Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

The Maid of France
Being The Story Of The Life And Death of Jeanne d'Arc (Joan of Arc)

THE TRIAL II: The Question of Submission to the Church

JEANNE was in mortal sin ; the learned Doctors knew it. It is the foible of scientific men to think themselves omniscient ; but with the true scientific spirit, Jeanne professed her own ignorance, leaving the question, in faith and hope, to God. Her intelligence was sane and clear.

On March 1 5 they began to ask her whether she would submit to the judgment of the Church her alleged sins in matters of faith. This meant, would she submit the question of the nature of her Voices--good spirits or evil--to the verdict of her personal and political enemies, the assembled Anglo-Burgundian clerks. If she said " Yes," they would pronounce the Voices to be devilish, and burn her if she did not abjure them. If she said " No,'' they would pronounce her " contumacious "--and burn her. Meanwhile the whole question, says the Chanoine Dunand, was "one of the causes majeures which, by canon law, are reserved for the judgment of the Pope." But these French clerks had already burned Pierronne, six months earlier, for adhering to her visions, without troubling His Holiness.

Jeanne asked that clerics might consider the matter ; she would then lay their verdict before her Counsel. She would not defend any act against the Christian faith as instituted by out Lord. The distinction between the Church militant on earth (which cannot err) and the Church triumphant in heaven--to which, in the person of her Saints, she was appealing--was explained to her, and she understood it in a moment, though at first she did not understand, and said that she "ought to be allowed to go to church." " Simple " as she was, she fully appreciated the situation as soon as it was explained. But it was always clear that, being inspired directly by the Church triumphant, she never would submit willingly to the Church of the Malignants in Rouen. She declared that she had full right to escape, if she saw a chance. She was inclined to wear female dress if she might be allowed to hear Mass. " Let me have a long skirt without a train, and go to Mass. On returning I will wear man's dress." But she implored that, attired as she was, she might be allowed to hear Mass. They returned to the old questions about her Saints, how she knew them to be good ; and they were answered in the old way.

On March 17 they persevered. Her acts she referred to God who sent her. Then, beginning to prophesy, she predicted that "the French will soon win a great matter" (not & battle, but une grande besogne, unum magnum negotium) "which God will send them ; it will put almost the whole kingdom in motion. And this I say, that, when the event comes, my words may be held in memory.'' This is a prophecy of the reconciliation of France and Burgundy, in 1435, by the Treaty of Arras, the death-blow to the English rule and to the Duke of Bedford.

From this unpleasant prophecy they turned to her submission to the Church. " I refer myself to God, the Virgin, and all the Saints of Paradise. To me it seems that, as to our Lord and the Church, it is all one, and that no difficulty should be made ; why do you make a difficulty?"

They again explained that the Church on earth, Pope and all, could not err, being governed by the Holy Spirit. She repeated what she had said, and deferred reply about the Church militant. "If I must be put to death, I ask for a woman's shift, and a cap to cover my head; for I would rather die than depart from the work to which my Lord has set me. But I do not believe that my Lord will let me be brought so low that I shall lack help of God and miracle."

"If you dress as you do by God's command, why do you ask for a shift in the hour of death ? "

"It suffices me that it should be long," she said, for reasons of modesty.

They turned to trifles, such as the five crosses on her sword, and, in the afternoon, interrogated her for the last time in the preparatory inquiry. They still vexed her with puerilities ; they asked if she thought that her Voices would desert her if she married. She answered, " I know not, and leave it to my Lord."

"Did your King do well in slaying the Duke of Burgundy? "

"It was a great disaster to the kingdom of France ; and what- ever was between these two, God has sent succour to France."

"Would you answer plainly to the Pope?"

"I summon you" {elle requiert), "to take me to him, and I will answer all that it will be my duty to answer." Canonists regard this as an informal but valid appeal to the Pope; and to such an appeal she had a legal right.

Would she have deserted her Voices at the word of the Pope?

Would St. Paul have repudiated his vision on the Damascus road at the word of the Church of Jerusalem ? Jeanne had seen and heard, and her hands had handled the bodies of her Saints. How could she in honesty and honour repudiate them and their righteous and holy messages ? It was morally impossible that she should do so in honour and honesty, at the bidding of Estivet, Cauchon, and the rest, traitors to her King. The clergy of her party took this view in 1450-1456.

The preparatory inquiry was closed. For a week Estivet laboured at a digest, and on March 27 the ordinary trial began : the seventy Articles made by Estivet were read to the prisoner; two English priests were in the crowd of assessors, Brolbster and Hampton.

Cauchon now offered Jeanne counsel ; she thanked him very courteously, "but I do not intend to depart from the counsel of God.' The Court had refused to oblige Estivet by condemning the Maid on the ground of her refusal to answer all questions. The seventy Articles must first be read: she might receive delays in which to consider her replies.

On March 28, Courcelles read the Articles aloud. The Court was asked to declare Jeanne to be " a sorceress, a divineress, a false prophet, one who invoked evil spirits, a witch, a heretic, an apostate, a seditious blasphemer, rejoicing in blood, indecent/' and so forth. The Articles were carelessly drawn up. One passage, to the effect that Jeanne disobeyed her parents in the matter of the breach of promise of marriage case at Toul, has been the basis of romances by her biographers. As we have already shown, she said nothing about her parents in the affair of Toul ; and the current story rests on a blunder of her accuser. Estivet also represented Jeanne as having bragged to Baudricourt that after fulfilling her mission she would have three sons, a Pope, a Kaiser, and a King. "I would gladly be the father of one of them," said the captain, "it would be good for my reputation."

"Gentle Robert, nay, nay ; it is not the time, the Holy Spirit will open it."

"So Robert was wont to say, in presence of bishops and the great of the earth."

Jeanne replied that she referred to her previous answers (which do not on this point exist), and that, as to having three boys, she made no such boast. She may have said something with a sym- bolical meaning, but conjecture is useless. A grave charge was that she " entertained erroneous opinions about the freedom of the will." Another crime, which she denied, was the dropping of melted wax on the heads of children, by way of telling their fortunes ! These silly things are not in the record of the questions previously put to her. Perhaps that record is garbled. The practice with wax corresponds to the dropping of molten lead into water, and divining the future from the casual forms. Nothing could be less in the manner of the Maid. Her greatest error was her refusal to pretencTihg to have divine and angelic revelations, and sowing lies and errors in imitation of this woman.''

There is a good deal of force in this objection. But Jeanne had been accepted by the clergy of her party, and was acquitted by the Doctors of her own party on this point, as we shall see, and it seems certain that she had not fair play from Cauchon. In her reply to the first Article the Latin translation of the original French minute makes her say, " I well believe that our Holy Father, the Pope of Rome, and the bishops and other churchmen are for the guarding of the Christian faith and the punishment of heretics ; but as for me and my facts (de factis), I will only submit to the Church of Heaven, to God, Our Lady, and the Saints in Paradise. I firmly believe that I have not erred in faith, nor would I err." Here the Latin record stops. But the French goes on, " nor would I err, and I summon . . ." (et requiert . . .).

To whom did she appeal, and why does the original French, written in Court, end thus abruptly, while the official Latin version omits the words, " and she summons. . . ." ? These very words she had used in demanding to be led before the Pope, " elle requiert qu'elle soit menee devant luy."

The friendly Dominican, de la Pierre, was present among the assessors. Now he, on February 15, 1450, at Rouen, deposed that Jeanne, on one occasion, said that she would answer the Pope, if taken to him. De la Pierre then advised her to submit to the General Council at Basle. Jeanne asked him, " What is the General Council?" He replied, "It is the Congregation of the Universal Church and of Christendom, and therein are as many of your party as of the English." " Oh ! " she cried, " since there are some of our side in that place, I am right willing to submit to the Council of Basle ! " " Hold your tongue, in the devil's name ! " cried Cauchon, and commanded the notary not to record this appeal. Jeanne said that they wrote what was against her, not what was in her favour.

Here then we have an explanation of the words in the French minute written in Court, et requiei't ..." and she summons . . .," and an explanation of the gap which follows." She appealed, her appeal was not recorded ; and the whole trial wrecks itself in this infamous injustice. (On this point see M. Marius Sepet, Jeanne d'Arc y pp. 209, 225. Observe, too, Proces, vol. i. p. 184, where a question as to the dress, height, and age of the Angel who brought the crown to the King is given in the French minute, but not in the official Latin translation.)

The certain way of escape was closed to Jeanne, so that she had no means of submitting to a fair ecclesiastical Court, while the Court which tried her had demonstrated its own incompetence. She replied to the Articles when she pleased ; when she pleased, referred to her previous answers. With a firm belief in the Church on earth on matters of faith, in matters SjacfrVfiS Wdfcftct only be judged by the Church in heaven. She later maintained her original attitude. To Cauchon she said that she often had news of him from her Voices. " What news ? " he asked.

"I will tell you apart." She asked for a delay as to the question of submitting to the Church militant, and was interrogated on March 31. She then boldly answered that she would not abjure her Voices. " That was impossible.". She would obey the Church, " God first being served."

Now to the ordinary reader Jeanne may seem to be maintaining, with courage, honour, and loyalty, a position untenable, given Catholic ideas of the immunity of the Church militant^ from error. To such a reader it seems that Jeanne should have merely refused the jurisdiction of the hostile Court which was assailing her for reasons of personal and political hatred and fear. She did appeal to the General Council at Basle. Her attitude, the prosecution said, meant anarchy. Any man or woman might preach any doctrines, or prophesy to such effect as he or she pleased, unchecked by the Church. It seems a fatal deadlock ; for if Jeanne at this point could not, in honour and honesty, abjure, for any mortal what she knezv to be true ; then other people, with equally strong convictions, had equally good rignt to follow inspirations wholly unlike those of the Maid. So it may appear to the ordinary reader. But it has not so seemed to her Church, which has proclaimed her H Venerable " ; and surely her Church ought to know ! There is no higher Court of appeal in the Church's own affairs.

The learned Doctors of the French party, in the Trial of Rehabilitation, voted that, in her refusal to submit to the Church, the ' Maid was not a heretic. Thus Bouille decided that, when Jeanne said, " Take me to the Pope," the judges should have ceased from their task. " It belongs to the Pope to decide if these sorts of visions come from good spirits or evil." " Persons to whom these communications are made can have certitude about them otherwise than by submission to the judgment of the visible Church."

Again," Suppose the apparitions came from evil spirits, she was not to be reckoned heretical as long as she believed them to come from spirits of light." Again, " in questions of fact" (not ot dogma), " in the case of a fact which only the percipient knows for certain, no mortal has the right to make him disavow what he knows beyond possibility of doubt. . . . To deny a fact which we know to be certain beyond doubt, though others do not know it, is to lie, and is forbidden by divine law ; it is to go against our conscience." " If Jeanne received revelations from God, it was not reasonable to bid her abjure them, especially as the Church does not judge concerning hidden things. She had a perfect right to refuse to abjure . . . she followed the special law of inspiration, which exempted her from the common law. . . . Even if it be doubted whether her inspiration came from good or evil spirits, as this is a hidden thing, known of God only, the Church does not judge. She might be wrong; but she referred all to the judgment of God and to her own conscience. The Maid did not err \{ she referred all to the judgment of God only. Moreover, she explicitly appealed to the Pope " (that is, on the day of her abjuration). " Let a report of all that I have done and said be sent to our sovereign Lord, the Pope, in Rome, to whom, after God, I appeal." " The Pope is too far," they replied.

The other clerks of her party argued like Bouille : Cybole wrote that when Jeanne refused to submit to any mortal man, hers was a Catholic reply, in conformity with the teaching of St. Peter and the apostles, "we must obey God rather than man." Brehal, Grand Inquisitor of France, quoted, " If you are led by the Spirit, you are no longer under the law." " She had certain knowledge ; on these points she had to obey no man. To abjure her revelations would have been to lie and perjure herself,"--so she and we and the Grand Inquisitor are all agreed. Brehal decided that her judges, not the Maid, were heretical.

These benevolent Doctors of 1450-1456 were anxious to prove that Jeanne was too simple and ignorant to understand the questions about the Churches militant and triumphant. But she understood them perfectly well ; her genius was always adequate to every demand on it. She understood, and she took the very line later adopted by her learned clerical defenders. It was impos- sible for her, with honesty and honour, to abjure what she knew to be true. In the words of Montrose she might have said, " I am resolved to carry with me fidelity and honour to the grave." She " kept the bird in her bosom " ; she was " released with great victory," the victory of fidelity and honour over the common run of learned clerks ; over prison and iron bonds ; over weakness, and hunger, and the threat of torture, and the sight of the tormentor, and his instruments of hell.

A list of XII Articles on which to base a verdict was now composed, apparently by Midi, and sent to various Doctors. The defenders in 1450-1456 found that these Articles were falsely extracted and unjustly composed, not in harmony with Jeanne's confessions, and not containing her explanations and qualifications. It was not possible for the accusers to be fair, in the opinion of Quicherat. They did not make the attempt. Here is the cream of the XII Articles.

I. The Saints were said to have been adored at the fountain (where Jeanne said that she had once seen them), and the fountain was involved, by the makers of the Articles, in the ill fame of the Fairy tree.

In fact, the judges followed Catherine of La Rochelle's fable about " the counsel of the fountain."

"Among the soldiers, Jeanne seldom or never had a woman with her," as chaperon.

She had explained that she guarded herself by other precau- tions, of which no notice was taken, and their own experts had proclaimed Jeanne to be a maiden. The Duchess of Bedford, daughter of the murdered Duke of Burgundy, was the authority for that fact, which was suppressed by the accusers.

II. She varied in her reports of the circumstances about the giving of the sign to the King.

This matter is treated later ; it was not possible for the dull accusers to understand her system of blended truth of fact and truth of symbol.

III. She would not renounce her belief that her Saints were good.

IV. She believed herself to be cognoscent of contingent events in the future, as that the French would do something distinguished (pulchrius factuni) in her company. (Her letter to Bedford of March 22, 1429.) She had also found the sword of Fierbois.

Her important and successful prophecies were ignored.

V. She wore a male dress, and, when wearing it, received the sacrament.

Why she wore male dress we know.

VI. She used the motto Jesus MARIA, and said that the course of war would show which party was in the right.

It did!

She claimed to come from God.

VII. She went to Baudricourt and to Charles, proclaiming her- self a divine emissary.

VIII. She leaped from the tower of Beaurevoir, disobeying her Saints, because (her own words are not given) she could not survive the fall of Compiegne, and ,( preferred to trust her soul to God, than her body to the English." But she knows by revela- tion that her sin was forgiven after her confession.

She was to be condemned both for obeying and for disobeying her Saints.

IX. She believes herself as certain of heaven as if she were there already, and thinks that she cannot have committed mortal sins, for, if so, the Saints would not visit her.

Her many qualifications, her leaving the subject to God, are omitted.

X. She says that her Saints do not speak English, because they are not pro-Burgundian.

The stupidity of these men prevented them from seeing that the Voices might as well have spoken Hittite as English to Jeanne, who only knew French.

XI. She has adored her Saints without taking clerical advice. Yet her modern " scientific " critics aver that her Voices and visions were known to fraudulent priestly directors from the first. Moreover, she had the formal approval of such clerks as Gerson, and the Archbishop of Embrun, and the synod of Poitiers.

XII. She refuses to submit her conduct and revelations to the Church.

But she was not allowed to appeal to the Church assembled at Basle. .

This is a summary of the Articles : from which a large number of charges, as originally made, are omitted. The puerile iniquity of the whole accusation is conspicuous. Quicherat admitted that ; but argued, " given men so prejudiced as the assessors, the pro- cedure of the Inquisition made it impossible for them not to go wrong." Chanoine Dunand replies that the procedure of the In- quisition did not impose the duty of drawing up such Articles, that was the favourite procedure of the University of Paris--which was capable de tout. To myself all the judicial procedure of the Courts, lay or clerical, in the trial of a person feared and hated, seems about equally unfair, then, and for centuries later.

On April 12 a number of Doctors gave their opinion on the Articles. Among them was Beaupere, who believed the visions and Voices to be natural hallucinations, and had the merit of adhering to his opinion twenty years later. There was also Migiet, who, in 1450-1456, posed as sympathetic ; there was Maurice, who was edified by her last confession to him ; there was the friendly Dominican, Isambart de la Pierre ; there were the modest Thomas de Courcelles, and Loiselleur, the prison spy, and there was Le Maitre. What a world ! They decided that the visions and Voices were either " human inventions " or the work of devils ; that Jeanne's evidence was a tissue of lies ; that she was blasphemous towards God, and impious towards her parents, schismatic as regarded the Church, and so forth. Doctors at large corroborated this verdict. Such Doctors were then the representatives of "Science."

Modern readers are content to leave to the Church the rights and wrongs of Jeanne's relations to the Church and to faith. But charges of falsehood, as in her story of the sign given to the King, are another matter, and the discussion of these charges we relegate to the close of the book, so as not to interrupt the tragic narrative.

There is no basis for the Protestant idea that Jeanne was a premature believer in "Free Thought" and the liberty of private opinion. She was as sound a Catholic as man or woman could be, in matters of faith; she was only forced by injustice into main- taining her freedom of opinion in matters of fact, of personal experience; and clerks as learned as they of Rouen maintain that this attitude was perfectly orthodox.


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