Page:A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages-Volume I .pdf/426

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406
THE INQUISITORIAL PROCESS.

Had the proceedings been public, there might have been some check upon this hideous system, but the Inquisition shrouded itself in the awful mystery of secrecy until after sentence had been awarded and it was ready to impress the multitude with the fearful solemnities of the auto de fé. Unless proclamation were to be made for an absentee, the citation of a suspected heretic was made in secret. All knowledge of what took place after he presented himself was confined to the few discreet men selected by his judge, who were sworn to inviolable silence, and even the experts assembled to consult over his fate were subjected to similar oaths. The secret of that dismal tribunal were guarded with the same caution, and we are told by Bernard Gui that extracts from the records were to be furnished rarely and only with the most careful discretion. Paramo, in the quaint pedantry with which he ingeniously proves that God was the first inquisitor and the condemnation of Adam and Eve the first model of the inquisitorial process, triumphantly points out that he judged them in secret, thus setting the example which the Inquisition is bound to follow, and avoiding the subtleties which the criminals would have raised in their defence, especially at the suggestion of the crafty serpent. That he called no witnesses is explained by the confession of the accused, and ample legal authority is cited to show that these confessions were sufficient to justify the conviction and punishment. If his blasphemous absurdity raises a smile, it has also its melancholy side, for it reveals to us the view which the inquisitors themselves took of their functions, assimilating themselves to God and wielding an irresponsible power which nothing short of divine wisdom could prevent from being turned by human passions into an engine of the most deadly injustice. Released from all the restraint of publicity and unrestricted by the formalities of law, the procedure of the Inquisition, as Zanghino tells us, was purely arbitrary. How the inquisitors constructed their powers and what use they made of their discretion we shall have abundant opportunity of seeing hereafter.[1]

  1. Doctrina de modo procedendi (Martene Thesaur.V. 1811-12).-Conci. Biterrens. ann. 1246, Append. c. 16.-Arch. de l'nq. de Carcassonne (Doat, XXVII. 156, 102, 178).-Bern, Guidon. Gravamina (Doat, XXX. 102)-Ejusd. Practica (Doat, XXIX. 94). Eymcric. Dircct, Inquis. pp. 031-38. -Jacob. Laudens. Orat. ad