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Malleus Maleficarum Part 3

Question XXIV

The Fifth Manner of Sentence, in the Case of one under Strong Suspicion

        THE fifth method of concluding a process on behalf of the faith is used when she who is accused of heresy, after a careful examination of the merits of the process in consultation with learned lawyers, is found to be strongly suspected of heresy. And this is when the accused is not legally taken in heresy, nor has been convicted by her own confession or by the evidence of the facts or by the legitimate production of witnesses; but strong and weighty indications have been proved against her by reason of which she is held to be under strong suspicion of heresy.
        The procedure in such a case is as follows. For such a person should abjure that heresy as one strongly suspected of it, in such a manner that, if she should afterwards relapse, she must be delivered to the secular Court to suffer the extreme penalty. And she shall make her abjuration publicly or secretly according to whether she is publicly or secretly suspected, or by more or less, high or low, as was just said in the case of one under a light suspicion; and she must abjure that specific heresy.
        And the preparations for such an abjuration should be as follows: - When the Sunday comes which has been fixed for the abjuration and the hearing of the sentence or the imposition of the penance, the preacher shall deliver a general sermon. After this, the Notary or clerk shall publicly read out the crimes of which the accused has been convicted, and those of which she is strongly suspected as a heretic.
        Then the Judge or his deputy shall say to her: Behold! according to that which has been read you are strongly suspected by us of such heresy; wherefore it behoves you to purge yourself and abjure the aforesaid heresy. And then the Book of the Gospels shall be placed before her, and she shall set her hand upon it; and if she can read competently, she shall be given the following written abjuration, and shall read it in the presence of the whole congregation.
        But if she cannot read competently, the Notary shall read it phrase by phrase, and the accused shall repeat it in a loud and audible voice in the following manner. The Notary or clerk shall say: I, N., of such a place, and the accused person shall repeat after him the same words, but always in the vulgar tongue. And so on up to the end of the abjuration. And she shall abjure in the following manner.
        I, N., of such a place in such a Diocese, standing my trial in person in presence of you reverend Lords the Bishop of such city and the Judge of the territory subject to the rule of such a Lord, upon the Holy Gospels set before me and touched by my hands, I swear that I believe in my heart and profess with my lips that Holy Catholic and Apostolic Faith which the Holy Roman Church teaches, professes, preaches, and holds. Also I swear that I believe in my heart and profess with my lips that, etc. And let her pronounce the Catholic article of the faith against that heresy of which she is strongly suspected.
        For example, if the heresy of witchcraft is in question, let her say as follows:
        I swear that I believe that not only will simple heretics and schismatics be tortured in fire everlasting, but that those above all will be so punished who are infected with the heresy of witches, who deny before the devil that faith which they received in Holy Baptism at the font, and practise demoniac lewdness for the fulfilment of their evil desires, inflicting all sorts of injuries upon men and animals and the fruits of the earth. And consequently I abjure, renounce, and revoke that heresy, or rather infidelity, which falsely and mendaciously maintains that there are no witches in the world, and that no one ought to believe that those injuries can be caused with the help of devils; for such infidelity is, as I now recognize, expressly contrary to the decision of our Holy Mother the Church and of all the Catholic Doctors, as also against the Imperial laws which have decreed that witches are to be burned.
        Also I swear that I have never persistently believed in the aforesaid heresy, neither do I believe nor adhere to it at the present, nor have I taught it, not intend to teach it, nor shall teach it. Also I swear and promise that I will never do or cause to be done such and such (naming them) of which you hold me strongly suspected as a heretic. And if hereafter (which God forbid) I should do any of the aforesaid, I am ready the undergo the punishment provided by law for backsliders; and I am ready to submit myself to any penance which you decide to impose upon me for those deeds and words of mine for which you hold me strongly suspected of the said heresy. And I swear and promise that I will perform it to the best of my strength, and will omit no part of it, so God and this Holy Gospel help me.
        And the said abjuration shall be made in the vulgar tongue so that it may be understood by all, unless it be made only in the presence of Clerics with a competent knowledge of the Latin tongue. But if the abjuration be made secretly in the Bishop's palace or chamber, when it is not a public matter, it shall be made in a similar manner. And afterwards the Bishop shall admonish her as above to beware lest she relapse and incur the penalty of a backslider. And let the Notary take care that he set it down how such abjuration was made by such a person as one strongly suspected of heresy, so that, if she should relapse, she may be punished as is proper for a backslider.
        And when this has been done, let the sentence or penance be pronounced in the following manner:
        We, N., Bishop of such city, and Brother N. (if he is present), Inquisitor of the sin of heresy in the domains subject to the rule of such a Prince, especially deputed by the Holy Apostolic See: having in mind that you, N., of such a place in such a Diocese, have done such and such (naming them), as lawfully appears from the carefully examined merits of the process, wherefore we reasonably hold you strongly suspected of such heresy, and have caused you to abjure it as one so suspected, being persuaded to that course by considerations of justice and the advice of men skilled in the law. But that you may be more careful in the future nor become more prone to the like practices, and that your crimes may not remain unpunished, and that you may be an example to other sinners; having consulted with many eminent and learned lawyers and Masters or Doctors of the faculty of Theology, having carefully digested the whole matter, and having before our eyes only God and the truth of the Catholic Apostolic Faith, having set before us the Holy Gospel that our judgement may proceed as from God's countenance and our eyes see with equity, and sitting in tribunal as Judges, we condemn, or rather impose penance in the following manner upon you, N., standing here in person before us: namely, that you shall never hereafter presume to do, say, or teach such and such things. And let there be set down those things of which she has been convicted, and by reason of which she was strongly suspected of the aforesaid heresy, as well as certain others which, if she were to commit them, would make her guilty of a slight relapse into heresy; but this must be as the particular nature of the case demands and requires. As, for example, that she should never wittingly follow such practices, nor receive those whom she knows to have denied the faith, etc. This sentence was given, etc.
        But it must be noted that those who are suspected, but not taken in heresy, whether they be strongly or lightly suspected, must not be imprisoned or confined for life. For this is the punishment of those who have been heretics and afterwards repented. But they may, because of their deeds for which they have come under suspicion, be sent to prison for a time, and afterwards, as will be seen, released.
        Neither are they to be branded with the sign of the Cross, for such is the sign of a penitent heretic; and they are not convicted heretics, but only suspected, therefore they are not to be marked in this way. But they can be ordered either to stand on certain solemn days within the doors of a church, or near the altar, while Holy Mass is being celebrated, bearing in their hands a lighted candle of a certain weight; or else to go on some pilgrimage, or something of the kind, according to the nature and requirements of the case.
Next: Question XXV
The Sixth Kind of Sentence, in the Case of one who is Gravely Suspect