The Method of Initiating a Process.
The first question, then, is what is the suitable method of instituting a process on behalf of the faith against witches. In answer to this it must be said that there are three methods allowed by Canon Law. The first is when someone accuses a person before a judge of the crime of heresy, or of protecting heretics, offering to prove it, and to submit himself to the penalty of talion if he fails to prove it. The second method is when someone denounces a person, but does not offer to prove it and is not willing to embroil himself in the matter; but says that he lays information out of zeal for the faith, or because of a sentence of excommunication inflicted by the Ordinary or his Vicar; or because of the temporal punishment exacted by the secular Judge upon those who fail to lay information.
The third method involves an inquisition, that is, when there is no accuser or informer, but a general report that there are witches in some town or place; and then the Judge must proceed, not at the instance of any party, but simply by the virtue of his office.
Here it is to be noted that a judge should not readily admit the first method of procedure. For one thing, it is not actuated by motives of faith, nor is it very applicable to the case of witches, since they commit their deeds in secret. Then, again, it is full of danger to the accuser, because of the penalty of talion which he will incur if he fails to prove his case. Then, again, it is very litigious.
Let the process begin with a general citation affixed to the walls of the Parish Church or the Town Hall, in the following manner.
WHEREAS we, the Vicar of such and such Ordinary (or the Judge of such and such county), do endeavour with all our might and strive with our whole heart to preserve the Christian people entrusted to us in unity and the happiness of the Catholic faith and to keep them far removed from every plague of abominable heresy: Therefore we the aforesaid Judge to whose office it belongs, to the glory and honour of the worshipful name of JESUS Christ and for the exaltation of the Holy Orthodox Faith, and for the putting down of the abomination of heresy, especially in all witches in general and in each one severally of whatever condition or estate: (Here, if he is an ecclesiastical Judge, let him add a summons to all priests and dignitaries of the Church in that town and for a distance of two miles about it, who have knowledge of this notice. And he shall add) By the authority which we exercise in this district, and in virtue of holy obedience and under pain of excommunication, we direct, command, require, and admonish that within the space of twelve days (Here the secular Judge shall command in his own manner under pain of penalties suitable to his office), the first four of which shall stand for the first warning, the second for the second, and the third for the third warning; and we give this treble canonical warning that if anyone know, see, or have heard that any person is reported to be a heretic or a witch, or of any is suspected especially of such practices as cause injury to men, cattle, or the fruits of the earth, to the loss of the State. But if any do not obey these aforesaid commands and admonitions by revealing such matters within the term fixed, let him know (Here the ecclesiastical Judge shall add) that he is cut off by the sword of excommunication (The secular Judge shall add the temporal punishments). Which sentence of excommunication we impose as from this time by this writing upon all and several who thus stubbornly set at naught these our canonical warnings aforesaid, and our requirement of their obedience, reserving to ourselves alone the absolution of such sentence (The secular Judge shall conclude in this manner). Given, etc.
Note also that in the case of the second method the following caution should be observed. For it has been said that the second method of procedure and of instituting a process on behalf of the faith is by means of an information, where the informer does not offer to prove his statement and is not ready to be embroiled in the case, but only speaks because of a sentence of excommunication, or out of zeal for the faith and for the good of the State. Therefore the secular Judge must specify in his general citation or warning aforesaid, that none should think that he will become liable to a penalty even if he fails to proved his words; since he comes forward not as an accuser but as an informer.
And then, since several will appear to lay information before the Judge, he ought to take care to proceed in the following manner. First, let him have a Notary and two honest persons, either clerics or laymen; or if a Notary is not to be procured, then let there be two suitable men in the place of the Notary. For this is dealt with in the c. ut officium, § uerum, lib. 6, where it is said: But because it is expedient to proceed with great caution in the trial of a grave crime, that no error may be committed in imposing upon the guilty a deservedly severe punishment; we desire and command that, in the examination of the witnesses necessary in such a charge, you shall have two religious and discreet persons, either clerics or laymen.
It goes on to say: In the presence of these persons the depositions of the witnesses shall be faithfully written down by a public official if one is obtainable, or, if not, by two suitable men. Note therefore that, having these persons, the Judge shall order the informer to lay his information in writing, or at least give it clearly by word of mouth. And then the Notary or the Judge shall begin to process in the following manner.
In the Name of the Lord. Amen.
In the year of Our Lord —, on the — day of the — month, in the presence of me the Notary and of the witnesses subscribed, N. of the town of — in the Diocese of —, as above, appeared in the person at — before the honourable Judge, and offered him a schedule to the following effect.
(Here shall follow the schedule in its entirety. But if he has not deposed in writing buy by word of mouth, it shall continue thus.)
He appeared, etc. and laid information to the Judge that N. of the town or parish of — in the Diocese of — had said and asserted that he knew how to perform or had actually done certain injuries to the deponent or to other persons.
After this, he shall immediately make the deponent take the oath in the usual manner, either on the four Gospels of God, or on the Cross, raising three fingers and depressing two in witness of the Holy Trinity and of the damnation of his soul and body, that he will speak the truth in his depositions. And when the oath has been sworn, he shall question him as to how he knows that his depositions are true, and whether he saw or heard that to which he swears. And if he says that he has seen anything, as, for example, that the accused was present at such a time of tempest, or that he had touched an animal, or had entered a stable, the Judge shall ask when he saw him, and where, and how often, and in what manner, and who were present. If he says that he did not see it, but heard of it, he shall ask him from whom he heart it, where, when, and how often, and in whose presence, making separate articles of each of the several points above mentioned. And the Notary or scribe shall set down a record of them immediately after the aforesaid denunciation; and it shall continue thus:
This denunciation, as we have said, having been made, the Inquisitor himself did at once cause him to swear as above on the four Gospels, etc. that he was speaking the truth in his depositions, and did ask him how and why he knew or suspected that he what he said was true. He did make answer either that he saw, or that he heard. The Inquisitor did then ask him where he saw or heard this; and he answered on the — day of the — month in the year — in the town or parish of —. He asked him how often he saw or heard it, etc. And separate articles shall be made, and the whole set down in process, as has been said. And particularly he shall be asked who shared or could share in his knowledge of the case.
When all this has been done, he shall finally be asked whether he lays his information out of ill-will, hatred, or rancour; or if he has omitted anything through favour or love; of if he has been requested or suborned to lay information.
Finally, he shall be enjoined, by virtue of his oath, to keep secret whatever he has said there, or whatever the Judge has said to him; and the whole process shall be set down in writing. And when all this is completed, it shall be set down a little lower as follows. This was done at such a place on the — day of the — month in the year —, in the presence of me the Notary or scribe together with those associated with me in the duty of writing, and of such and such witnesses summoned and interrogated.
The third method of beginning a process is the commonest and most usual one, because it is secret, and no accuser or informer has to appear. But when there is a general report of witchcraft in some town or parish, because of this report the Judge may proceed without a general citation or admonition as above, since the noise of that report comes often to his ears; and then again he can begin a process in the presence of the persons, as we have said before.
In the Name of the Lord. Amen.
In the year of Our Lord —, on the — day of the — month, to the ears of such and such official or judge there came a persistent public report and rumour that N. of the town or parish of — did or said such and such a thing savouring of witchcraft, against the faith and the common good of the State.
And the whole shall be set down according to the common report. And a little lower:
The case was heard on the — day of the — month in the year —, in the presence of me the Notary of such and such authority, or of such and such a scribe, and of such and such witnesses who were called and interrogated.
But before we proceed to the second Head, which deals with the method of conducting this sort of process, we must first say something of the witnesses who are to be examined, as to how many they should be, and what should be their condition.