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Malleus Maleficarum Part 3

Question XXVI

The Method of passing Sentence upon one who is both Suspect and Defamed

        THE seventh method of bringing to a conclusion a process on behalf of the faith is employed when the person accused of the sin of heresy, after a careful examination of the merits of the process in consultation with men learned in the law, is found to be both suspected and defamed of heresy. And this is when the accused is not legally convicted by his own confession or by the evidence of the facts or by the legitimate production of witnesses; but is found to be publicly defamed, and there are also other indications which render him lightly or strongly suspected of heresy: as that he has held much familiarity with heretics. And such a person must, because of his defamation, undergo a canonical purgation; and because of the suspicion against him he must abjure the heresy.
        The procedure in such a case will be as follows. Such a person, being publicly defamed for heresy, and being in addition to this suspected of heresy by reason of certain other indications, shall first publicly purge himself in the manner which we explained in the second method. Having performed this purgation, he shall immediately, as one against whom there are other indications of the suspected heresy, abjure that heresy in the following manner, having before him, as before, the Book of the Gospels:
        I., N., of such a place in such a Diocese, standing my trial in person before you my Lords, N., Bishop of such city and Judge in the territory of such Prince, having touched with my hands the Holy Gospels placed before me, swear that I believe in my heart and profess with my lips that Holy Apostolic Faith which the Roman Church believes, professes, preaches and observes. And consequently I abjure, detest, renounce and revoke every heresy which rears itself up against the Holy and Apostolic Church, of whatever sect or error it be, etc., as above.
        Also I swear and promise that I will never hereafter do or say or cause to be done such and such (naming them), for which I am justly defamed as having committed them, and of which you hold be suspected. Also I swear and promise that I will perform to the best of my strength every penance which you impose on me, nor will I omit any part of it, so help me God and this Holy Gospel. And if hereafter I should act in any way contrary to this oath and abjuration (which God forbid), I here and now freely submit, oblige, and bind myself to the legal punishment for such, to the limit of sufferance, when it shall have been proved that I have committed such things.
        But it must be noted that when the indications are so strong as to render the accused, either with or without the aforesaid defamation, strongly suspected of heresy, then he shall, as above, abjure all heresy in general. And if he relapsed into any heresy, he shall suffer the due punishment of a backslider. But if the indications are so small and slight as, even taken together with the said defamation, not to render him strongly, but only lightly, suspected of heresy, then it is enough if he makes not a general abjuration, but specifically abjures that heresy of which he is suspected; so that, if he were to relapse into another form of heresy, he would not be liable to the penalty for backsliders. And even if he were to relapse into the same heresy which he had abjured, he would still not be liable to the said penalty, although he would be more severely punished than would have been the case if he had not abjured.
        But there is a doubt whether he would be liable to the penalty for backsliders if, after his canonical purgation, he should relapse into the same heresy of which he was canonically purged. And it would seem that this would be so, from the Canon Law, c. excommunicamus and c. ad abolendam. Therefore the Notary must take great care to set it down whether such a person has made his abjuration as one under a light or a strong suspicion of heresy; for, as we have often said, there is a great difference between these. And when this has been done, sentence or penance shall be pronounced in the following manner:
        We., N., Bishop of such city or Judge in the territories of such Prince, having diligently in mind that you, N., of such a place in such a Diocese, have been accused before us of such heresy (naming it); and wishing to inquire judicially whether you have fallen into the said heresy, by examining witnesses, by summoning and questioning you upon oath, and by all convenient means in our power, we have acted and proceeded as it behoved.
        Having digested, observed and diligently inspected all the facts, and having discussed the merits of the process of this case, examining al and singular which has been done and said, and having consulted with and obtained the mature opinion of many learned Theologians and lawyers, we find that you have been in such place or places publicly defamed by good and sober men for the said heresy; wherefore, as we are bidden by the canonical institutions, we have imposed upon you a canonical purgation by which you and your sponsors have here publicly purged yourself before us. We find also that you have committed such and such (naming them), by reason of which we have just cause t hold you strongly or lightly (let it be said whether it is one or the other) suspected of the said heresy; and therefore we have caused you to abjure heresy as one under such suspicion (here, if he has abjured as one under strong suspicion, let them say “all heresy”; and if as one under light suspicion, “the said heresy”).
        But because we cannot and must not in any way tolerate that which you have done, but are in justice compelled to abominate it, that you may become more careful in the future, and that your crimes may not remain unpunished, and that others may not be encouraged to fall into the like sins, and that the injuries to the Creator may not easily be passed over: Therefore against you, N., having so purged yourself and abjured, standing personally in our presence in this place at the time which was assigned to you, We, the aforesaid Bishop or Judge, sitting in tribunal as Judges judging, having before us the Holy Gospels that our judgement may proceed as from the countenance of God and our eyes see with equity, pronounce sentence or penance in the following manner, namely, that you must, etc.
        And let them pronounce sentence as shall seem most to the honour of the faith and the extermination of the sin of heresy: as that on certain Sundays and Festivals he must stand at the door of such a church, holding a candle of such a weight, during the solemnization of Holy Mass, with head uncovered and bare feet, and offer the said candle at the altar; and that he must fast on Fridays, and that for a certain period he must not dare to depart from that place, but present himself before the Bishop or Judge on certain days of the week; and any similar penance which seemed to be demanded by the particular nature of his guilt; for it is impossible to give a hard-and-fast rule. This sentence was given, etc. And let it be put into execution after it has been pronounced; and it can be cancelled, mitigated or changed as may be required by the condition of the penitent and for his correction and humiliation; for the Bishop has this power by law.
Next: Question XVII
The Method of passing Sentence upon one who hath Confessed to Heresy, but is still not Penitent