Misconceptions Series: Email Follies, Part 2 Misconceptions Series: Email Follies, Part 3 Misconceptions Series: Email Follies, Part 4 Misconceptions Series: Email Follies, Part 5

Misconceptions Series:
Email Follies, Part I

This is part of a continuing series of rebuttals of the many unhistorical claims put forward by amateur "researchers", whose research typically consists of reading a few readily-obtainable books promoting theories which are rejected by experts.

Although we would normally only focus on errors presented in the Hollywood films, plays, pop books, etc - such as the claim that Joan was an English noblewoman - this installment is a more light-hearted look at some of the similar gaffes made via private email to this site and others. In this case the culprit is a student named Kenneth Walsh, who has been bombarding historians with silly notes for over two years now, thereby proving that email can be even worse than a phone plagued by telemarketing calls.
First, a brief introduction is in order. Kenneth began his arguments by stating that the fictional play by G.B. Shaw is one of the foremost authoritative sources on the subject - despite being fictional - and then proceeded to similarly cite an "authoritative" book by Roger Caratini which claims that an entire portion of the Hundred Years War supposedly never happened, therefore Joan couldn't have taken part in the war and was allegedly just a delusional teenager who lied about her military victories. Since then, he has topped the above by arguing that since the illiterate 15th century public couldn't "read the news" - he's apparently unaware of the concept of the town crier, by which "news" was announced verbally in every public location - therefore the French allegedly would never have heard of Joan... and many other whoppers of this sort. Some of his (more recent) claims cited below are ultimately based on the above assumptions; others are more subtle but nevertheless just as erroneous in their own way.

Here are rebuttals of some of his recent points: his comments are in red, with notes in black and the rebuttals printed below; links are often provided for additional information or specific evidence backing up the rebuttals.

Issue #1:
He made the comment -

'1 Actually, it was a private executioner, hired by the Church (Geoffrey Terrage) [sic - Therage] who ignited Joan's fire. Since the English did not condemn Joan in their Joan [sic - he possibly means "courts"], they are not legally responsible for her execution. Therefre [sic], it was the Catholic Church who is totally responsible fro [sic] her execution'
The above is a bit garbled, as usual, but the gist of it is evident.
The notions he cites above are based on the views of certain pop authors whom he's read, and are ironically contradicted by the very documents which these authors are using to justify their ideas in the first place - i.e., the claim that the English "did not condemn" Joan is based on the following ironic line of reasoning: the authors in question have taken eyewitness accounts of the execution, in which it's pointed out that the secular (English) judge summarily ordered the executioner to "Do your duty" without first handing down a formal sentence, and these authors then use the latter point to make the odd claim that the English secular judge allegedly refused to condemn Joan at all. Since it was the secular judge who himself ordered the executioner to kill her, according to the very accounts which Kenneth's authors are using to buttress their theory, it should be an obvious point that these accounts are not describing any reluctance on the part of the English to condemn Joan, but rather the failure of the English to observe the legal regulations when they condemned her. It should also be the most obvious point that the above also contradicts Kenneth's similar (and similarly fictional) claim concerning which authority the executioner took his orders from - as noted above, the accounts used by Kenneth's authors themselves state that it was the secular judge, not the clergy, who told the executioner, Geoffrey Therage, to carry out the execution.
Concerning the next issue:

Issue #2:

'2. Witchcraft was a far more serous [sic] act of heresy that the lesser charges Joan were [sic] convicted of. The fact is, the English were convinced she was a witch and since you assume that the English dominated her trial, it would logically follow if they hand-picked church clerics, the Church would had [sic] convicted her of witch craft.'
A number of points need to be made here: 1) The final set of accusations contain the charge of "invoking demons", which is worse (if anything) than simple witchcraft and closely related to the practice. 2) The witchcraft charge was merely one of a great many allegations made by English propagandists, who tended to use the scatter-shot approach of throwing out every accusation they could invent - murder, prostitution, etc, in addition to witchcraft. Kenneth has selectively picked out one of these accusations and inflated it into a litmus test for English domination of the trial despite the obvious fallacy of this line of reasoning, and despite the fact that English control of the trial is confirmed even in English government records and the accounts cited above. 3) The reason the witchcraft charges are not specifically included in the final articles of accusation (unless you count the "conjuring of demons" charge) is because the only evidence presented by the tribunal consisted of vague claims that Joan supposedly viewed her standard as "magical", or that she poured wax on the heads of small children as part of divination rituals, and other stuff of much the same ilk. Failing to find anything substantial concerning the witchcraft allegations, the best they could do on that front was to simply claim that Joan's saints were "demons" and therefore she was allegedly conjuring up evil spirits as a sorceress might do. It's truly rather unusual for anyone to claim that the English would not have been satisfied with such a charge, and truly dishonest to use such a specious argument to "contradict" all the evidence.
Concerning the next issue:

Issue #3:

'3. As to "St" Joan of Arc: a. She was not canonized until almost 500 years after her death. The reason you believe is that the church totally ignore[sic] her for over four centuries'
First of all, she was hardly "ignored" by the Church during those centuries, and many examples can be provided, such as the following: 1) in the 15th century, only decades after her death, the Church declared the celebrations and religious play given in her honor at Orleans to be something akin to a pilgrimage site, by decreeing that anyone who attended would merit absolution from the penalty of sin. Normally, such indulgences would be granted for a pilgrimage to a saint's shrine or similar acts, indicating that Joan was not only receiving plenty of attention from the Church, but in fact was already regarded as the equivalent of a saint only a few decades after her death. 2) several Popes wrote supportive commentaries on her life, including the 15th century Pope Pius II (who lived from 1405 - 1464); 3) In the 16th century, the Catholic League made her one of their symbols; 4) letters from Catholics throughout the period in question refer to Joan as "a sainted girl sent by God", as the "Heavenly [or Divine] Maiden" and other such titles. She was hardly being "ignored", much less rejected, by the Catholic Church.
Finally, on the issue of the "long delay", two points can be made: 1) since the Inquisitor who cleared Joan of the charges described her as a martyr - and therefore automatically a saint under the traditions of the Church - she was effectively ushered into sainthood at that point only a few decades after her death. 2) Compared to popular saints such as Hildegard von Bingen, who still has only been beatified, not canonized, after some 900 years, Joan's process of canonization was relatively swift by Church standards - it's fairly typical for the process to take a few hundred years, after all. The reasons for the timing of it will be dealt with in the next points below:

Issue #4:

'b. The canonization of 1920 was largely politically [sic] - a face [sic] you concur with.'
A couple points need to be made here:
1) The "political motive" idea is usually based on the view that the Vatican wanted to show kindness toward the French people after the devastation they had suffered during WWI, and this is cited as an "ulterior motive" for declaring her a saint - even though she had already been beatified, thereby starting the process of canonization, prior to WWI.
2) The reasons for the timing of both beatification and canonization would seem to be as follows: Although Joan had long enjoyed a good deal of popular veneration within France itself, the official beatification of any saint usually has to be driven forward by a more global public demand, and it's probably not coincidence that Joan's beatification process coincided with the surge of precisely this type of global interest after Quicherat published transcriptions of many of the documents, thereby leading other authors of all nationalities to write popular books on the subject, thereby creating intense interest outside of France. Her canonization similarly followed another surge of global interest during World War I, when Allied soldiers carried icons of her onto the battlefield and prayed for her intercession, and people in many Allied nations wrote war songs, books, etc about her. These are the circumstances which seem to have driven the canonization process forward: although she had been widely written about, admired, and venerated as a saint within France for many centuries, the explosion of such global interest took this to a new level.

Issue #5:

'c. The Catholic Church never officially accepted the fact that her "voices" were from God. The Church canonized her because she thought they were real. The reason for this is that a scientific analysis of the record of the 1431 trials clearly show[sic] that Joan's voices were delusions'
A couple points:
1)The above reference to a "scientific analysis" ironically refers to Roger Caratini's recent sensationalistic book in which he claims that he (not the "Church") has now determined, through "psychoanalysis" of the transcript, that Joan was allegedly schizophrenic and delusional about both her visions and her military campaigns, arguing that this section of the war never happened at all, therefore Joan was "confused" about her military role. Legitimate scholars have pointed out that this is clearly absurd on both points: if someone really wants to make a diagnosis of mental illness (which a pop author like Caratini is not professionally qualified to do), then they must at least follow certain minimal procedures - among other things, the "patient" being diagnosed must have the identifying outward symptoms of schizophrenia as defined in the medical literature, whereas Joan was precisely the opposite on every point, as can be determined from the many detailed descriptions of her found in numerous documents [click here for a detailed examination of this issue]. In short - as many scholars have pointed out - it can be scientifically proven that she did not suffer from schizophrenia; and Caratini's dismissal of Joan's role in the war - and his claim that this portion of the war itself never happened - should hardly need to be debunked: it's as if someone were to claim that the Agincourt campaign never happened.
2)Concerning Kenneth's claim about the Church's views: the "Church" has never claimed that Joan was delusional or schizophrenic: as so often happens, Kenneth is simply inventing fiction on this point and citing it as fact. This ties in with the next issue:

Issue #6:

'd. The Church has knocked off the church calendar Sts. Margaret and Catherine (tow [sic] of Joan's favorite saints. Ironically, the official catholic opinion on the nature of Joan's angelic voices and saints is similar to the opinion expressed by the Rouen judges that sent her to the take [sic]."
The notion that the Vatican has rejected the many saints who were removed from the General Calendar is based on a misconception which has been refuted by the Vatican itself. The confusion stems from a number of erroneous ideas: firstly, there are a great many different "Church calendars" each with a different selection of saints' days determined at the regional or local level and drawn from the more than 10,000 named saints and beati; the Vatican-selected General Calendar (which is what the above quote refers to) does not serve as an indicator of Vatican approval for a saint, as there are only some 125 saints' days set aside on the General Calendar versus many thousands of recognized saints. The General Calendar is merely the Vatican's selection of a small number of obligatory saints' days which each local diocese and church are then allowed to expand upon by adding days for whatever additional saints they particularly venerate. Catherine and Margaret are among the 99 percent of saints whose feast days are not obligatory, but are nevertheless included on many local calendars. Their "removal" referred to in the above quote simply refers to the fact that the small number of obligatory feasts are occasionally rotated, and one such reshuffling occurred in 1969 when the Church tried to make its global General Calendar truly global by rotating off many medieval "Old-World" saints in order to make room for more modern saints from all over the globe: Sts Catherine and Margaret were merely two of many such saints whose feasts were rotated off, and this was done merely in recognition of the fact that most Catholics now live in places outside of Europe. Again, this has been explained by the Vatican itself. Concerning the next issue:

Issue #7:

'As to the accuracy of the 1431 trial: record : "Manchon was then asked, if he believed the articles to be truthfully composed, and if there were not a great difference between them and Jeanne's answers. he replied that, what was in his process was true. the articles were not his doing. Witness Migier stated, "I think the notaries were truthful, and that they wrote with fidelity." Witness Grouchet stated that ' I think the notaries wrote with fidelity." Since at least 3 of the ex-judges and witnesses confirmed the accuracy of the 1431 trial, then why does the concluding document of the 1456 trial proclaim the following ? "We declare, that on certain points the truth of her confessions has been passed over in silence; that on other points her confessions have been falsely translated a double unfaithfulness, by which, had it boon[sic] prevented, the mind of the Doctors consulted and the Judges might have boon[sic] led to a different opinion"'
Many points need to be made here, since the above manages to distort the issues beyond recognition while also ignoring the vast majority of the testimony. 1) Kenneth has picked out a handful of quotes from the excerpts included on this very website - evidently the only portion of the record which he has seen - and then proceeded to confuse several different issues: the issue of whether Manchon rewrote the selective portions of her words which were included in the transcript, as opposed to the issue of whether Manchon omitted crucial portions of her testimony and whether Courcelles mistranslated Manchon's minutes into Latin. The above-cited Rehabilitation conclusions are referring to the latter two points whereas the above three witnesses are responding to the first point - and yet Kenneth is trying to use one to "contradict" the other. More importantly, if you look at the entire testimony instead of merely the handful of excerpts that Kenneth has cited, what the witnesses consistently describe is as follows: while the selective portions of Joan's testimony which Manchon decided to include may well have been recorded accurately, he didn't include a number of crucial portions of her explanations - including statements which would have exonerated her under the laws of the Church with regard to submission to the Pope, the wearing of male clothing, etc. [click here for some of the testimony]. Additionally, the minutes were sometimes mistranslated by Courcelles into Latin, as can be seen by comparing the original French minutes in the Urfe manuscript with the Latin copies. This is what the Rehabilitation judges were referring to in their conclusions, and this is what historians mean when we say that the transcript was falsified - and yet for some reason, Kenneth has always labored under the misconception that people are accusing Manchon of rewriting her words rather than omitting them, and no argument has ever been able to expel this idea from his head. This ties in with the next points, below:

Issue #8:

'Read also, statements made by 2 other witnesses: MAÎTRE ANDRE MARGUERIE, Archdeacon: First Examination, May 9th, 1452. Further examined, December 19th, 1455, and May 12th, 1456. "I heard Jeanne say, that she would believe neither Prelate nor Pope nor any other in [contradiction to] what she had received from God. I think this was one of the reasons why she was proceeded against, so that she should recant." MAÎTRE JEAN BEAUPERE, Master in Theology, Canon of Rouen. "With regard to the apparitions mentioned in the Trial of the said Jeanne, I held, and still hold, the opinion that they rose more from natural causes and human intent than from anything supernatural; but I would refer principally to the Process. " The above two statements contradicts[sic] the testimonies of the other witnessed[sic] concerning an essential part of the 1431 trial - the voices and submission to the Pope.'
On the contrary, it should hardly need to be stated that the statements of the majority of the witnesses disprove the mere handful {such as the two cited above) who give a view contrary to the majority - Kenneth is using reverse logic on this point. Numerous witnesses described her submission to the Church and gave detailed quotes from her on the subject, in contradiction to what Marguerie says. Similarly, the view of Beaupere - one of the more pro-English witnesses - also stands in opposition to numerous other former assessors who gave precisely the opposite view, and gave detailed explanations to back up their opinion. This brings us to the next issue:

Issue #9:

'Marguerie and Beaupere, both made less than favorable remarks about Joan and had their testimonies limited to just a few lines. Other witnesses, who made more favorable remarks about her, were allowed to give depositions several pages long.'
Concerning the first point: actually, Marguerie's testimony totals over four pages - more than some of the witnesses who were more favorable to Joan. The above-quoted claim about "limited" testimony ironically refers to the fact that the more pro-English or guilty witnesses often conveniently responded to the questions by merely saying "I don't know", "I don't remember", or otherwise brief responses - their testimony is short (not censored) only where they chose to dodge the questions.
This brings us to the second point: the reason why the more pro-Joan witnesses' depositions are often lengthier is simply because they generally provided numerous precise details - as opposed to saying "I don't know". This ties in with the next issue:

Issue #10:

'Also, there were no English witness testimonies during the 1456 trial and many other potential witnesses were not called upon to testify'
The many Anglo-Burgundian supporters who were called to testify should have been sufficient as representatives of that faction. The "omitted witnesses" in question - including the primary English personages who could have been called, such as Bedford, Warwick, Suffolk, etc - were dead by that point, which should adequately explain their absence. It was the Condemnation trial, not the Rehabilitation, which had failed to include a single person from the opposing side: in lieu of a mixed or neutral set of witnesses, the "evidence" presented is practically a verbatim copy of the standard English government propaganda being circulated at that time, and all of the tribunal members are well-known as either pro-English Burgundians or - in the case of people such as the assessors William Haiton, William Brolbster, Richard Praty and John Hampton - native Englishmen. The only theologians asked to give a verdict were members of the English-controlled University of Paris, which had been stocked with English supporters ever since the city came under military occupation a decade earlier. At least the Rehabilitation judges consulted a wider range of people - including such far-flung personages as the Viennese theologian Leonhard von Brixenthal and the Italians Paul Pontanus and Theodore de Leliis - and included witnesses who had been members of the Anglo-Burgundian faction. Some of them, as Kenneth himself admits, were still contemptuous or suspicious of Joan at the time of the Rehabilitation, and yet were allowed to give voice to their views. [click here for more commentary on this subject]
Concerning the final issue in this installment:

Issue #11:

'The overwhelming majority of modern historians think joan's voices were illusio [sic] and this is ref;ected [sic] in the fact that the Church ever [sic - he means never] officially accepted her voices as real.'
This is one of his typical unsubstantiated claims concerning the alleged views of "the vast majority" of historians. Since historians generally have not given opinions one way or the other on the issue of her Voices, he's merely inventing a "consensus view" that happens to fit his own view. Previously, he has made a similar claim with regard to the alleged "acceptance" by historians of Caratini's notion that Joan never led an army - a theory which historians actually consider absurd, of course.
So how have historians viewed the issue of Joan's voices? Despite the fact that many or most of the experts on Joan's history have been anti-Catholic, atheist, and/or skeptical, they nevertheless generally have simply cited the information given in the documents concerning Joan's "Voices" without comment, and sometimes even the more skeptical of them have specifically pointed out information which would tend to justify belief in her visions - e.g., the Burgundian diplomatic correspondence, dated prior to Joan's arrival at Orleans, which cites the fact that Joan had already been predicting that she would suffer a wound at Orleans some weeks before setting foot there.
Concerning Kenneth's second point - the idea that the Church allegedly rejected Joan's Voices (i.e., St. Catherine, St. Margaret, and the Archangel Michael): with regard to the first two saints, this seems to be based on the aforementioned misconception concerning the General Church Calendar issue which was already covered above; concerning Michael, his feast day is included both on the General Calendar as well as local calendars. Perhaps more to the point: if the Vatican truly rejected the reality of her visions, they would never have approved her as a visionary and saint. She is routinely described by modern Catholics as a mystic, after all, and someone doesn't gain a reputation as a mystic if their visions have been rejected by the Church.

In closing: the above are merely samples of the most recent claims made by this fellow who has gained for himself a reputation as the Correspondent-From-The-Twilight-Zone. More can be added if necessary, although the emphasis of this series will focus on the pop sources - the fictional movies, fraudulent books, and so forth - which promote similar ideas.

Misconceptions Series: Email Follies, Part 2 Misconceptions Series: Email Follies, Part 3 Misconceptions Series: Email Follies, Part 4 Misconceptions Series: Email Follies, Part 5