Here we are, for the – very temporary – moment in October, 2007. I have been following with a sinking heart the fight to restore habeas corpus and declare that my country will obey the Geneva Conventions again. Something bubbled up out of my memory from a time when I used to dress up and be Joan of Arc on stage. Leading to that, I read everything about her I could find, including transcripts of her trial. Now it’s your turn, and the date is 9 May 1431, and every comma and misprint comes straight from the source.
Wednesday, May 9th. She is threatened with torture
On Wednesday, May 9th of the same year, Jeanne was brought into the great tower of the castle of Rouen before us the said judges and in the presence of the reverend father,, lord abbot of St. Carmel de Compiègne, of masters Jean de Châtillon and Guillaume Erart, doctors of sacred theology, of André Marguerie and Nicolas de Venderès, archdeacons of the church of Rouen, of William Haiton, bachelor of theology, Aubert Morel, licentiate in canon law; Nicolas Loiseleur, canon of the cathedral of Rouen, and master Jean Massieu.
And Jeanne was required and admonished to speak the truth on many different points contained in her trial which she had denied or to which she had given false replies, whereas we possessed certain information, proofs, and vehement presumptions upon them. Many of the points were read and explained to her, and she was told that if she did not confess them truthfully she would be put to the torture, the instruments of which were shown to her all ready in the tower. There were also present by our instruction men ready to put her to the torture in order to restore her to the way and knowledge of truth, and by this means to procure the salvation of her body and soul which by her lying inventions she exposed to such grave perils.
To which the said Jeanne answered in this manner: “Truly if you were to tear me limb from limb and separate my soul from my body, I would not tell you anything more: and if I did say anything, I should afterwards declare that you had compelled me to say it by force.” Then she said that on Holy Cross Day last she received comfort from St. Gabriel: she firmly believes it was St. Gabriel, she knew by her voices it was he. She said she asked counsel of her voices whether she should submit to the Church since the clergy were pressing her hard to submit: her voices told her that if she desired Our Lord to aid her she must wait upon Him in all her doings. She said that Our Lord has always been the master of her doings, and the Enemy never had power over them. She asked her voices if she would be burned and they answered that she must wait upon God, and He would aid her.
When asked about the crown she said she had given to the archbishop of Reims, and whether she would refer herself to him, she answered: “Send him here [and let me hear him speak]: and then I will answer you. He dare not deny what I have told you.”
But seeing the hardness of her heart and her manner of answering, we the said judges, fearing that the torments of torture would be of little profit to her, decided to postpone their application until we had received more complete advice on the question.
Emphasis mine. There’s more, where the emphasis is still mine.
Saturday, May 12th. Jeanne is not to be tortured
On Saturday following, May 12th, in our episcopal dwelling at Rouen, before us the said judges and in the presence of the venerable masters Raoul Roussel, treasurer, Nicolas de Venderès and André Marguerie, archdeacons and canons of Rouen; Guillaume Erart, master of theology; Robert Le Barbier, Denis Gastinel, Jean Le Doulx, and Aubert Morel, licentiates in canon law; Thomas de Courcelles, Nicolas Couppequesne. bachelors of sacred theology; Nicolas Loiseleur and brother Ysambard de La Pierre.
We the said bishop recalled what had taken place on the previous Wednesday, and we asked the counsel of the assessors on what remained to be done, in particular if it was expedient to put Jeanne to the torture.
[And first the said Raoul Roussel stated that he thought it was not expedient, lest a trial so well conducted should be exposed to calumny.
Master Nicolas de Venderès said he thought it was not yet expedient to put her to the torture.
Master André Marguerie said it was not yet expedient.
Master Guillaume Erart said it was needless to put her to the torture, sufficient matter was possessed without it.
Master Robert Le Barbier gave a similar opinion; but thought she should again be charitably admonished, once and for all, to submit to the Church. If she would not, then in God's name the proceedings should continue.
Master Denis Gastinel said it was not expedient.
Master Aubert Morel said he thought it expedient to put her to the torture in order to discover the truth of her lies.
Master Thomas de Courcelles said he thought it wise to torture her. She ought also to be examined whether she would submit to the judgment of the Church.
Master Nicolas Couppequesne said it is not expedient to put her to the torture, but she should, once more, be charitably admonished of the necessity of submitting to the decision of the Church.
Master Jean Le Doulx, similarly.
Brother Ysambard de La Pierre, similarly; but for the last time she should be admonished to submit to the Church Militant.
Master Nicolas Loiseleur said he thought it good for the health of her soul to put her to the torture: nevertheless he deferred to the earlier opinions.
Master William Haiton, who came later, was of the opinion that there was no need for torture.
Master Jean Le Maistre, Vice-Inquisitor, said she should once more be examined on whether she believed she should submit to the Church Militant.]
When these opinions had been heard and the answers which Jeanne had made on the previous Wednesday considered, in view of her disposition and will and of the circumstances, we concluded that it was neither necessary nor expedient to submit her to the torture, and that we should proceed further in the matter.
It comes as no surprise in 2007 that some sadistic fucks have always couched torture in terms of benefit to the tortured. Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani went so far last week as to say what mattered about waterboarding was who did it and why.
No. No, it doesn’t. Five hundred seventy-six years ago, a teenager blurted out the truth about torture and avoided being tortured. Before and since, people being tortured have blurted out anything to make the suffering stop. Joan was led to the stake and recanted, for fear of the fire, if you need an example. It’s true that later, her courage returned to her but not before she’d denied everything she believed about herself, the voices of her angels and God.
That we ever burned our outcasts at the stake is almost unbelievable now; in that context, that we entertain discussion of waterboarding now is mind-boggling in its throwback sadism. No. There is no scenario where torture is our best option for justice.
There never was.