Sacred-Texts  Neo-Paganism  Index  Previous  Next 

Malleus Maleficarum Part 3

Question XXIII

The Fourth Method of Sentencing, in the Case of one Accused upon a Light Suspicion

        THE fourth method of concluding the process on behalf of the faith is used when, after the merits of the process have been diligently examined in consultation with expert lawyers, the accused is found to rest under only a light suspicion of heresy. And this is when the accused is not taken in heresy, nor is convicted by her own confession or by the evidence of the facts or by the legitimate production of witnesses, and there are no other strong or vehement indications of heresy against her; but only a small and light indications of such a sort as, in the opinion of the Court, to engender a light suspicion against her. And such a one must be required to abjure the heresy of which she is accused; and then, if she relapses into heresy, she is not liable to the punishment of backsliders, although she must be more severely punished than would be the case if she had not previously abjured the heresy (see the Canon c. accusatus). The following procedure shall be followed in such a case. For such an accused, if the matter be a public one, will publicly make the following abjuration in the Church:
        I, N., of such a Diocese, a citizen of such a city or place, being on my trial, do swear before you the Lord Bishop of such a city, and upon the Holy Gospels placed before me and upon which I set my hand, that I believe in my heart and profess with my lips that Holy Catholic and Apostolic Faith which the Holy Roman Church believes, confesses, preaches, and observes. Also I swear that I believe in my heart and profess with my lips that the Lord JESUS Christ, in company with all the Saints, abominates the wicked heresy of witches; and that all who follow or adhere to it will with the devil and his Angels be punished in eternal fire unless they turn their hearts and are reconciled by the penitence of the Holy Church. And there I abjure, renounce, and revoke that heresy of which you, my Lord Bishop, and your Officers hold me suspected: namely, that I have been familiar with witches, have ignorantly defended their errors, have held in detestation their Inquisitors and prosecutors, or that I have failed to bring their crimes to light. Also I swear that I have never believed the aforesaid heresy, nor do I believe, nor have I adhered, nor do I adhered to it, nor shall I ever believe, adhere to, or teach it, nor do I intend to teach it. And if I should hereafter be guilty of any of the aforesaid practices (which God forbid), I shall willingly submit myself to the punishment provided by law for such who are so forsworn; and I am ready to undergo any penance which you see fit to enjoin me for those words or deeds of mine for which you hold me deservedly suspect; and I swear to fulfill such penance to the best of my strength, and to omit no part of it, so help me God and these Holy Gospels.
        The above abjuration shall be made in the common speech, so that all may understand it. And when it is done, the Judge, if he is present, or his deputy shall speak to her in the common speech to the following effect:
        My son (or daughter), you have not unworthily abjured the suspicion which we entertained of you, and have purged yourself by the aforesaid abjuration. Beware then lest hereafter you fall into the heresy you have abjured. For although, if you should repent, you would not be delivered up to the secular Court, since you made your abjuration as one under a light, and not a strong, suspicion, yet you wold then be far more severely punished than you would have been if you had not abjured, and you would then rest under a strong instead of a light suspicion. And when you should abjure as such, and afterwards should relapse, you would suffer the due punishment of a backslider, and would without mercy be delivered to the secular Court to endure the extreme penalty.
        But if she makes her abjuration secretly in the chamber of the Bishop or Judge, which will be the case when the matter is not a public one, she shall abjure in the same manner. And afterwards sentence shall be pronounced as follows:
        We, by the mercy of God Bishop of such a city, or (if he is present) Judge in the territory subject to such a Prince, having carefully seen and examined the merits of the process conducted by us against you N., accused before us heresy, find that you have committed such and such (naming them) which render you lightly suspected of heresy, on account of which we have judged it proper to cause you to abjure that heresy as one lightly suspected of it. But not for that can you be dismissed unpunished. And that you may become more careful in the future, having consulted with many eminent persons learned in the law and with religious men, and having carefully weighed and digested the whole matter, having only God before our eyes, and the irrefragable truth of the Holy Catholic Faith, and with the Holy Gospels placed before us that our sentence may proceed as from God’s countenance and that our eyes may see with equity, and sitting in tribunal as Judge, we condemn, sentence, or rather impose penance upon you N., standing in person here in our presence, in the following manner. Namely, that never hereafter shall you knowingly hold to, associate with, defend in your speech, read (if you are well learned), or hereafter, etc. and let there be set down that which she has committed, on account of which she was held suspected of the crime of heresy. This sentence and penance were given, etc.
        And let the Notary take care that he sets it down in the process that such abjuration was made as by one under a light, not a strong, suspicion of heresy; for otherwise great danger might ensue.

Next: Question XXIV
The Fifth Manner of Sentence, in the Case of one under Strong Suspicion