Page:A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages-Volume I .pdf/463

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CHAPTER XI.

THE DEFENCE.

From the preceding sketch of the inquisitorial process it may readily be inferred that scant opportunities for defence were allowed by the Holy Office. It was in the very nature of the process that all the preliminary proceedings were taken in secrecy and without the knowledge of the accused. The case against him was made up before his arrest, and he was examined, urged to confess, and perhaps imprisoned for years and tortured, before he was allowed to know what were the charges against him. It was only after a confession had been extorted from him, or the inquisitor despaired of extorting one, that he was furnished with the evidence against him, and even then the names of the witnesses were habitually suppressed. All this is in cruel contrast with the righteous care to avoid injustice prescribed for the ordinary episcopal courts. In them the Council of Lateran orders that the accused shall be present at the inquisition against him, unless he contumaciously absents himself ; the charges are to be explained to him, that he may have the opportunity of defending himself; the witnesses' names, with their respective evidence, are to be made public, and all legitimate exceptions and answers be admitted, for suppression of names would invite slander, and rejection of exceptions would admit false testimony.[1] The suspected heretic, however, was prejudged. The effort of the inquisitor was not to avoid injustice, but to force him to admit his guilt and seek reconciliation with the Church. To accomplish this effectually the facilities for defence were systematically reduced to a minimum.


  1. Concil. Lateran IV. ann. 1215 c. 8.
    So, in 1254, St. Louis orders that in all criminal cases where the inquisitorial process is used, the whole proceedings shall be submitted to the accused. — Vaissette, Éd. Privat, VIII. 1348.