Tips for Young Witch Hunters
2. No accusation is baseless.
The following procedure, therefore, is to be employed in the case of such a one against whom nothing has been proved except public obloquy. In this case judgement cannot be delivered for the accused, nor can she be absolved as in the first method; but a canonical purgation must be imposed upon her. Therefore let the Bishop or his deputy, or the Judge, first take note that, in a case of heresy, it is not necessary that a person should be defamed only by good and respected people; for the calumniation uttered by common and simple folk carries equal weight.
And the reason for this is, that the same persons who are admitted as accusers in a case of heresy are also admitted as detractors. Now any heretic can be accused by anybody, except his mortal enemies; therefore he can also be defamed by anybody.
3. The accused is guilty until proven not-so-guilty (see Tip 1).
Here it is to be considered that, when a person is duly found to be publicly defamed of some heresy, and nothing is proved against him except that defamation, a canonical purgation shall be imposed upon him. That is, he must produce some seven, ten, twenty, or thirty men, according to the extent to which he has been defamed and the size and important of the place concerned, and these must be men of his own station and condition. For example, if he who is defamed is a religious, they must be religious; if he is a secular, they must be seculars; if he be a solder, they must be soldiers who purge him from the crime for which he is defamed. And these sponsors must be men professing the Catholic faith and of good life, who have known his habits and life both recently and for a long time.
But if he refuses this purgation, he must be excommunicated; and if he remains obstinate in that excommunication for a year, he is then to be condemned as a heretic.
And if he accepts the purgation and fails in it; that is, if he cannot find sponsors of the number and quality desired; he shall be considered as convicted, and is to be condemned as a heretic.
Malleus Maleficarum, Part III., Third Head, Question XXI: Of the Second Method of Pronouncing Sentence, when the Accused is no more than Defamed.