15

THE MANNER OF THE TRIAL

 

In the second part of the Recollectio, Brehal turns to the manner in which Joan's trial was conducted. Concerning this, Brother Isambard de la Pierre had testified to the commissioners that the judges "observed the order of law well enough (satis)," a phrase seized on by Quicherat as the only support he could find in the re-habilitation testimony for his view that the trial was legal and regular. Of course, the word satis here has the same much weakened meaning as its English equivalent, and merely refers to the screen of legality behind which Cauchon tried to hide his many irregularities, just so far as there was no danger of his aim being frustrated. Indeed Isambard goes on to say that "as to their [the judges'] inclination, they proceeded in the malice of vengeance" words which Quicherat did not quote.

1. Incompetence of the Judge

Brehal first points out that Joan had no domicile in Cauchon's diocese of Beauvais, or anywhere but in her place of origin. Since, moreover, she had been examined by a number of prelates at Poitiers, Cauchon had no right to pass judgment against their verdict, which was at least not unfavorable. Joan could not have committed the alleged offenses in Cauchon's diocese, since she had never entered it until the day she was captured. Nor did her bearing arms and wearing male clothing furnish any basis for charges of heresy, schism, and so forth. If Cauchon had been driven out of his diocese, he might legitimately have tried a case elsewhere, but he left Beauvais of his own accord, fleeing from his lawful sovereign, as other bishops in cities taken from the English did not do. The trial should have been conducted in a place that was "safe" (for the accused), which Rouen, "subject to the English tyranny," certainly was not. Brehal then alludes once more to the inscrutable character of Joan's revelations. As to such, he says, "the Church does not assume judgment, but rather leaves this to the divine judgment and the individual conscience." (Brehal here repeats the words of Bouille, quoted on p. 77.)

Of course, this complete demolition of Cauchon's claim to jurisdiction is sufficient by itself to prove the illegality of the trial.

2. Cauchon's Partiality and Harshness

In excoriating terms, Brehal enumerates eighteen ways in which Cauchon showed that he took charge of and conducted the trial "with corrupt and inordinate bias" in favor of the English, and twenty-eight instances of his personal animosity to Joan. Among the latter is his failure to provide "lawful and kindly guides and defenders, as the difficulty of the cause, and the sex, age, and mentality of the person required, though this is willed and ordered by the clemency, not only of canon law, but also of civil law." Trials of this sort aim rather at bringing back the erring than at punishment, Brehal concludes. "Every hatred, every rigor, and every impious severity is forbid-den, most strictly and under the gravest penalties, both to prelates and to inquisitors delegated to deal with the stain of heresy."

3. Joan's Prison and Guard

By civil law, Joan should have had female guardians, and her cause required an ecclesiastical prison, which she often rightly called for. Though prisons are for detention, not punishment, she was thrown into one, under horrible conditions, even before she was summoned to trial. Soldiers were the last who should have guarded her. They treated her brutally and remained unpunished.

4. Joan's Refection of Her Judge, and Her Appeal

The obviously mortal enmity of Cauchon gave Joan ample grounds for refusing to accept him as her judge. This and the nature of her cause fully justified the appeals to the Sovereign Pontiff, which she repeatedly made though ignorant of the correct terms. Such appeals could be lawfully denied only to one whose heresy is proved. Those who denied them erred gravely in usurping judgment after the appeal had been made.

5. The Vice-Inquisitor

Whether or not Lemaitre was a competent judge in the case, at any rate he protested that he had no power to function for the Ordinary of Beauvais, yet Cauchon arbitrarily forced him to take part. Lacking authority, the Vice-Inquisitor could not give valid consent to Cauchon's proceeding with the case, nor does his subsequent reception of authority from his superior alter this fact. Besides, from January 9 till March 13, the Bishop acted alone, and hence with at least doubtful validity. Whatever Lemaitre did afterward seems to have been done against his own conscience, through fear of the English.

 

6. The Twelve Articles

Space is lacking to follow Brehal in the calm and masterly analysis by which he shows how badly the twelve articles of accusation (see pp. 32 and 33) correspond to Joan's words and deeds, as recorded in the register. Her words have been frequently added to, suppressed, or transposed misquoted, in short, in every possible way. The articles are as far as possible from being, as they should be, "clear and brief, faithfully quoted, and duly coordinated."

7. Joan's Abjuration

Only one convicted of heresy, i.e., of deliberate error in a matter of faith, stubbornly adhered to, can be legitimately bidden to abjure. Hence Joan was unjustly and impiously called upon to do so. She had no reputation for heresy, except among her mortal enemies, the English. Moreover, her own allegations that she did not under-stand the proceedings, and that she acted under coercion and through fear are sufficient to invalidate the so-called abjuration.

8. Joan's Relapse

To what he has already said on this subject (see p. 79) Brehal adds that in no way known to law can Joan be considered to have relapsed, since far above the level of most women of her condition, she had always been, and remained to the end, an entirely faithful Catholic. In spite of the prolonged and difficult questioning to which she was subjected, "in none of her answers is she found to have deviated from the Faith." A charge of heresy wholly based on her resumption of male clothing is absurd. Her adherence to her revelations "is to be ascribed rather to her credit, not crime; to virtue, not rashness; to religion, not error; to piety, not depravity."

9. The Interrogatories

From the record and the witnesses' testimony it is evident that questions were hurled at Joan with such speed and amid such confusion that murmurs of protest were heard from the better disposed assessors; and this badgering continued for months. A man of no mean learning might well have found it hard to reply promptly. The whole proceedings were altogether contrary to canon law, especially in view of Joan's obvious good faith, and lack of learning. Many of the questions were utterly irrelevant, superfluous, and frivolous.

10. The Assistants

Joan had no counselor to help her in her answer, though she repeatedly asked for one. Only to manifestly convicted heretics, and especially to the relapsed, should such counsel be denied. (Quicherat, misinterpreting a papal decree, states that counsel was never allowed the accused in a trial for heresy. Can one doubt that our Inquisitor knew his subject better?) False counselors, however, were indeed sent to spy on Joan and ensnare her. The "exhortations" made to her were full of lies, subtleties, artfulness, and confused prolixity. The assessors marshaled against her were partisans of the English, and supported the irrelevancy of the questioning. The two preachers assumed the truth of the lying articles. Even the English nobles should have protested against the preachers' attacks on the King of France, a relative of their own King.

11. The Findings of the Paris Doctors

Two judgments based on the articles came from the Paris faculties of Theology and of Canon Law, respectively. The theologians behaved as though faced with the utterances of some great heresiarch, condemning Joan's visions as either fictitious or diabolical. What did they mean by speaking of "the quality of Joan's person" as one basis for their censures? Did they refer to her sex, in spite of Miriam, Anna, Elizabeth, and the most blessed Virgin herself, all women who prophesied? Or to her race and parentage, though prophets and apostles were of humble origin? Or to her life, which was spotless, humble, and devout? If they had not heard of this, where had they been hiding? These professors of heavenly wisdom seemed to ignore the Son of God's condemnation of rash judgments. "It is better," Brehal comments, "often to err by a good opinion of an evil person, than to err less often by a bad opinion of a good person." Only a madman condemns as false philosophical teaching that is beyond his comprehension. How much madder to do the same concerning mysterious revelations! Joan was incapable of in-venting these things, which moreover included true prophecies and showed the lasting power that lies never possess. The theory of diabolical origin is contradicted by Joan's whole way of life. Even though the theologians were misled by the articles, they should have considered Joan's rejection of her hostile judge, not to mention the Poitiers verdict.

The lawyers' findings were more moderate; yet they accused Joan of severing herself from the unity of the Church, and of failing to prove her claims by miracles or from Scripture. Brehal demolishes the first charge by arguments he has already used; to the second he answers that the Maid's mission, concerning civil polity, called for no sign, any more than did Nathan's anointing of Saul and David. Nevertheless, was it not a miracle that a frail and simple girl should win such marvelous victories? The "doctrine" of these doctors should be called cunning rather than wisdom.

Apparently in order not to embitter the dispute then raging between the University of Paris and the mendicant orders, Brehal ends this chapter by protesting his respect for the University, and expressing his belief that the professors involved in condemning Joan were few in number.

12. The Sentence

The last chapter of the Recollectio is based on the argument that a trial so manifestly iniquitous could not pro-duce a sound verdict. Brehal, therefore, briefly repeats most of the charges he has already made concerning the manner of procedure: Cauchon's lack of jurisdiction, his bias, Joan's appeal to the Holy See, and so forth. He again refers to Cauchon's overriding of the assessors' ad-vice at the session of May 29 (see p. 48). "From which it is evident," he adds, "that such a sentence proceeded, not from discretion, mother of virtues, but from the step-mother of justice, namely, the deliberate haste of a vengeful man. It is therefore null." The outrageous charges contained in the three sentences against Joan (before her abjuration, just after it, and before her execution) are not supported by her utterances or actions. Nor was the court's behavior consistent, since Joan was admitted to the sacraments while declared to be under ex-communication. The final sentence, moreover, omitted the required exhortation to seek absolution. Its charge of heresy was altogether false.

To study the Recollectio is to perceive that its condemnation of the Rouen trial is above all based on the prejudiced and inhuman spirit which vitiated that process from start to finish. Brehal does, indeed, lay considerable stress on formal illegalities, but his main argument, sup-ported by countless references to authorities, is directed against the essentially unjust animus which characterized Cauchon's prosecution of Joan. Thus the main theme of this Inquisitor's arraignment is that, since the importance of a trial for heresy itself demands the utmost caution, fairness, honesty, and charity, the Rouen verdict was in-valid fundamentally because it was reached by proceedings which violated these requirements in every possible way.