(Of those who ought not to be admitted to prefer an accusation, or to bear witness; and that evidence is not to be given but on things happening in the persons presence.)
Whosoever, therefore, has not been lawfully married, or has been united without the dotal title (dotali titulo) and the blessing of a priest, cannot by any means bring a charge against priests, or those who are lawfully married, or bear witness against them, since every one who is polluted with the stain of incest is infamous, and is not allowed to accuse the above-named. And consequently not only they, but all those too who agree with them, are to be rejected, and are rendered infamous. We hold that the same should also be the case with robbers, or with those who assault the elderly. The laws of the world, indeed, put such persons to death; but we, with whom mercy has the first place, receive them under the mark of infamy to repentance. That infamy also with which they are stained, we are not able to remove; but our desire is to heal their souls by public penitence, and by satisfaction made to the Church: for public sins are not to be purged by secret correction. Those, again, who are suspected in the matter of the right faith, should by no means be admitted to prefer charges against priests, and against those of whose faith there is no doubt; and such persons should be held of doubtful authority in matters of human testimony. Their voice, consequently, should be reckoned invalid whose faith is doubted; and no credit should be given to those who are ignorant of the right faith. Accordingly, in judgp. 617 ment, inquiry should be made as to the conversation and faith of the person who accuses, and of him who is accused; since those who are not of correct conversation and faith, and whose life is open to impeachment, are not allowed to accuse their elders, neither can such permission be given to those whose faith and life and liberty are unknown. Nor should vile persons be admitted to accuse them. But a clear examination is to be made as to what kind of persons the accusers are (rimandæ sunt enucleatim personæ accusatorum); for they are not to be admitted readily without writing, and are never to be admitted as accusers on mere writing. For no one may either accuse or be accused by mere writing, but with the living voice; and every one must lay his accusation in the presence of him whom he seeks to accuse. And no credit should be given to any accuser in the absence of him whom he seeks to accuse. In like manner, witnesses must not prefer their evidence by writing only; but they must give their testimony truthfully in their own persons, and in matters which they have seen and do know. And they are not to give evidence in any other cases or matters but in those which are known to have happened in their presence. Accusers, moreover, of one blood, are not to bear witness against those who are not related to the family, nor is that to be the case with domestics (familiares) or those proceeding from the house; but if it is their wish, and they agree among themselves, the parents only should give evidence in such cases, and not others. Neither accusers nor witnesses should be admitted who are open to any suspicion; for the feeling of relationship, or friendship, or lordship, is wont to impede the truth. Carnal love, and fear, and avarice, commonly blunt the perceptions of men, and pervert their opinions; so that they look on gain as godliness, and on money as the reward of prudence. Let no one, then, speak deceitfully to his neighbour. 2743 The mouth of the malevolent is a deep pit. The innocent man, while he believes easily, falls readily; but though he falls, he rises; and the shuffler, with all his arts, goes headlong to ruin, whence he can never rise or escape. Therefore let every one weigh well his words, and let him not say to another what he would not say to himself. Whence the sacred Scripture says well: “Do not that to another which thou wouldest not have done to thyself.” 2744 For we need time to do anything perfectly (maturius); and let us not be precipitate in our counsels or our works, neither let us violate order. But if any one has fallen in anything, let us not consign him to ruin; but let us reprove him with brotherly affection, as the blessed apostle says: “If a man be overtaken in any fault, ye which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one anothers burden, and so will ye fulfil the law of Christ.” 2745 Furthermore, the sainted David had deadly crimes to repent of, and yet he was continued in honour. The blessed Peter also shed the bitterest tears when he repented of having denied the Lord; but still he abode an apostle. And the Lord by the prophet makes this promise to the sinning: “In the day that the sinner is converted, and repenteth, I will not mention any more against him all his transgressions.” 2746
Ps. xxiv. 4.617:2744
Comp. Tobit iv. 15.617:2745
Gal. 6:1, 4.617:2746
Ezek. 18:21, 22.