By Friedrich Spee, Marcus Hellyer
In 1631, on the epicenter of the worst excesses of the ecu witch-hunts, Friedrich Spee, a Jesuit priest, released the Cautio Criminalis, a booklet conversing out opposed to the pains that have been sending hundreds of thousands of blameless humans to grotesque deaths. Spee, who had himself ministered to ladies accused of witchcraft in Germany, had witnessed firsthand the twisted common sense and brutal torture utilized by judges and inquisitors. mixed, those harsh prosecutorial measures led unavoidably not just to a confession yet to denunciations of meant accomplices, spreading the circle of torture and execution ever wider.
Driven via his priestly cost of enacting Christian charity, or love, Spee sought to reveal the fallacious arguments and strategies utilized by the witch-hunters. His good judgment is relentless as he unearths the contradictions inherent of their arguments, displaying there's no means for an blameless individual to end up her innocence. And, he questions, if the condemned witches actually are accountable, how may possibly the testimony of those servants and allies of devil be trustworthy? Spee’s insistence that suspects, regardless of how heinous the crimes of which they're accused, own definite inalienable rights is a undying reminder for the current day.
The Cautio Criminalis is without doubt one of the most crucial and relocating works within the heritage of witch trials and a revealing documentation of 1 man’s unforeseen humanity in a brutal age. Marcus Hellyer’s obtainable translation from the Latin makes it on hand to English-speaking audiences for the 1st time.
Studies in Early glossy German History
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Additional info for Cautio Criminalis, or a Book on Witch Trials
But even in modern democracies, when dealing with the most heinous crimes —the excepted crimes, to use Spee’s term—we are often tempted to sacriﬁce such procedural guarantees in the hope of protecting society. Terrorism and the sexual abuse of children, for example, are such horrible crimes that surely we may relax the standards of proof required for a conviction if it means preventing such crimes from occurring again. Spee was familiar with this seductive argument but cautions us against it in Questions 36– 38.
Question VI. Whether the princes of Germany act well when they proceed harshly against witchcraft? i answer, far be it from me to ﬁnd fault with our rulers when they eagerly rouse themselves against this crime. God wishes that * Spee’s main legal source was the Praxis et Theorica Criminalis (Criminal practice and theory), ﬁrst published in 1605 by the extremely inﬂuential Italian jurist Prospero Farinacci (1554–1618). It devoted considerable attention to the use of torture in criminal trials and in general placed severe restrictions on its use.
130 34. Whether rumor alone, unsupported by clear and ﬁrm proof, provides sufﬁcient evidence for torture. 132 35. Whether rulers are obliged at the present time to seriously investigate and punish slanderers and libelers. 138 36. Whether rumor alone is sufﬁcient for torture, at least when the crimes are difﬁcult to prove. 141 37. Whether in general proofs that are not sufﬁcient in common crimes sufﬁce in excepted and occult crimes which are difﬁcult to prove. 144 38. Whether the axiom used everywhere that in occult crimes difﬁcult to prove one may move to torture more easily than in other crimes is in no sense true.
Cautio Criminalis, or a Book on Witch Trials by Friedrich Spee, Marcus Hellyer