The penal functions of the Inquisition were based upon a fiction which must be comprehended in order rightly to appreciate much of its action. Theoretically it had no power to inflict punishment. Its mission was to save men's souls; to recall them to the way of salvation, and to assign salutary penance to those who sought it, like a father-confessor with his penitents. Its sentences, therefore, were not, like those of an earthly judge, the retaliation of society on the wrong-doer, or deterrent examples to prevent the spread of crime; they were simply imposed for the benefit of the erring soul, to wash away its sin. The inquisitors themselves habitually speak of their ministrations in this sense. When they condemned a poor wretch to lifelong imprisonment, the formula in use, after the procedure of the Holy Office had become systematized, was a simple injunction on him to betake himself to the jail and confine himself there, performing penance on bread and water, with a warning that he was not to leave it under pain of excommunication, and of being regarded as a perjured and impenitent heretic. If he broke jail and escaped, the requisition for his recapture under a foreign jurisdiction describes him, with a singular lack of humor, as one insanely led to reject the salutary medicine offered for his cure, and to spurn the wine and oil which were soothing his wounds.
Technically, therefore, the list of penalties available to the in-
- Guid. Fulcod. Quaestt. xiii., xv. — Ripoll, I. 254. —Archives de I'lnq. de Carcassonne (Doat, XXXI. 139).— Archives de Vtv(ich6 d'Albi (Doat, XXXV. G9).
— Lib. Sententt. Inq. Tolosan. p. 32. — Eymeric. Direct. Inquis. pp. 4G5, 643, — Zanchini Tract, de Hacrct. c. xx.
In the sentences of Bernard de Caux, 1246-8, though imprisonment is treated as a penance, the expression is more mandatory than in later proceedings (MSS. Bib. Nat., fonds latin, 9902).