Page:A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages-Volume I .pdf/451

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431
VAGUENESS OF TESTIMONY.

evidence, and the onus of proof lay upon the assertor of a fact. Innocent III., in his instructions as to the Cathari of La Charité, reminded the local authorities that even violent presumptions were not proof, and were insufficient for condemnation in a matter so heinous - a rule which was embodied in the canon law, where it became for the inquisitors merely an excuse for obtaining certitude by extorting confession. How completely they felt themselves emancipated from all wholesome restraint is shown by the remarks of Bernard Gui - "The accused are not to be condemned unless they confess or are convicted by witnesses, though not according to the ordinary laws, as in other crimes, but according to the private laws or privileges conceded to the inquisitors by the Holy See, for there is much that is peculiar to the Inquisition."[1]

From almost the inception of the Holy Office there was an effort to lay down rules as to what constituted evidence of heresy; but the Council of Narbonne, in 1244, winds up an enumeration of the various indications by saying that it is sufficient if the accused can be shown to have manifested by any word or sign that he had faith or belief in heretics or considered them to be "good men" (bos homes). The kind of testimony received was as flimsy and impalpable as the facts, or supposed facts, sought to be proved. In the voluminous examinations and depositions which have reached us from the archives of the Inquisition we find the witnesses allowed and encouraged to say everything that may occur to them. Great weight as attached to popular report or belief, and to ascertain this the opinion of the witness was freely received, whether based on knowledge or prejudice, hearsay evidence, vague rumors, general impressions, or idle gossip. Everything, in fact, that could affect the accused injuriously was eagerly sought and scrupulously written down. In the determined effort to ruin the seigneurs de Niort, in 1240, of the one hundred and eight witnesses examined scarce one was able to speak of his own knowledge as to any act of the accused. In 1254 Arnaud Baud of Montréal was qualified as "suspect" of heresy because he continued to visit his mother and aided her in her need after she had been hereticated, though there was absolutely nothing else against him; only delivering her

  1. Fournier, Les officialités an moycn age, pp. 177-8.-C. 14 Extra m. 23.-Bern. Guidon. Practica P. rv. (Doat, XXX.)