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Malleus Maleficarum Part 3

Question XVII

The Method of passing Sentence upon one who hath Confessed to Heresy, but is still not Penitent

        The eighth method of terminating a process on behalf of the faith is used when the person accused of heresy, after a careful examination of the merits of the process in consultation with learned lawyers, is found to have confessed his heresy, but to be penitent, and not truly to have relapsed into heresy. And this is when the accused has himself confessed in a Court of law under oath before the Bishop and Inquisitor that he has for so long lived and persisted in that heresy of which he is accused, or in any other, and has believed in and adhered to it; but that afterwards, being persuaded by the Bishop and others, he wishes to be converted and to return to the bosom of the Church, and to abjure that and every heresy, and to make such satisfaction as they require of him; and it is found that he has made no previous abjuration of any other heresy, but is now willing and prepared to abjure.
        In such a case the procedure will be as follows. Although such a person has for many years persisted in the said heresy and even in others, and has believed and practised them and led many others into error; yet if at last he has consented to abjure those heresies and to make such satisfaction as the Bishop and the ecclesiastical Judge shall decree, he is not to be delivered up to the secular Court to suffer the extreme penalty; nor, if he is a cleric, is he to be degraded. But he is to admitted to mercy, according to the Canon ad abolendam. And after he has abjured his former heresy he is to be confined in prison for life (see the Canon excommunicamus, where it provides for the absolution of such). But great care must be taken that he has no simulated a false penitence in order to be received back into the Church. Also the secular Court is not at all bound by such a sentence as the above.
        He shall make his abjuration in the manner already set out, with this difference. He shall with his own mouth confess his crimes before the congregation in church on a Feast Day, in the following manner. The clerk shall ask him, have you for so many years persisted in the heresy of witches? And he shall answer, Yes. And then, Have you done this and this to which you have confessed? And he shall answer, Yes. And so on. And finally he shall make his abjuration kneeling on his knees. And since, having been convicted of heresy, he has been excommunicated, after he has by abjuration returned to the bosom of the Church, he is to be granted the grace of absolution, according to the manner used by the Bishops with Apostolic authority of absolving from the major excommunication. And sentence shall at once be pronounced in the following manner:
        We, the Bishop of such city, or the Judge in the territories of such Prince, seeing that you, N., of such a place in such a Diocese, have been by public report and the information of credible persons accused before us of the sin of heresy; and since you had for many years been infected with that heresy to the great damage of your soul; and because this accusation against you has keenly wounded our hearts: we whose duty it is by reason of the office which we have received to plant the Holy Catholic Faith in the hearts of men and to keep away all heresy from their minds, wishing to be more certainly informed whether there was any truth in the report which had come to our ears, in order that, if it were true, we might provide a healthy and fitting remedy, proceeded in the best way which was open to us to question and examine witness and to interrogate you on oath concerning that of which you were accused, doing all and singular which was required of us by justice and the canonical sanctions.
        And since we wished to bring your case to a suitable conclusion, and to have a clear understanding of your past state of mind, whether you were walking in the darkness or in the light, and whether or not you had fallen into the sin of heresy; having conducted the whole process, we summoned together in council before us learned men of the Theological faculty and men skilled in both the Canon and the Civil Law, knowing that, according to canonical institution, the judgement is sound which is confirmed by the opinion of many; and having on all details consulted the opinion of the said learned men, and having diligently and carefully examined all the circumstances of the process; we find that you are, by your own confession made on oath before us in the Court, convicted of many of the sins of witches. (Let them be expressed in detail.)
        But since the Lord in His infinite mercy permits men at times to fall into heresies and errors, not only that learned Catholics may be exercised in sacred arguments, but that they who have fallen from the faith may become more humble thereafter and perform works of penitence: having carefully discussed the circumstances of this same process, we find that you, at our frequent instance and following the advice of us and other honest men, have with a healthy mind returned to the unity and bosom of the Holy Mother Church, detesting the said errors and heresies, and acknowledging the irrefragable truth of the Holy Catholic Faith, laying it t your inmost heart: wherefore, following in His footsteps Who wishes that no one should perish, we have admitted you to this adjuration and public abjuration of the said an all other heresies. And having done this, we absolve you from the sentence of major excommunication by which you were bound for your fall into heresy, and reconciling you to the Holy Mother Church we restore you to the sacraments of the Church; provided that with a true heart, and not with simulated faith, you return to the unity of the Church, as we believe and hope that you have done.
        But because it would be a very scandalous thing to avenge the injuries done to temporal Lords and to tolerate the offences committed against God the Creator of all the Heavens, since it is a far greater sin to offend against the Eternal than against a temporal Majesty, and that God Who pities sinners may have mercy upon you, that you may be an example for others, and that your sins may not remain unpunished, and that you may become more careful in the future, and not more prone but less apt to commit the said and any other crimes: We the said Bishop and Judge, or Judges, on behalf of the faith, sitting in tribunal as Judges judging, etc., as above . . . that you put on a grey-blue garment, etc. Also we sentence and condemn you to perpetual imprisonment, there to be punished with the bread of affliction and the water of distress; reserving to ourselves the right to mitigate, aggravate, change, or remit wholly or in part the said sentence if, when, and as often as it shall seem good to us to do so. This sentence was given, etc.
        After this the Judge shall proceed point by point, pronouncing sentence in the following or some similar manner:
        My son, your sentence or penance consists in this, that you bear this cross during the whole period of your life, that you stand so bearing it on the altar steps or in the door of such churches, and that you be imprisoned for life on bread and water. But, my son, lest this may seem too hard for you, I assure you that if you patiently bear your punishment you will find mercy with us; therefore doubt not nor despair, but hope strongly.
        After this, let the sentence be duly executed, and let him put on the said garment and be placed on high upon the altar steps in full view of the people as they go out, surrounded by the officers of the secular Court. And at the dinner hour let him be led by the officers to prison, and the rest of the sentence be carried out and duly performed. And after he is led out through the door of the church, let the ecclesiastical Judge have no more to do with the matter; and if the secular Court be satisfied, it is well, but if not, let it do its pleasure.
Next: Question XVIII
The Method of passing Sentence upon one who hath Confessed to Heresy but is Relapsed, Albeir now Penitent