Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/306

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
292
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

consultores or assessors. Opinions were not harmonious. Four voted to put Benito to the torture to verify his sanity, and if this failed then to make inquiry into his antecedents, Three voted to relax him to the secular arm for burning, first employing learned theologians to convince him of his heresy. Two were in favor of the common-sense plan of endeavoring to ascertain his sanity without torturing him.

When, in the customary routine, these diverse views were submitted to the Inquisitor General and Supreme Council, that body considered the case maturely. Statements of the leading points involved were laid before three skilled theologians, two of whom pronounced Benito to be a sacrilegious heretic whose delusions were feigned. The third opined that he might be subject to demoniacal possession, for which he should be exorcised and subsequently tortured to ascertain the truth. On January 12, 1623, the Council sent these calificaciones or opinions to Toledo, with instructions to get similar ones from learned men there; also, to examine more carefully into Benito's sanity and to investigate the causes of his expulsion from the convents which he had sought to enter. Accordingly, on January 15th, the Toledo tribunal assembled four Dominican masters of theology, who unanimously pronounced Benito a heretic and an impostor. To ascertain details about an insignificant novice who some twenty years before had passed a few months in a convent might seem impossible, but the perfected organization of the Inquisition was equal to it. The tribunals of Barcelona and Valencia were called upon; the frailes who had been novices in Benito's time were hunted up in the convents to which they had scattered, and four were found who entertained some recollection of him. Three of these described him as mentally deficient, and one of these remembered his having revelations; the fourth spoke of him as "melancholy" and like one possessed by the devil.

May was drawing to an end when the result of these investigations reached Toledo, and the summer was spent in fresh examinations of those in the prison who had access to Benito, and in getting opinions from theologians and physicians. That he showed signs of insanity was evident, but the experts held that the proof of soundness of mind was infallible and the madness feigned. So when, on September 10th, another consulta was held, the vote to burn him was unanimous—the two assessors who had previously advocated simple investigation having been discreetly omitted from the meeting. On this decision being submitted to the Supreme Council, it met with no greater acceptance than the former one, and it was sent back September 17th, with orders to torture Benito to ascertain his intention in the sacrilege and the fiction of his insanity.