Page:A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages-Volume I .pdf/457

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437
NAMES OF WITNESSES WITHHELD.

was even more freely used on witnesses than on principals. It was the ready instrument by which any doubts as to the testimony could be cleared up; and it is fair to attribute to the sanction of theis terrible abuse by the Inquisition the currency which it so long enjoyed in European criminal law. Even the secrecy of the confessional was not respected in the frienzied effort to obtain all possible information against heretics. All priests were enjoined to make strict inquiries of their penitents as to their knowledge of heretics and fautors of heresy. The seal of sacramental confession could not be openly and habitually violated, but the result was reached by indirection. When the confessor succeeded in learning anything he was told to write it down and then endeavor to induce his penitent to reveal it to the proper authorities. Failing in this, he was, without mentioning names, to consult God-fearing experts as to what he ought to do - with what effect can readily be conjectured, since the very fact of consulting as to his duty shows that the obligation of secrecy was not to be deemed absolute.[1]

After this glimpse as the inquisitorial system of evidence, we hardly need the assurance of the legists that less was required for conviction in heresy than in any other crime, and inquisitors were instructed that slender testimony was sufficient to prove it - "probatur quis hœreticus ex levi causa." Yet evil as was all this, the crowning infamy of the Inquisition in its treatment of testimony was withholding from the accused all knowledge of the names of the witnesses against him. In the ordinary courts, even in the inquisitorial process, their names were communicated to him along with the evidence which they had given, and it will be remembered that when the Legate Romano held his inquest at Toulouse, in 1229, the accused followed him to Montpellier with de-

  1. Gnid. Fulcod. Quest. viii—Pegnc Comnment, in Eymerie. p. 601.-Zanchini Tract. de Hcret, e. xii—Doctrina de modo procedendi (Martene Thesaur. V. 1802)
    Heresy, of course, was a "reserved" case for which the ordinary confessor could not give absolution. Thus a man of Realmont in Albigeois who repented of having been present at a Catharan conventicle went to a Franciscan and confessed, accepting the penance imposed of the minor pilgrimages and some other penitential acts. On is return from their performancc, however, he was seized by the Inquisition, tried and imprisoned.-Vaissette, IV. 41