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Malleus Maleficarum Part 3

Question XXXI

Of One Taken and Convicted, but Denying Everything

        THE twelfth method of finishing and concluding a process on behalf of the faith is used when the person accused of heresy, after a diligent examination of the merits of the process in consultation with skilled lawyers, is found to be convicted of heresy by the evidence of the facts or by the legitimate production of witnesses, but not by his own confession. That is to say, he may be convicted by the evidence of the facts, in that he has publicly practiced heresy; or by the evidence of witnesses against whom he can take no legitimate exception; yet, though so taken and convicted, he firmly and constantly denies the charge. See Henry of Segusio On Heresy, question 34.
        The procedure in such a case is as follows. The accused must be kept in strong durance fettered and chained, and must often be visited by the officers, both in a body and severally, who will use their own best endeavours and those of others to induce him to discover the truth; telling him that if he refuses and persists in his denial, he will in the end be abandoned to the secular law, and will not be able to escape temporal death.
        But if he continues for a long time in his denials, the Bishop and his officers, now in a body and now severally, now personally and now with the assistance of other honest and upright men, shall summon before them now one witness, now another, and warm him to attend strictly to what he has deposed, and to be sure whether or not he has told the truth; that he should beware lest in damning another temporally he damn himself eternally; that if he be afraid, let him at least tell them the truth in secret, that the accused should not die unjustly. And let them be careful to talk to him in such a way that they may see clearly whether or not his depositions have been true.
        But if the witnesses, after this warning, adhere to their statements, and the accused maintains his denials, let not the Bishop and his officers on that account be in any haste to pronounce a definitive sentence and hand the prisoners over to secular law; but let them detain him still longer, now persuading him to confess, now yet again urging the witnesses (but one at a time) to examine their consciences as well. And let the Bishop and his officers pay particular attention to that witness who seems to be of the best conscience and the most disposed to good, and let them more insistently charge him on his conscience to speak the truth whether or not the matter was as he had deposed. And if they see any witness vacillate, or there are any other indications that he has given false evidence, let them attest him according to the counsel of learned men, and proceed as justice shall require.
        For it is very often found that after a person so convicted by credible witnesses has long persisted in his denials, he has at length relented, especially on being truly informed that he will not be delivered to the secular Court, but be admitted to mercy if he confesses his sin, and he has then freely confessed the truth which he had so long denied. And it is often found that the witnesses, actuated by malice and overcome by enmity, have conspired together to accuse an innocent person of the sin of heresy; but afterwards, at the frequent entreaty of the Bishop and his officers, their consciences have been stricken with remorse and, by Divine inspiration, they have revoked their evidence and confessed that they have out of malice put that crime upon the accused. Therefore the prisoner in such a case is not to be sentenced hastily, but must be kept for a year or more before he is delivered up to the secular Court.
        When a sufficient time has elapsed, and after all possible care has been taken, if the accused who has been thus legally convicted has acknowledged his guilt and confessed in legal from that he hath been for the period stated ensnared in the crime of heresy, and has consented to abjure that and every heresy, and to perform such satisfaction as shall seem proper to the Bishop and Inquisitor for one convicted of heresy both by his own confession and the legitimate production of witnesses; then let him as a penitent heretic publicly abjure all heresy, in the manner which we have set down in the eighth method of concluding a process on behalf of the faith.
        But if he has confessed that he hath fallen into such heresy, but nevertheless obstinately adheres to it, he must be delivered to the secular Court as an impenitent, after the manner of the tenth method which we have explained above.
        But if the accused has remained firm and unmoved in his denial of the charges against him, but the witnesses have withdrawn their charges, revoking their evidence and acknowledging their guilt, confessing that they had put so great a crime upon an innocent man from motives of rancour and hatred, or had been suborned or bribed thereto; then the accused shall be freely discharged, but they shall be punished as false witnesses, accusers or informers. This made clear by Paul of Burgos in his comment on the Canon c. multorum. And sentence or penance shall be pronounced against them as shall seem proper to the Bishop and Judges; but in any case such false witnesses must be condemned to perpetual imprisonment on a diet of bread and water, and to do penance for all the days of their life, being made to stand upon the steps before the church door, etc. However, the Bishops have power to mitigate or even to increase the sentence after a year or some other period, in the usual manner.
        But if the accused, after a year or other longer period which has been deemed sufficient, continues to maintain his denials, and the legitimate witnesses abide by their evidence, the Bishop and Judges shall prepare to abandon him to the secular Court; sending to him certain honest men zealous for the faith, especially religious, to tell him that he cannot escape temporal death while he thus persists in his denial, but will be delivered up as an impenitent heretic to the power of the secular Court. And the Bishop and his officers shall give notice to the Bailiff or authority of the secular Court that on such a day at such an hour and in such a place (not inside a church) he should come with his attendants to receive an impenitent heretic whom they will deliver to him. And let him make public proclamation in the usual places that all should be present on such a day at such an hour and place to hear a sermon preached on behalf of the faith, and that the Bishop and his officer will hand over a certain obstinate heretic to the secular Court.
        On the appointed day for the pronouncement of sentence the Bishop and his officer shall be in the place aforesaid, and the prisoner shall be placed on high before the assembled clergy and people so that he may be seen by all, and the secular authorities shall be present before the prisoner. Then sentence shall be pronounced in the following manner:
        We, N., by the mercy of God Bishop of such city, or Judge in the territories of such Prince, seeing that you, N., of such a place in such a Diocese, have been accused before us of such heresy (naming it); and wishing to be more certainly informed whether the charges made against you were true, and whether you walked in darkness or in the light; we proceeded to inform ourselves by diligently examining the witnesses, by often summoning and questioning you on oath, and admitting an Advocate to plead in your defence, and by proceeding in every way as we were bound by the canonical decrees.
        And wishing to conclude your trial in a manner beyond all doubt, we convened in solemn council men learned in the Theological faculty and in the Canon and Civil Laws. And having diligently examined and discussed each circumstance of the process and maturely and carefully considered with the said learned men everything which has been said and done in this present case, we find that you, N., have been legally convicted of having been infected with the sin of heresy for so long a time, and that you have said an done such and such (naming them) on account of which it manifestly appears that you are legitimately convicted of the said heresy.
        But since we desired, and still desire, that you should confess the truth and renounce the said heresy, and be led back to the bosom of Holy Church and to the unity of the Holy Faith, that so you should save your soul and escape the destruction of both your body and soul in hell; we have by our own efforts and those of others, and by delaying your sentence for a long time, tried to induce you to repent; but you being obstinately given over to wickedness have scorned to agree to our wholesome advice, and have persisted and do persist with stubborn and defiant mind in your contumacious and dogged denials; and this we say with grief, and grieve and mourn in saying it. But since the Church of God has waited so long for you to repent and acknowledge your guilt, and you have refused and still refuse, her grace and mercy can go no farther.
        Wherefore that you may be an example to others and that they may be kept from all such heresies, and that such crimes may not remain unpunished: We the Bishop and Judges named on behalf of the faith, sitting in tribunal as Judges judging, and having before us the Holy Gospels that our judgement may proceed as from the countenance of God and our eyes see with equity, and having before our eyes only God and the glory and honour of the Holy Faith, we judge, declare and pronounce sentence that you standing here in our presence on this day at the hour and place appointed for the hearing of your final sentence, are an impenitent heretic, and as such to be delivered or abandoned to secular justice; and as an obstinate and impenitent heretic we have by this sentence cast you off from the ecclesiastical Court and deliver and abandon you to secular justice and the power of the secular Court. And we pray that the said secular Court may moderate its sentence of death upon you. this sentence was given, etc.
        The Bishop and Judges may, moreover, arrange that just men zealous for the faith, known to and in the confidence of the secular Court, shall have access to the prisoner while the secular Court is performing its office, in order to console him and even yet induce him to confess the truth, acknowledge his guilt, and renounce his errors.
        But if it should happen that after the sentence, and when the prisoner is already at the place where he is to be burned, he should say that he wishes to confess the truth and acknowledge his guilt, and does so; and if he should be willing to abjure that and every heresy; although it may be presumed that he does this rather from fear of death than for love of the truth, yet I should be of the opinion that he may in mercy be received as a penitent heretic and be imprisoned for life. See the gloss on the chapters ad abolendam and excommunicamus. Nevertheless, according to the rigour of the law, the Judges ought not to place much faith in a conversion of this sort; and furthermore, they can always punish him on account of the temporal injuries which he has committed.
Next: Question XXXII
Of One who is Convicted but who hath Fled or who Contumaciously Absents himself