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‘Contra Omnes et Singulos a Via Domini Aberrantes’: Accounting for Confession and Pastoral Power During the Roman Inquisition (1550-1572)

Bigoni, M., Antonelli, V., Funnell, W.N., Cafaro, E.M. (2021) ‘Contra Omnes et Singulos a Via Domini Aberrantes’: Accounting for Confession and Pastoral Power During the Roman Inquisition (1550-1572). Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, 34 (4). pp. 877-903. ISSN 0951-3574. (doi:10.1108/AAAJ-06-2020-4638) (KAR id:86543)

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Purpose: The study investigates the use of accounting information in the form of a confession as a tool for telling the truth about oneself and reinforcing power relations in the context of the Roman Inquisition.

Design/methodology/approach: The study adopts Foucault’s understanding of pastoral power, confession and truth-telling to analyse the accounting practices of the Tribunal of the Inquisition in the 16th century Dukedom of Ferrara.

Findings: Detailed accounting books were not simply a means for pursuing an efficient use of resources, but a tool to force the Inquisitor to open his conscience and provide an account of his actions to his superiors. Accounting practices were an identifying and subjectifying practice which helped the Inquisitor to shape his Christian identity and internalise self-discipline. This in turn reinforced the centralisation of the power of the Church at a time of great crisis.

Research implications: The use of accounting for forcing individuals to tell the truth about themselves can inform investigations into the use of accounting records as confessional tools in different contexts, especially when a religious institution seeks to reinforce its power.

Social implications: The study documents the important but less discernible contributions of accounting to the formation of Western subjectivity at a time which Foucault considers critical in the development of modern governmental practices.

Originality/value: The study considers a critical but unexplored episode in Western religious history. It offers an investigation of the macro impact of religion on accounting practices. It also adds to the literature recognising the confessional properties of written information by explicitly focusing on the use of financial information as a form of confession that has profound power implications.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1108/AAAJ-06-2020-4638
Uncontrolled keywords: Inquisition, Foucault, Accounting, Confession, Truth, Pastoral power.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HF Commerce > HF5601 Accounting
Divisions: Divisions > Kent Business School - Division > Department of Accounting and Finance
Depositing User: Michele Bigoni
Date Deposited: 10 Feb 2021 11:40 UTC
Last Modified: 04 Mar 2024 15:13 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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