A History of the Inquisition In The Middle Ages.
By Henry Charles Lea - 1888
Chapter XI. The Defence
From the preceding sketch of the inquisitorial process it may readily be inferred that scant opportunities for defence were allowed by the Holy Office. It was in the very nature of the process that all the preliminary proceedings were taken in secrecy and without the knowledge of the accused. The case against him was made up before his arrest, and he was examined, urged to confess, and perhaps imprisoned for years and tortured, before he was allowed to know what were the charges against him. It was only after a confession had been extorted from him, or the inquisitor despaired of extorting one, that he was furnished with the evidence against him, and even then the names of the witnesses were habitually suppressed.
All this is in cruel contrast with the righteous care to avoid injustice prescribed for the ordinary episcopal courts. In them the Council of Lateran orders that the accused shall be present at the inquisition against him, unless he contumaciously absents himself; the charges are to be explained to him, that he may have the opportunity of defending himself; the witnesses' names, with their respective evidence, are to be made public, and all legitimate exceptions and answers be admitted, for suppression of names would invite slander, and rejection of exceptions would admit false testimony.
The suspected heretic, however, was prejudged. The effort of the inquisitor was not to avoid injustice, but to force him to admit his guilt and seek reconciliation with the Church. To accomplish this effectually the facilities for defence were systematically reduced to a minimum.
It is true that, in 1246, the Council of Bãziers lays down the rule that the accused shall have proper opportunities for defence, including necessary delays and the admission of exceptions and legitimate replies; but if this were intended as a check on the arbitrary operations which already characterized the Inquisition, it was wholly disregarded. In the first place, the secrecy of the tribunal enabled the judge to do as he might think best. In the second place, the only possible remaining check to arbitrary action was removed by denying to the accused the advantage of counsel.
Then, as now, the intricacy of legal forms rendered the trained advocate a necessity to every man on trial; the layman, ignorant of his rights, and of the method of enforcing them, was utterly helpless. So thoroughly was this understood that in the ecclesiastical courts it was frequently a custom to furnish advocates gratuitously to poor men unable to employ them, and in the charter granted by Simon de Montfort, in 1212, to his newly-acquired territories, it was provided that justice should always be gratuitous, and that counsel should be provided by the court for pleaders too poor to retain them.
When this right thus was recognized in the most trifling cases, to refuse it to those who were battling for their lives before a tribunal in which the judge was also prosecutor, was more than the Church at first dared openly to do, but it practically reached the result by indirection. Innocent III., in a decretal embodied in the canon law, had ordered advocates and scriveners to lend no aid or counsel to heretics and their defenders, or to undertake their causes in litigation. This, which was presumably intended as one of the disabilities inflicted on defiant and acknowledged heretics, was readily applied to the suspect who were not yet convicted, and who were struggling to prove their innocence, for their guilt was always assumed in advance.
The councils of Valence and Albi, in 1248 and 1254, while ordering inquisitors not to embarrass themselves with the vain jangling of lawyers in the conduct of the prosecution, significantly make reference to this provision of the canon law as applicable to counsel who might be so hardy as to aid the defence. That this became a settled and recognized principle is shown by Bernard Gui's assertion that advocates who excuse and defend heretics are to be held guilty of fautorship of heresy--a crime which became heresy itself if satisfaction at the discretion of the inquisitor was not rendered within a twelvemonth.
Refusal Of Council
When to this we add the perpetually reiterated commands to the inquisitors to proceed without regard to legal forms or the wrangling of advocates, and the notice to notaries that he who drew up the revocation of a confession was excommunicated as an impeder of the Inquisition, it will readily be seen that there was no need of formally refusing counsel to the accused, and that there was no practical benefit permitted from the admission of the barren generality that one who believed a heretic to be innocent and endeavored to prove him so was not on that account liable to punishment. Eymerich is careful to specify that the accused has the right to employ counsel, and that a denial of this justifies an appeal, but then he likewise states that the inquisitor can prosecute any advocate or notary who undertakes the cause of heretics; and a century earlier a manuscript manual for inquisitors directs them to prosecute as defenders of heresy any advocates who take such cases, with the addition that if they are clerks they are to be perpetually deprived of their benefices.
It is no wonder, therefore, that finally inquisitors adopted the rule that advocates were not to be allowed in inquisitorial trials. This injustice had its compensation, however, for the employment of counsel, in fact, was likely to prove as dangerous to the defendant as to his advocate, for the Inquisition was entitled to all accessible information, and could summon the latter as a witness, force him to surrender any papers in his hands, and reveal what had passed between him and his client. Such considerations, however, are rather theoretical than practical, for it may well be doubted whether, in the ordinary course of the Inquisition, counsel for the defence ever appeared before it.
The terror that it inspired is well illustrated by the circumstance that when, in 1300, Friar Bernard Dãlicieux was commissioned by his Franciscan provincial to defend the memory of Castel Fabri, and Nicholas d'Abbeville, the Inquisitor of Carcassonne, rudely refused him even an audience, he could find no notary in the city who dared to assist him in drawing up a legal protest; every one feared arrest and prosecution if he took the least part in an opposition to the dreaded inquisitor, and Bernard had to wait ten or twelve days until he could bring a notary from a distance to perform the simplest formality. The local officials might well hesitate to incur the wrath of Nicholas, for a few years before he had cast in jail a notary who had ventured to draw up an appeal of the inhabitants of Carcassonne to the king.
Refusal To Plead
All this is interesting as an illustration of the spirit which pervaded every act of the Inquisition, but in reality no advocate could be of material service to the accused, save in the most exceptional cases. The men who organized the Holy Office knew too well what they wanted to leave open any possibilities of which even the shrewdest advocate could take advantage, and it was admitted on all hands as a recognized fact that there was no method of defence save disabling the witnesses for the prosecution. It has been seen that enmity was the only source of disability in a witness, and this had to be mortal--there must have been bloodshed between the parties, or other cause sufficient to induce one to seek the life of the other.
If, therefore, the case rested on witnesses of this kind, their testimony had to be rejected and the prosecution fell. As this was the only possible mode of escape, the cruelty of withholding from the prisoner the names of the adverse witnesses becomes doubly conspicuous. He was forced to grope around in the dark and blindly name such persons as he imagined might have a hand in his misfortunes. If he failed to hit upon any who appeared in the case, the evidence against him was conclusive, as far as it went. If he chanced to name some of the witnesses, he was interrogated as to the causes of enmity; the inquisitor examined into the facts of the alleged quarrel, and decided as he saw fit as to the retention or the rejection of their testimony. Conscientious jurists like Gui Foucoix and inquisitors like Eymerich warned their brethren that as the accused had so slender a chance of guessing the sources of evidence, the judge ought to investigate for himself and discard any that seemed to be the product of malice; but there were others who sought rather to deprive the poor wretch of every straw that might postpone his sinking. One device was to ask him, as though casually, at the end of his examination, whether he had any enemies who would so disregard the fear of God as to accuse him falsely, and if, thus taken unawares, he replied in the negative, he debarred himself from any subsequent defence; or the most damaging witness would be selected and the prisoner be asked if he knew him, when a denial would estop him from claiming enmity.
It is easy to imagine other tricks by which shrewd and experienced inquisitors could save themselves the trouble of admitting the accused to even the nugatory form of defence to which alone he was entitled. As to allowing him to call witnesses in his favor, except to prove enmity of the accusers, it was never thought of in ordinary cases. By a legal fiction, the inquisitor was supposed to look at both sides of the case, and to take care of the defence as well as of the prosecution. If the accused failed to guess the names of enemies among the witnesses and to disable their testimony, he was condemned.
In England, under the barbarous custom of the peine forte et dure, a prisoner who refused to plead either guilty or not guilty was pressed to death, because the trial could not go on without either confession or defence. Cruel as was this expedient, it was the outcome of a manly sense of justice, which based its procedure on the rule that the worst felon should have a fair opportunity to prove his innocence. Far worse was the system of the Inquisition, which was equally resolved that its culprits should have no such easy method of escape as a refusal to plead. It had no scruples as to proceeding in such cases, and the obstinacy of the accused only simplified matters. The refusal was an act of contumacy, equivalent to disobeying a summons to appear, or it was held to be tantamount to a confession, and the obdurate prisoner was forthwith handed over to the secular arm as an impenitent heretic, fit only for the stake. The use of torture, however, rendered such cases rare.
In the register of the Inquisition of Carcassonne from 1249 to 1258 M. Molinier has found two cases in which the accused was allowed to introduce evidence in his favor. In one of these G. VilaniÃ¨re called two witnesses to prove an alibi; in the other Guilleim NÃ¨gre brought forward a letter of reconciliation and penitence. In neither case was the defendant successful.
The enviable simplicity which the inquisitorial process thus assumed in the absence of counsel and of all practical opportunities for defence can perhaps best be illustrated by one or two cases. Thus in the Inquisition of Carcassonne, June 19, 1252, P. Morret is called up and asked if he wishes to defend himself against the matters found in the instructio or indictment against him. He has nothing to allege except that he has enemies, of whom he names five. Apparently he did not happen to guess any of the witnesses, for the case proceeded by reading the evidence to him, after which he is again asked thrice if he has anything further to say. To this he replies in the negative, and the case ends by assigning January 29 for the rendering of sentence.
Two years later, in 1254, at Carcassonne, a certain Bernard Pons was more lucky, for he happened to guess aright in naming his wife as an inimical witness, and we have the proceedings of the inquest held to determine whether the enmity was mortal. Three witnesses are examined, all of whom swear that she is a woman of loose character; one deposes that she had been taken in adultery by her husband; another that he had beaten her for it, and the third that he had recently heard her say that she wished her husband dead that she might marry a certain Pug Oler, and that she would willingly become a leper if that would bring it about.
This would certainly seem sufficient, but Pons appears nevertheless not to have escaped. So thoroughly hopeless, indeed, was the prospect of any effort at defence, that it frequently was not even attempted, and the accused, like Arnaud Fabri at Carcassonne, August 20, 1252, when asked if he wished a copy of the evidence against him, would despairingly decline it. It was a customary formula in a sentence to state that the convict had been offered opportunity for defence and had not availed himself of it, showing how frequently this was the case.
Prosecution Of The Dead
In the case of prosecution of the dead, the children or the heirs were scrupulously cited to appear and defend his memory, as they were necessarily parties to the case through the disabilities and confiscation following upon condemnation. Proclamation was also made publicly in the churches inviting any one else who chose to appear or who had any interest in the matter by reason of holding property of the deceased; and then a third public notice was given that if no one came forward on the day named, definitive sentence would be rendered. Thus in a case occurring in 1327, Jean Duprat, Inquisitor of Carcassonne, orders the priests of all the churches in the dioceses of Carcassonne, Narbonne, and Alet to publish the notice during divine service on every Sunday and feast-day till the day of hearing, and to send him a notarial attestation of their action. The sentences in these cases are careful to recite these notices so sedulously served on all concerned; but notwithstanding this display of a desire to do exact justice, the proceedings were quite as hollow a mockery as those against the living.
That it was so recognized is seen at the auto of 1309 at Toulouse, where there were four dead persons sentenced, and it is stated that in one case no one appeared, and in the other three the heirs obeyed the citation but renounced all defence. In the case of Castel Fabri, before alluded to, at Carcassonne, in 1300, where the estate was very large, the heirs appeared, but were denied all opportunity of defence by Nicholas d'Abbeville, the inquisitor; and in that of Pierre de Tornamire, though the heirs, as we have seen, succeeded in reversing the judgment through the gross informality of the proceedings, it was not until after a struggle which lasted for thirty-two years, during which time the estate must have been sequestrated. Sometimes, when death-bed heretications had occurred, the children put in the plea of non compos, which was admitted to be good, but as none of the family were allowed to testify, and only disinterested witnesses of approved orthodoxy were received, instances of success must have been rare indeed.
Practically every avenue of escape was closed to those who fell into the hands of the inquisitor. Technically the accused had a right, as in other cases, to recuse his judge, but this was a dangerous experiment, and we hardly need the assurance of Bernardo di Como that it was virtually unknown. Ignorance was no defence, and its mere assertion, according to Bernard Gui, only rendered a man worthy of condemnation along with his master, the father of lies.
Persistent denial of the offence charged, even when accompanied with profession of faith and readiness to submit to the mandates of the Church, was obstinacy and impenitence which precluded all hope of mercy. Even suicide in prison was equivalent to confession of guilt without repentance. It is true that insanity or drunkenness might be urged in extenuation of the utterance of heretical words, and this might mitigate the sentence, if there were due contrition and seeking for reconciliation, but admission of the conclusion at which the inquisitor had arrived from his ex parte inquest was the predetermined result, and the only alternative to this was abandonment to the secular arm.
That plain-spoken friar, Bernard Dãlicieux, uttered the literal truth when he declared, in the presence of Philippe le Bel and all his court, that if St. Peter and St. Paul were accused of "adoring" heretics and were prosecuted after the fashion of the Inquisition, there would be no defence open for them. Questioned as to their faith, they would answer like masters in theology and doctors of the Church, but when told that they had adored heretics, and they asked what heretics, some names, common in those parts, would be mentioned, but no particulars would be given. When they would ask for statements as to time and place, no facts would be furnished, and when they would demand the names of the witnesses these would be withheld. How, then, asked Bernard, could the holy apostles defend themselves, especially when any one who wished to aid them would himself be attacked as a fautor of heresy. It was so. The victim was enveloped in a net from which there was no escape, and his frantic struggles only twisted it more tightly around him.
Theoretically, indeed, an appeal lay to the pope from the Holy Office, and to the metropolitan from the bishop, for denial of justice or irregularity of procedure, but it had to be made before sentence was rendered, as condemnation was final.
Appeals To The Holy See
Possibly this may have held out some prospect of benefit in the case of bishops exercising their inquisitorial jurisdiction. In that of inquisitors, when "apostoli," or letters remanding the case to the Holy See, were demanded, it rested with them to grant affirmative ("reverential") ones, or negative ones. The former admitted the transfer of the case; the latter kept it in the inquisitor's hands unless it was formally taken from him by the pope. This, it is safe to say, could rarely happen, and, as the proceeding was an intricate one, it could only be resorted to by experts. A man like Master Eckart, supported by the whole Dominican Order, could undertake it, even though in the end he fared no better at the hands of John XXII. than he would have done at those of the Archbishop of Cologne.
So when, in 1323, the Sire de Partenay, one of the most powerful nobles of Poitou, was cited for heresy by Friar Maurice, the Inquisitor of Paris, and was thrown into the Temple by Charles le Bel, he appealed from Maurice as a judge prejudiced by personal hatred. Charles sent him under guard to John XXII. at Avignon, who at first refused to entertain the appeal, but at length, by the influential intercession of Partenay's friends, was induced to appoint several bishops as assessors to the inquisitor, and after long-protracted proceedings the interest of Partenay was sufficient to obtain his liberation. Cases like these, however, are wholly exceptional and have no bearing upon the thousands of humble folk and "petite noblesse" who filled the prisons of the Inquisition and figured in its autos de fã.
The manuals for inquisitors, indeed, make no scruple in instructing them as to the devices and deceits by which they can elude all attempts to appeal when through disregard of rules they have exposed themselves to it.
There was another class of cases, however, in which the interference of the pope occasionally gave relief, for the Holy See was autocratic and could set aside all rules. The curia was always greedy for money, and, outside of Italy, had no share in the confiscations. It can, therefore, readily be imagined that men of wealth whose whole property was at stake might well consent to divide it with the papal court, whose all-powerful intervention would thereby be secured.
As early as 1245 the bishops of Languedoc are found complaining to Innocent IV. of the number of heretics who thus obtain exemption. Not only those undergoing trial, but those fearing to be cited, those excommunicated for contumacy, or legitimately sentenced, escape the jurisdiction of the Inquisition and enjoy immunity on the strength of letters granted by the papal penitentiaries. I have met with a number of special cases of this interference of the Holy See with the Holy Office, one at least of which indicates the means of persuasion employed. In letters of December 28, 1248, the papal penitentiary Algisius orders the release, without confiscation, of six prisoners of the Inquisition who had confessed to heresy, one of the reasons assigned being the liberal contributions which they had made to the cause of the Holy Land.
It is no wonder that the inquisitors sometimes grew mutinous under this aggravating interference, of which they could so readily guess the motive, and, on one occasion at least, they gave the curia a lesson. Some inhabitants of Limoux, in 1249, condemned to wear crosses and perform heavy penances, obtained from Innocent IV. an order for their mitigation, whereupon the inquisitors, in their irritation, went a step further and absolved the penitents without reserve.
Accepting this rebuke, Innocent commanded the original sentence to be reimposed, and the unlucky culprits gained nothing by their effort. Less questionable was the interference, in 1255, of Alexander IV. in the case of Aimeric de Bressols of Castel-Sarrazin, who had been condemned for heretical acts committed thirty years before. He represented that he had performed most of the penance enjoined on him and that he was unable, through old age and poverty, to accomplish the rest, whereupon the pope mercifully authorized the Inquisitors to commute it into other pious works. A somewhat remarkable case occurred in 1371, when Gregory XI. authorized the Inquisitor of Carcassonne to release Bidon de Puy-Guillem, condemned to perpetual imprisonment, and repentant, the reason given for papal intervention being that there existed no other power to commute the sentence.
This kind of papal intervention, however, was in contravention of the law and not in its fulfilment, and need not be weighed in considering the results of the inquisitorial process. That result, as might be expected, was condemnation in some form or other so uniformly that it may be regarded as inevitable. In the register of Carcassonne from 1249 to 1258, comprising about two hundred cases, there does not occur a single instance of a prisoner discharged as innocent. It is true that the interrogatory of Alizaãs Debax, March 27, 1249, is followed by the note "she was not heard a second time because she was considered innocent," but this apparent exception is nullified by a second memorandum "crucesignata est"--she was condemned to the public infamy of wearing crosses, probably to confirm the popular impression that the Inquisition never missed its mark.
A man against whom there was no evidence to justify conviction and who yet would not confess himself guilty, was kept in prison indefinitely at the discretion of the inquisitor; at length, if the proof against him was only incidental and not direct, and the suspicion was light, he might be mercifully discharged under bail, with orders to stand at the door of the Inquisition from breakfast-time until dinner, and from dinner until supper, until some further testimony should turn up against him, and the inquisitor be able to prove the guilt so confidently assumed. On this side of the Alps it was a recognized rule that no one should be acquitted. The utmost stretch of justice, when the accusation failed entirely, was a sentence of not proven. The charges were simply declared not to be substantiated, and the inquisitors were carefully warned never to pronounce a man innocent, so that there might be no bar to subsequent proceedings in case of further evidence. Possibly in Italy, in the fourteenth century, this rule may have been neglected, for Zanghino gives a formula of acquittal, based, significantly enough, on the evidence being proved to be malicious.
Suspicion Of Heresy
Clement V. recognized the injustice wrought under this system when he embodied in the canon law a declaration that inquisitors abused to the injury of the faithful the wise provisions made for the defence of the faith; when he forbade them from falsely convicting any one, or acting either for or against the accused through love, hate, or the hopes of gain, under penalty of ipso facto excommunication, removable only by the Holy See. Bernard Gui hotly denied these assertions, which he declared to be precisely those with which the heretics defamed the Holy Office to its great damage.
To impute heresy to the innocent, he said, is worthy of damnation, but none the less so is it to slander the Inquisition. In spite, he adds, of the refutation of the accusations brought against it, this canon assumes their truth and the heretics exult over its disgrace. If the heretics exulted, their rejoicings were premature. The Inquisition went its way in the accustomed paths, and Clement's well-meant effort at reform proved wholly unavailing.
The erection of suspicion into a crime gave ample opportunity for the habitual avoidance of acquittal. This took its origin in the customs of the barbarian and mediÃ¦val codes, which required the accused, against whom a probable case was made out, to demonstrate his innocence either by the ordeal, or by the form of purgation known in England as the Wager of Law, in which he produced a prescribed number of his friends to share with him the oath of denial.
In the coronation-edict of Frederic II. those who were suspected of heresy were required to purge themselves in this manner, as the Church might demand, under pain of being outlawed, and, if they remained so for a year, of being condemned as heretics. This gave a peculiar and sinister significance to suspicion of heresy which was carefully elaborated and turned to account. Suspicion might arise from many causes, the chief of which was popular rumor and belief. Omission to take the oath abjuring heresy imposed on all the inhabitants of Languedoc, within the term prescribed, was sufficient, or neglect to reveal heretics, or the possession of heretical books. The intricate questions to which this extension of criminality gave rise are fairly illustrated in the discussion of an inquisitor whether those who listened to the instructions of the Waldenses,
"Do not lie, nor swear, nor commit fornication, but give to every man his due; go to church, pay your tithes, and the perquisites of the priests," and, knowing this to be good advice, conclude the utterers to be good men--whether such are to be considered suspect of heresy; and he tells us that after diligent consideration he must decide in the affirmative, and order them to purgation. The difficulty of reducing to practice these intangible speculations was realized by Chancellor Gerson, who admits that due allowance should be made for variations of habits and manners in different places and times, but the ordinary inquisitor was troubled with few such scruples. It was easier to treat the suspect as criminals; to classify suspicion into its three grades of light, vehement, and violent; to prescribe punishment for it, and to inflict the disabilities of heresy on the suspect and their descendants.
Even the definition of the three grades of suspicion was abandoned as impossible, and it was left to the arbitrary discretion of the inquisitor to classify each individual case which came before him. Nothing more condemnatory of the whole system can well be imagined than the explanation of Eymerich that suspects are not heretics; that they are not to be condemned for heresy, and that therefore their punishment should be lighter, except in the case of violent suspicion. Against this there was no defence possible, and no evidence to be admitted. The culprit might not be a heretic or entertain any error of belief, but if he would not abjure and give satisfaction (and abjuration included confession), he was to be handed over to the secular arm; if he confessed and sought reconciliation, he was to be imprisoned for life.
For light and vehement suspicion the accused was ordered to furnish conjurators in his oath of denial. These were to be men of his own rank in life, who knew him personally and who swore to their belief in his orthodoxy and in the truth of his exculpatory oath. Their number varied, at the discretion of the inquisitor, with the degree of suspicion to be purged away, from three to twenty or thirty, and even more.
In the case of strangers, however, who had no acquaintances, the inquisitor was advised to be moderate. It was no mere idle ceremony, and, as usual, all the chances were thrown against the defendant. If he was unable to procure the required number of compurgators, or neglected to do so within a year, the law of Frederic II. was enforced, and he was usually condemned as a heretic to burning alive; although some inquisitors argued that this was only presumptive, not absolute, proof, and that he could escape the stake by confessing and abjuring--of course being subject to the penance of perpetual prison.
If he succeeded and performed his purgation duly, he was by no means acquitted. If the suspicion against him was vehement he could still be punished; even if it was light the fact that he had been suspected was an ineradicable blot. With the curious logical inconsequence characteristic of inquisitorial procedure, in addition to the purgation, he was obliged to abjure the heresy of which he had cleared himself; this abjuration remained of record against him, and in case of a second accusation his escape from the previous one was not reckoned as having proved his innocence, but as an evidence of guilt. If the purgation had been for light suspicion, his punishment now was increased; and if it had been for vehement suspicion, he was now regarded as a relapsed, to whom no mercy could be shown, but who was handed over to the secular arm without a hearing. Practically, however, this injustice is important chiefly as a manifestation of the spirit of the Inquisition; its methods were too thorough to render frequent a recourse to purgation, and Zanghino, when he treats of it, feels obliged to explain it as a custom little known. One case, however, at least, is on record at Angermã¼nde, where the inquisitor Friar Jordan, in 1336, tried by this method a number of persons accused of the mysterious Luciferan heresy, when fourteen men and women who were unable to procure the requisite number of compurgators were duly burned.
An indispensable formality in all cases in which the culprit was admitted to reconciliation with the Church was abjuration of heresy. Of this there were various forms adapted to the different occasions of its use--whether for suspicion, light, vehement, or violent, or after confession and repentance. It was performed in public, at the autos de fã, except in rare cases, such as those of ecclesiastics likely to cause scandal, and it frequently embodied a pecuniary penalty for infraction of its promises, and security for their performance. The principal point to be observed in all was to see that the penitent abjured heresy in general as well as the special heresy with which he had been charged.
If this were duly attended to, he could always be handed over to the secular arm without a hearing in case of relapse, except when the abjuration had been for light suspicion. If it were neglected, and he had, for instance, abjured Catharism only, he might subsequently indulge in some other form of heresy, such as Waldensianism or usury, and have the benefit of another chance. The case was one not likely to occur, but the point is interesting as showing how the Inquisition could manifest the most scrupulous attention to form, while discarding in its practice all that entitles the administration of justice to respect.
The importance attached to the abjuration is illustrated by a case in the Inquisition of Toulouse in 1310. Sibylla, wife of Bernard Borell, had been forced to confession and abjuration in 1305. Continuing her heretical practices, she was arrested in 1309 and again obliged to confess. As a relapsed heretic she was doomed irrevocably to the stake, but, luckily for her, the abjuration could not be found among the papers of the Holy Office, and though the rest of the record seems to have been accessible, she could only be prosecuted as though for a first offence, and she escaped with imprisonment for life.
In the case of suspects of heresy who cleared themselves by compurgation, abjuration, of course, did not include confession.
In accusations of heresy, supported by evidence, however, no one could be admitted to abjuration who did not confess that of which he was accused. Denial, as we have seen, was obduracy, punished by the stake, and confession was a condition precedent to admission to abjuration. In ordinary cases, where torture was freely used, confession was almost a matter of course. There were extraordinary cases, however, like that of Huss at Constance, where torture was spared and where the accused denied the doctrines attributed to him. In such cases the necessity of confession prior to abjuration must be borne in mind if we are to understand the inevitable consequences.