Malleus Maleficarum Part 3
Of One who has Confessed to Heresy, is Relapsed, and is also Impenitent
THE eleventh method of concluding and terminating a process on behalf of the Faith is used when the person accused of heresy, after a diligent discussion of the circumstances of the process in consultation with learned men, is found to have confessed her heresy, and to be impenitent, and to have relapsed into it. And this is when the accused confesses with her own mouth in Court that she believes and has practiced such and such. The procedure in this case is the same as that above; and because she is manifestly a heretic, sentence shall be pronounced in the following manner in the presence of the Bishop and Judges:
We N., by the mercy of God Bishop of such city, or Judge in the territories of such Prince, seeing that you N., of such a place in such a Diocese, were formerly accused before us (or before such and such, our predecessors) of the crime of heresy (naming them), and that you were legally convicted of that crime by your own confession and the testimony of worthy men, and that you obstinately persisted in it for so many years; but that afterwards, having listened to better advice, you publicly abjured those heresies in such a place and in the form required by the Church, on which account the aforesaid Bishop and Judge, believing that you had truly renounced the said errors and had returned with Catholic faith to the bosom of the Church, granted you the benefit of absolution, releasing you from the sentence of excommunication by which you were formerly bound, and, setting you a salutary penance if with true heart and faith unfeigned you remained converted to the unity of the Holy Church, received you back in mercy. For the Holy Church of God is not closed to such as return to her bosom.
But after all the aforesaid you have to our great grief been accused before us of having again fallen into those damnable heresies which you formerly abjured in public; yea, you have done so and so (naming them) in contravention of the said abjuration and to the damage of your soul; and although we are sore wounded and cut to the heart to have heard such things of you, yet we were in justice compelled to inquire into the matter, to examine the witnesses, and to summon and question you on oath as it behoved us, and in every particular to proceed as we are bidden by the canonical institutions. And as we wished to conclude this case beyond any doubt, we summoned a solemn council of men learned in the Theological faculty and of those skilled in the Canon and Civil Laws.
And having obtained the mature and considered judgement of the said learned men upon every single particular which had been brought to notice and done in this case, after repeated examination of the whole process and careful and diligent discussion of every circumstance, as law and justice demanded, we find that you are legally convicted both by the evidence of credible witnesses and by your own repeated confession, that you have fallen, and fallen again, into the heresies which you abjured. For we find that you have said or done such and such (naming them), wherefore we have reason, in the opinion of the said learned men, and compelled thereto by your own excesses, to judge you as a backslider according to the canonical decrees. And that we say this with grief, and grieve to say it, He knows from Whom nothing is hid and Who seeth into the secrets of all hearts. And with all our hearts we desired and still desire to lead you back to the unity of the Holy Church and to drive out from your heart the said foul heresy, that so you may save your soul and preserve your body and soul from the destruction in hell, and we have exerted our utmost endeavor by various fitting methods to convert to salvation; but you have been given up to your sin and led away and seduced by an evil spirit, and have chosen to be tortured with fearful and eternal torment in hell, and that your temporal body should here be consumed in the flames, rather than to give ear to better counsels and renounce your damnable and pestilent errors, and to return to the merciful bosom of our Holy Mother Church.
Wherefore since the Church of God can do nothing more for you, having done all that was possible to convert you: We the Bishop and Judges named in this cause on behalf of the faith, sitting in tribunal as Judges judging, having before us the Holy Gospels that our judgement may proceed as from the countenance of God and our eyes see with equity, and having before our eyes only God and the honour of the Holy Catholic Faith, on this day at this hour and place before assigned to you for the hearing of your final sentence, we pronounce judgement upon you N., here present before us, and condemn and sentence you as a truly impenitent and relapsed heretic, and as such to be delivered or abandoned to secular justice; and by this our definitive sentence we cast you out as a truly impenitent and relapsed heretic from our ecclesiastical Court, and deliver and abandon you to the power of the secular Court; praying that the said secular Court will temper or moderate its sentence of death against you. This sentence was give, etc.