Page:A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages-Volume I .pdf/423

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403
MINORS AND ABSENTEES.

this rule was adopted by some authorities. Others contented themselves with the definition that the child must be old enough to understand the purport of an oath, while there were not wanting high authorities who reduced the age of responsibility to seven years, and those who more charitably fixed it at nine and a half for girls and ten and a half for boys. It is true that in Latin countries, where minority did not cease until the age of twenty-five, no one beneath that age had a standing in court, but this was readily evaded by appointing for him a "curator," under whose shadow he could be tortured and condemned; and when we are told that no one below the age of fourteen should be tortured, we are left to conjecture the minimum age of responsibility for heresy.[1]

Nor could the offender escape by absenting himself. Absence was contumacy and only increased his guilt, by adding a fresh and unpardonable offence, besides being technically tantamount to confession. In fact, before the Inquisition was thought of, the inquisitorial process was rendered absolute in ecclesiastical jurisprudence precisely to meet such cases, as when Innocent III. degraded the Bishop of Coire on evidence taken ex parte by his commissioners, after the bishop had repeatedly refused to appear before them; and the importance of this decision is shown by the fact that Raymond of Pennaforte embodied it in the canon law to prove that in cases of contumacy the testimony taken in an inquisitio was valid ground for condemnation without a litis contestatio or contest between the prosecution and the defence. Accordingly, when a party failed to appear, after due citation published in his parish church and proper delay, there was no hesitation in proceeding against him to conviction in absentia - the absence of the culprit being piously supplied by "the presence of God and the Gospels" when the sencence was rendered. Contumacious absence, in fact, was in itself enough. Frederic II. in his earliest edict, in 1220, following the Lateran Council of 1215, had declared that the suspect who

  1. Concil. Tolosan. ann. 1229 c. 10.-Concil, Biterrens. ann. 1244 c. 81.-Concil. Albiens. ann. 1254 c. 5.-Modus examinandi hareticos (Mag. Bib. Patrum XIII. 341)-Joan. Andrere Gloss. sup. c. 13 Sexto v. 2.-Pegn Comment. in Eymeric. p. 490. crnardi Comcns. Lucerna Inquis. s. v. Minor, Tortura No. 3