An indispensable formality in all cases in which the culprit was admitted to reconciliation with the Church was abjuration of heresy. Of this there were various forms adapted to the different occasions of its use — whether for suspicion, light, vehement, or violent, or after confession and repentance. It was performed in public, at the autos de fé except in rare cases, such as those of ecclesiastics likely to cause scandal, and it frequently embodied a pecuniary penalty for infraction of its promises, and security for their performance. The principal point to be observed in all was to see that the penitent abjured heresy in general as well as the special heresy with which he had been charged. If this were duly attended to, he could always be handed over to the secular arm without a hearing in case of relapse, except when the abjuration had been for light suspicion. If it were neglected, and he had, for instance, abjured Catharism only, he might subsequently indulge in some other form of heresy, such as Waldensianism or usury, and have the benefit of another chance. The case was one not likely to occur, but the point is interesting as showing how the Inquisition could manifest the most scrupulous attention to form, while discarding in its practice all that entitles the administration of justice to respect. The importance attached to the abjuration is illustrated by a case in the Inquisition of Toulouse in 1310. Sibylla, wife of Bernard Borell, had been forced to confession and abjuration in 1305. Continuing her heretical practices, she was arrested in 1309 and again obliged to confess. As a relapsed heretic she was doomed irrevocably to the stake, but, luckily for her, the abjuration could not be found among the papers of the Holy Office, and though the rest of the record seems to have been accessible, she could only be prosecuted as though for a first offence, and she escaped with imprisonment for life.
In the case of suspects of heresy who cleared themselves by compurgation, abjuration, of course, did not include confession.
- Concil. Narbonn. ann. 1244 c. 6, 12.— Muratori Antiq. Ital. Dissert, lx. — Doctrina de modo procedendi (Martene Tbesaur. V. 1800-1). — Eymeric. Direct. Inq. pp. 376, 486-7, 492-8.— Lib. Sententt. Inq. Tolos. pp. 67, 215.
Bernardi Comens. Lucerna Inquis. s. vv. Practica, Purgatw. — Albertini Repertor. Inquisit. s. v. Deficiens. — Gregor. PP. XI. Bull. Excommunicamus, 20 Aug. 1239. — Zanchini Tract, de Haeret. c. vii., xvii. — Martini App. ad Mosheim de Beghardis, p. 537.