Page:A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages-Volume I .pdf/517

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497
SUPERVISION OVER PENITENTS.

never, or most rarely, to be used. When some great object was to be attained, such as the capture of a prominent heretic teacher, the inquisitors might stretch their authority and hold out promises of this kind to his disciples to induce them to betray him — promises which, it is pleasant to say, were almost universally spurned. If special penances had been imposed, on their fulfilment the inquisitor, if he saw fit, might declare the penitent to be a man of good character, but this did not alter the reservation in the original sentence. The mercy of the Inquisition did not extend to a pardon, but only to a reprieve, dum bene se gesserit, and the man who had once undergone a sentence never knew at what moment he might not be summoned to hear of its reimposition or even of a harsher one. Once a delinquent, his fate forever after was in the hands of the silent and mysterious judge who need not hear him nor give any reason for his destruction. He lived forever on the verge of ruin, never knowing when the blow might fall, and utterly powerless to avert it. He was always a subject to be watched by the universal police of the Inquisition — the parish priest, the monks, the clergy, nay, the whole population — who were strictly enjoined to report any neglect of penance or suspicious conduct, when he was at once liable to the awful penalties of relapse. Nothing was easier for a secret enemy than to destroy him, safe that his name would never be mentioned. We may pity the victims of the stake and the dungeon, but their fate was scarce harder than that of the multitudes who were the objects of the Inquisition's apparent mercy, but whose existence from that hour was one of endless, hopeless anxiety.[1]

The same implacability manifested itself after death. Allusion has frequently been made to the exhumation of the bones of those who by opportunely dying had seemed to exchange the vengeance of man for that of God, and it is only necessary to mention here that the fate of the dead was harder than that of the living. If he had died after confession and repentance, it is true, his punish-


  1. Lib. Scntentt. Inq. Tolosan. pp. 40, 118, 122, 137, 139, 146, 147.— Bern. Guidon. Practica (Doat, XXIX. 85).— Ejusd. P. v. (Doat, XXX.).— Concil. Bitcrrcns. ann. 124G, Append, c. 21, 22. — Vaissettc, III. Pr. 4G7. — Practica super Inquisit. (MSS. Bib. Nat., fonds latin, No. 14930, fol. 222, 224). — Pegnaæ Comment, in Eymeric. p. 509. — Zancbiui Tract, de Ha;ret. c. xx.