haliczer

The NIU professor emeritus has written a number of books over the course of his career, including “ Inquisition and Society in the Kingdom of Valencia ” (University of California Press, 1990), one of the pioneering studies of a local inquisitorial tribunal. His most recent book, “From Exaltation to Infamy; Female Mystics in the Golden Age of Spain,” was published by Oxford University Press in 2002. It uses Inquisition case files to compare women mystics punished by the Holy Office with those who were accepted by the wider society.

In recent years, Haliczer has changed his focus to developing simulations and games for learning and the commercial market.

He is the developer of “Vatican: The Papal Election Board Game,” which gives players a glimpse into the day-to-day dynamics of the church – how it is organized, how members build status and ultimately how individuals move into leadership positions that enable them to be considered papal material. He also has developed a printed and digital timeline of Catholic Church history. For more information, see