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Malleus Maleficarum Part 3

Question XX

Of the Firth Method of Pronouncing Sentence

        SINCE, therefore, the accused is either found innocent and is to be altogether absolved, or is found only to be generally defamed as a heretic, or is found a proper subject for the questions and the torture on account of her reputation, or is found to be lightly suspected of heresy, or is found to be strongly or gravely suspected of heresy, or is found to be at the same time commonly defamed and suspected of heresy, or is found to have confessed her heresy and to be penitent but probably to have relapsed, or is found to have confessed her heresy and to be impenitent but not really to have relapsed, or is found to have confessed but by legitimate witnesses and otherwise legally to have been convicted of heresy, or is found to have been convicted of heresy but to have escaped or defiantly absented herself, or is found not to have done injury by witchcraft but to have removed bewitchments unfittingly and by unlawful means, or is found to be an archer-wizard or enchanter of weapons with the purpose of causing death, or is found to be a witch-midwife offerings infants to the devil in the manner of an enemy, or is found to make frivolous and fraudulent appeals with a view to saving her life:
        Therefore, if she is found to be entirely innocent, the final sentence shall be pronounced in the following manner:
        Here it is to be noted that the accused is found to be entirely innocent when, after the facts of the process have been diligently discussed in consultation with skilled lawyers, she cannot be convicted either by her own confession, or by the evidence of the fact, or by the production of legitimate witnesses (since they have disagreed upon the main issue); and when the accused has never before been suspected of or publicly defamed as regards that crime (but the case is different if she has been defamed as regards some other crime); and when there is no evidence of the fact against her. In such a case the following procedure is observed; for she is to be absolved by the Bishop or Judge by a sentence to the following effect:
        We N., by the mercy of God Bishop of such a town (or Judge, etc.), considering that you N. of such a place and such a Diocese have been accused before us of the crime of heresy and namely of witchcraft; and considering that this accusation was such as we could not pass over with connivent eyes, have condescended to inquire whether the aforesaid accusation can be substantiated as true, by calling witnesses, by examining you, and by using other means which are fitting according to the canonical sanctions. Wherefore having diligently seen and examined all that has been done and said in this case, and having had the counsel of learned lawyers and Theologians, and having repeatedly examined and inquired into all; sitting as Judges on this tribunal and having only God before our eyes and the truth of the case, and the Holy Gospels being placed before us that our judgement may proceed from the countenance of God and our eyes behold equity, we proceed to our definitive sentence in this way, invoking the name of Christ. Since by that which we have seen and heard, and has been produced, offered, done, and executed before us in this present case, we have not found that anything has legally been proved against you of those things of which you were accused before us, we pronounce, declare, and give it as our final sentence that no act has legally been proved to us against you by which you can or ought to be judged a heretic or witch of heresy. Wherefore by this present declaration, inquiry, and judgement, we freely discharge you. This sentence was given, etc.
        Let care be taken not to put anywhere in the sentence that the accused is innocent or immune, but that it was not legally proved against him; for if after a little time he should again be brought to trial, and it should be legally proved, he can, notwithstanding the previous sentence of absolution, then be condemned.
        Note also that the same method of absolution may be used in the case of one who is accused of receiving, protecting, or otherwise comforting and favouring heretics, when nothing is legally proved against him.
        A secular Judge commissioned by the Bishop shall use his own manner of pronouncement.
Next: Question XXI
Of the Second Method of Pronouncing Sentence, when the Accused is no more than Defamed