Parturiunt montes, nascitur mus. The mighty labors of Cauchon and his colleagues sitting in judgment upon Jeanne d'Arc produced the following tissue of silly and puerile charges, such as would have disgraced a conventicle of old women. We are obliged to condense this farrago of anile foolishness, and indeed admit it only because there could be, in our light, no better vindication of the Maid, no more crushing indictment of her judges.
She is accused, then, of having in her childhood practised some superstitions around the fairies' tree; of having put herself in relations with Satan and other evil spirits; of having lived at Neufchateau with bad women and a low kind of soldiers; of having had some improper talk with Robert de Baudricourt; of wearing men's clothes and bearing arms; of having boasted that she would raise the siege of Orleans, crown the dauphin Charles at Reims, and chase all the English from France; of having said that the French could obtain peace only with the sword and the lance; of having put some crosses and the names of Jesus and Maria on her letters; of having pretended that she was a messenger of God, even for
things tending to violence and bloodshed; of refusing to disclose the secret given by her to Charles as a sign of her mission; of having made some prophecies and of still making them; of declaring that she has heard and still hears the voices of angels, archangels, and saints of God; (and this medieval masterpiece!—) of not having always obeyed her Voices which, she affirms, come from heaven; of asserting that all she does is at the command of God.
Further, she is accused of saying that, in her belief, she has never committed a mortal sin; of having received the communion in man's attire (dear, scrupulous old women!); of trying to commit suicide at Beaurevoir; of having, as she avers, embraced Ste. Catherine and Ste. Marguerite, and of having touched them; of having said that her saints loved the French and detested the English; of affirming that she has received from them the promise of eternal salvation, provided that she keep her virginity; of having failed in reverence toward God in the complaint which she made to her saints at Beaurevoir, touching the people of Compiegne; of having hidden her revelations from her priest and her parents; of not having submitted them to the church or to a bishop (Cauchon, for example); of having accepted for herself some marks of veneration which were sheer idolatry; of praying to her Voices and thereby invoking demons; of saying that she was guided by an angel to Chinon in order that she might give a crown to Charles; of allowing herself to be adored as a saint.
Jeanne is, moreover, reproached on account of prayers offered in veneration of her in certain churches, and medals stamped with her likeness which many people carried in good faith; for commanding an army sometimes numerous; for living in the company of men and being served by them; for possessing riches and a retinue; for having two advisers called "counselors of the Fountain," according to the accusation of Catherine of La Rochelle (The false "mystic" detected and exposed by Jeanne. This mention reveals her as a creature of Cauchon's. We strongly suspect her of similar relations with his spiritual fellow, Regnault de Chartres, Archbishop of Reims.) (and here is another exquisiteness!) of having failed before Paris, at La Charite, at Pont L'Eveque, at Compiegne, after promising victory on the part of God; of having had a standard painted, also her personal arms (coat-of-arms), which was only pride and vanity, not religion and piety (this from excellent judges of the matter!); of having hung up her arms in St. Denis that they might be regarded as reliques; of having in the same city poured melted wax on the heads of some little children while predicting their future; of refusing to submit herself to the church militant (i.e., to Cauchon, Midy, Beaupere, Loyseleur!); of attributing to herself the authority of God and the angels, in order to rise above all ecclesiastical power (here we have the concentrated heart of the animosity which the priests cherished toward her); of pretending to be pardoned for the sin committed at Beaurevoir (her almost fatal attempt to escape), which goes
against scripture, since no one knows if he be worthy of love or hate.
Jeanne protested several times. during the recitation of this masterpiece by one of the doctors of the university, perhaps Courcelles, proud of and happy in the job. But Cauchon and the rest ignored her complaints and tacitly refused to alter it in the least particular. Can we blame them?—it was so awfully, incredibly, unspeakably perfect—so unique and solitary in its intellectual grandeur—so admirably ordered, chaste, symmetrical! One can easily fancy the court doing a sort of dervish dance in joy and triumph over this many-faceted and far-shining jewel! this paragon of sacred and profane wisdom!
Well, glory be to God (as the Irish say), it didn't take much brains to be a bishop in those old days, nor any startling amount of virtue. As to the knowledge which those people possessed and the glory of the Middle Ages in general—of which we have some belated admirers and tomtom beaters at the present day—this indictment of Jeanne d'Arc affords a tolerable notion. I shall be reminded of the truism that one must not judge a past age in the light of one's own, and such is not my intent. But it is useful to look back in order to estimate the progress we have made—progress now and then noisily disputed by the tomb-searchers and laudatores temporis acti above mentioned.
As far as moral accountability goes, the priests who tried and condemned Jeanne d'Arc were in a position
no whit inferior to our own. They possessed the gospel of Jesus Christ, of whom they were at least the nominal ministers, and they were five centuries nearer to Him than we are. From that sublime text they might not claim to draw title and warrant for the thing they proposed to do. He never commanded the burning of heretics; nor ordered that toward such, mercy in the human heart should be sealed up like a stone. The attitude of those priestly men in this iniquitous trial remains the blackest reproach that Christianity has incurred—official, man-marred Christianity, to be sure—since the days of its Divine Founder.