A Change of Procedure
WHEN Joan had gone out from the session of March 3rd, Bishop Cauchon announced his purpose to have an abridgment of the case written. Up to this, Joan stood well, and had won the admiration of a prejudiced audience. A Dominican remarked that he had never heard a woman of her years cause so much embarrassment to her examiners. "A great English lord exclaimed, 'How well she speaks! She is a good woman. Why is she not English?' " Even Loyseleur was struck with admiration.
Six days were taken to prepare a summary of the case in the house of Caiaphas (Cauchon). Fontaine was deputed to take his place. Of this summary we know nothing.
On the 10th of March, there were only two chosen assessors, Midi and Feuillet; and there was a change of tone in the Process. The session was held in Joan's prison. There were questions about Compiegne. Did they ring the bells when she went out on the sortie? I Did the Voices tell her to go? Again comes up the standard. Joan gives us some interesting information.
She rode over the bridge at Compiegne on what she calls a demi-coursier—a half-charger, or war-horse. But she had five coursers and more than seven riding horses. They were given by her king or his people. Her king had given ten or twelve thousand soldiers. But there was very little need of money for the war.
In this session Joan said, that, on the promise of her Voices, she would free the Duke of Orleans before three years, if not hindered. She explained that she would take so many prisoners—and she asked her king for leave to do so—that she could ransom or exchange him. If not, she would go to England to negotiate the matter.
On March 13th, in the prison session the name of the Dominican Lemaitre, the Vice-Inquisitor, appears with that of Cauchon. Henceforth, the acts of the trial are in the name of both. The everlasting question of the sign to the king and the mystical crown comes up again. Here Joan says that the promises made to the king of France were conditional, depending on his giving the means of accomplishment to Joan. Her consistency and prudence, especially in view of her circumstances, are extraordinary. She puts off insidious questions; she gives general answers, etc. Says Father Ayroles, "Nothing shows better the inspiration of Joan in her trial than her answers regarding the sign given to the king, her numerous prophecies, and her
conformity of thought and speech with the spirit of the Church in the matter of revelations." The examiners introduced irrelevant, annoying questions; but -she answered, "I know nothing of these things."
On the 14th of March, she speaks of Beaurevoir and Compiegne. Her Saints come each day in light. The noise around her and the disorder of the guard prevent her hearing. She asked her heavenly counselors for three things —success in her expedition, help from God for France, especially to keep the faithful towns; and her own salvation. Wearied, she asks a copy of the Process if she is to be sent to Paris, in order to escape "the annoyance" of so many questions at another trial.
She believed that her Saints, when they spoke of her martyrdom, referred to her torture in prison and on trial. Her statement, that she believed most firmly the promise of salvation made by the Saints, brought the question of the possibility of her sinning any more. Of that, she said she knew nothing; she left the matter to Our Lord. It depended, she said, on her keeping her vow, and dispensed from no precaution to avoid sin. This revelation of her life, virtues, motives, is a perfect picture.
On the 15th of March came up the question of submission to the Church. There was no reason for it; Joan had ever been most faithful and submissive. It was a snare and one of the worst. The Church, for the University of Paris, was the University of Paris itself.
Read its pompous and unceasing self-praise. For the University of Paris there was nothing on earth equal to the University of Paris. It toiled hard and persistently to make the Pope submit to "the Church." It took an efficient hand in the creation of antipopes and schismatical Councils. Possibly, some of the doctors at Rouen, and those who stood in awe or fear of them, thought that the representatives of the University were really the representatives of the Church. Joan of Arc knew better—to her cost. For her, many, at least, of the men of the illustrious University were, as she said, her mortal enemies. She referred them to Poitiers. There she had been approved by the national Church of France. At Rouen, she was chained amidst vile soldiers, and her blood was eagerly sought by a band of unworthy churchmen, who were, in her eyes, and in fact, a lot of Anglo-Burgundian traitors. Now, if these men were the Church, or really represented it, it was clear that Joan would have to renounce her mission, declare all her heavenly messages to be diabolical, betray her country and the people that she loved. She loved France for its Christian mission more than for itself. For this reason, her king was sacred in her eyes—an administrator of the country for Christ. This renunciation she dare not make; her paschal communion could not be made under such a condition. But if she denied not what she knew to be true,
and renounced not what she knew to be sacred, she would be found guilty by the Church of Rouen. If she denied that this was the Church, so much the worse for her.
Joan, with great wisdom, renounced everything that there might be against the Christian faith in her words and acts. "We demand," said her judges, "that you now submit to the Church all your acts and words." "I will answer no more for the present," replied the prudent Joan. They confused, and in fact deceived, her by the distinction between two Churches—triumphant and militant. She was certainly having a rough experience of the Church militant. She said she understood not the distinction. "I wish to submit to the Church as a good Christian, affirmed the loyal and prudent Maiden.
She desired to hear Mass; that was Catholic enough. "Would she prefer to retain male attire than to hear Mass?" "Assure me," she said, "that I can hear Mass; then I Will answer." They promised if she put on woman's dress. "Make me a dress long, down to the ground," she continued, "and I will hear Mass; then I will take man's dress again." "Would you take absolutely woman's dress to hear Mass?" Mark how insidious the question! "I will ask counsel in this," she replied; "but I beg for the honor of God and Our Lady to let me hear Mass in this good city. Make me the dress of a bourgeois’ daughter, and I will hear Mass.
Then I will beg you as much as I can to let me retain my own (male attire) and so hear Mass." She declared that Our Lord told her to wear man's dress.
Cauchon, to humiliate her and discredit or deny her mission, offered her the garments of a Lorraine peasant girl. Joan had been accepted by her king and ennobled. She had had him crowned, and she was rapidly, as an envoy of Heaven, winning back his kingdom. She saw through Cauchon's mean trick, and asked the garment of a bourgeois' daughter. This was modesty; she deserved that of a noble.
Again on March 17th, there is a return, as usual, to the angelic visions, and the stupidity of the question, "Will you submit to the Church?" "As to the Church," said Joan, "I love it, and would sustain with all my power the Christian faith. I should not be kept from going to the church and hearing Mass. As for the good works I have done, I have to look to Heaven for them." Then she adds a prophecy of a great event coming which will shake nearly all France—like her own great deeds. She does not speak of a victory here, but refers to the treaty of Arras, which was to take place four years and a half after, and by which Burgundy would be detached from the English invaders.
Poor Joan! She had learned the hard lesson, that the salvation of France and Frenchmen depended, in part at least, on themselves.
But she did not yet fully understand, as her Great Master did, what it was to be slain for the truth; and still less, what it was to be called a blasphemer, being true, and this by Churchmen.
The testimony of the witnesses is true; that her examiners meant to utterly harass poor Joan with idiotic repetition of the same questions, in conjunction with the outrages of her prison. It is astonishing they did not apply torture. It was proposed by Cauchon; but only two or three were in favor of it. Again, in this session Joan has to hear, " Will you submit to the Church?" As to the Church militant and the Church triumphant, she said, "In my opinion they are but one—Our Lord and the Church. Why do you make a difficulty about this?" Her theology was immeasurably sounder than that of the University of Paris, which created the schismatical Council of Basle, condemned the Ecumenical Council of Florence, and even rejected the decisions of its own antipopes.
They explain, or pretend to explain, the Church militant and triumphant. Joan submits to God and His Saints. As for the Church militant, she answers, "Not yet!" She added, though, "I would rather die than disobey Our Lord, and I believe He would not let me fall so low, even if a miracle were required. For nothing in the world will I swear not to take arms and not to take male attire, and this is to please Our Lord. If you make me disrobe in trial (they had
done it before; the Countess of Bedford knew), I demand of the ministers of the Church a long female robe."
She would not renounce her mission, Heaven-appointed. To change her manner of dress would mean such renouncement in the eyes of her Anglo-Burgundian captors and judges. She would obey her Lord first, even though it cost her life. At the stake she consecrated and sealed her mission, as He did on the Cross.
In another long evening session, Joan appealed to the Pope. That this lovely picture, painted by herself and copied by her foes, should have been committed to history, testified by oath, her own and that of a cloud of eyewitnesses, is unparalleled in the annals of humanity.