Page:A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages-Volume I .pdf/449

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429
RETRACTION OF CONFESSIONS.

ever, was that the confession was true and the retraction a perjury, and the view taken of such cases was that the retraction proved the accused to be an impenitent heretic, who had relapsed after confession and asking for penance. As such there was nothing to be done with him but to hand him over to the secular arm for punishment without a hearing. It is true, that in the case of Guillem Calverie, thus condemned in 1319 by Bernard Gui for withdrawing his confession, the culprit was mercifully allowed fifteen days in which to revoke his revocation, but this was a mere exercise of the discretion customarily lodged with the inquisitor. How strictly the rule was contrued which regarded revocation as relapse is seen in the remark of Zanghino, that if a man had confessed and abjured and been set free under penance, and if he subsequently remarked in public that he had confessed under fear of expense or to avoid heavier punishment, he was to be regarded as an impenitent heretic, liable to be burned as a relapsed. We shall see hereafter the full significance of this point in its application to the Templars. THere was an additional question of some nicety which arose when the retracted confession incriminated others besides the accused; in this case the most merciful view taken was that, if it was not to be held good against them, the one who confessed was liable to punishment for false-witness. As no confession was sufficient which did not reveal the names of partners in guilt, those inquisitors who did not regard revocation as relapse could at least imprison the accused for life as a false witness.[1]

The inquisitorial process as thus perfected was sure of its victim. No one whom a judge wished to condemn could escape. The form in which it became naturalized in secular jurisprudence was less arbitrary and effective, yet Sir John Fortescue, the chancellor of Henry VI., who in his exile had ample opportunity to observe its working, declares that it placed every man's life or limb at the mercy of any enemy who could suborn two unknown witnesses to swear against him.[2]

  1. Hymeric, Direct. Inquis. p. 481.-Bernardi Comens. Lucerna Inquis. s. vv. Confessio, Impenitens, Tortura No. 48.-Responsa prudentum (Doat, XXXVII. 83 sqg.)-Arch. de PInq. de Carcass. (Doat, XXVLI. 126; XXXII. 251-Lib Sententt. Inq. Tolosan. pp. 266-7.-Zanchini Tract. de IIeret. c. xxiii
  2. Fortescue de Laudibus Legum Anglie, c. xxvii