Malleus Maleficarum Part 1
It is Shown that, on Account of the Sins of Witches, the Innocent are often Bewitched, yea, Sometimes even for their Own Sins.
It is a fact that, by Divine permission, many innocent people suffer loss
and are punished by the aforesaid plagues, not for their own sins, but for
those of witches. And lest this should seem to any a paradox, S. Thomas
shows in the Second of the Second, quest. 8, that this is just in
God. For he divides the punishments of this life into three classes. First,
one man belongs to another; therefore, if a man be punished in his
possessions, it may be that another man suffers for this punishment. For,
bodily speaking, sons are a property of the father, and slaves and animals
are the property of their masters; and so the sons are sometimes punished
for their parents. Thus the son born to David from adultery quickly died;
and the animals of the Amalekites were bidden to be killed. Yet the reason
for these things remains a mystery.
Secondly, the sin of one may be passed on to another; and this in two ways.
By imitation, as children imitate the sins of their parents, and slaves and
dependents the sins of their masters, that they may sin more boldly. In
this way the sons inherit ill-gotten gain, and slaves share in robberies and
unjust feuds, in which they are often killed. And they who are subject to
Governors sin the more boldly when they see them sin, even if they do not
commit the same sins; wherefore they are justly punished.
Also the sin of one is passed on to another in the way of desert, as when
the sins of wicked subjects are passed on to a bad Governor, because the
sins of the subjects deserve a bad Governor. See Job: He makes
Hypocrites to reign on account of the sins of the people.
Sin, and consequently punishment, can also be passed on through some consent
or dissimulation. For when those in authority neglect to reprove sin, then
very often the good are punished with the wicked, as S. Augustine says in
the first book de Ciuitate Dei. An example was brought to our notice
as Inquisitors. A town was once rendered almost destitute by the death of
its citizens; and there was a rumour that a certain buried woman was
gradually eating the shroud in which she had been buried, and that the
plague could not cease until she had eaten the whole shroud and absorbed it
into her stomach. A council was held, and the Podesta with the Governor of
the city dug up the grave, and found half the shroud absorbed through the
mouth and throat into the stomach, and consumed. In horror at this sight,
the Podesta drew his sword and cut off her head and threw it out of the
grave, and at once the plague ceased. Now the sins of that old woman were,
by Divine permission, visited upon the innocent on account of the
dissimulation of what had happened before. For when an Inquisition was held
it was found that during a long time of her life she had been a Sorceress
and Enchantress. Another example is the punishment of a pestilence because
David numbered the people.
Thirdly, sin is passed on by Divine permission in commendation of the unity
of human society, that one man should take care for another by refraining
from sin; and also to make sin appear the more detestable, in that the sin
of one redounds upon all, as though all were one body. An example is the sin
of Achan in Joshua vii.
We can add to these two other methods: that the wicked are punished sometimes
by the good, and sometimes by other wicked men. For as Gratianus says
(XXIII, 5), sometimes God punishes the wicked through those who are
exercising their legitimate power at His command; and this in two ways:
sometimes with merit on the part of the punishers, as when He punished the
sins of the Canaanites through His people; sometimes with no merit on the
part of the punishers, but even to their own punishment, as when He punished
the tribe of Benjamin and destroyed it except for a few men. And sometimes
He punishes by His nations being aroused, either by command or permission,
but with no intention of obeying God, but rather greedy for their own gain,
and therefore to their own damnation; as He now punished His people by the
Turks, and did so more often by strange nations in the Old Law.
But it must be noted that for whatever cause a man be punished, if he does
not bear his pains patiently, then it becomes a scourge, not a correction,
but only of vengeance, that is, of punishment. See Deuteronomy xxxii:
A fire is kindled in min anger (that is, my punishment; for there is no
other anger in God), and shall burn unto the lowest hell (that is,
vengeance shall begin here and burn unto the last damnation, as S. Augustine
explains), And there is further authority concerning punishment in his
Fourth Distinction. But if men patiently bear their scourges, and are patient
in the state of grace, they take the place of a correction, as S. Thomas
says in his Fourth Book. And this is true even of one punished for committing
witchcraft, or of a witch, to a greater or less degree according to the
devotion of the sufferer and the quality of his crime.
But the natural death of the body, being the last terror, is not a
correction, since of its nature it partakes in the punishment for original
sin. Nevertheless, according to Scotus, when it is awaited with resignation
and devotion, and offered in its bitterness to God, it can in some way
become a correction. But violent death, whether a man deserves it or not, is
always a correction, if it is borne patiently and in grace. So much for
punishments inflicted on account of the sins of others.
But God also punishes men in this life for their own sins, especially in the
matter of bewitchment. For see Tobias vii: The devil has power over
those who follow their lusts. And this is clear from what we have already
said concerning the member and the genital powers, which God chiefly allows
to be bewitched.
However, for the purpose of preaching to the public it is to be noted that,
notwithstanding the aforesaid punishments which God inflicts on men for
their own and others' sins, the preacher should keep as his basic principle
and to the people this ruling of the law; which says, No one must be
punished without guilt, unless there is some cause for doing so. And this
ruling holds good in the Court of Heaven, that is, of God, just as it does
in the human Courts of Justice, whether secular or ecclesiastic.
The preacher may predicate this of the Court of Heaven. For the punishment
of God is of two kinds, spiritual and temporal. In the former, punishment is
never found without guilt. In the latter it is sometimes found quite without
guilt, but not without cause. The first, or spiritual punishment, is of
three kinds; the first being forfeiture of grace and a consequent hardening
in sin, which is never inflicted except for the sufferer's own guilt. The
second is the punishment of loss, that is, deprivation of glory, which is
never inflicted without personal guilt in adults, or contracted guilt in
children born from their parents' sin. The third is the punishment of pain,
that is, the torture of hell fire, and is plainly due to guilt. Wherefore
when it is said in Exodus xx: I am a jealous God, visiting the sins
of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation: it is
understood as speaking of the imitators of their fathers' crimes, as Gratian
has explained, Book I, quest. 4; where he also gives other expositions.
Now with regard to God's second, or temporal punishment: first, it may be,
as has been said before, for the sin of another (but not without cause), or
for personal guilt only, without any other's sin. But if you wish to know
the causes for which God punishes, and even without any guilt of the
sufferer or of another man, you may refer to the five methods which the
Master expounds in Book IV, dist. 15, cap. 2. And you must take the three
first causes, for the other two refer to personal guilt.
For he says that for five causes God scourges man in this life, or inflicts
punishment. First, that God may be glorified; and this is when some
punishment or affliction is miraculously removed, as in the case of the man
born blind (S. John ix), or of the raising of Lazarus (S. John
Secondly, if the first cause is absent, it is sent that merit may be acquired
through the exercise of patience, and also that inner hidden virtue may be
made manifest to others. Examples are Job i and Tobias ii.
Thirdly that virtue may be preserved through the humiliation of castigation.
S. Paul is an example, who says of himself in II. Corinthians xii:
There was given unto me a thorn in my flesh, the messenger of Satan. And
according to Remigius this thorn was the infirmity of carnal desire. These
are the cause that are without guilt in the sufferer.
Fourthly, that eternal damnation should begin in this life, that it might be
in some way shown what will be suffered in hell. Examples are Herod (Acts
xii) and Antiochus (II. Maccabees ix).
Fifthly, that man may be purified, by the expulsion and obliteration of his
guilt through scourges. Examples may be taken from Miriam, Aaron's sister,
who was stricken with leprosy, and from the Israelites wandering in the
wilderness, according to S. Jerome, XXIII, 4. Or it may be for the correction
of sin, as is exemplified by the case of David, who, after being pardoned
for his adultery, was driven from his kingdom, as is shown in II. Kings,
and is commented on by S. Gregory in his discourse on sin. It may, in fact,
be said that every punishment that we suffer proceeds from our own sin, or
at least from the original sin in which we were born, which is itself the
cause of all causes.
But as to the punishment of loss, meaning by that eternal damnation which
they will suffer in the future, no one doubts that all the damned will be
tortured with grevious pains. For just as grace is followed by the blessed
vision of the Kingdom of Heaven, so is mortal sin followed by punishment in
hell. And just as the degrees of blessedness in Heaven are measured in
accordance with the degrees of charity and grace in life, so the degrees of
punishment in hell are measured according to the degree of crime in this
life. See Deuteronomy xxv: The measure of punishment will be according
to the measure of sin. And this is so with all other sins, but applies
especially to witches. See Hebrews x: Of how much sorer punishment,
suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden underfoot the Son
of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was
sanctified, an unholy thing?
And such are the sins of witches, who deny the Faith, and work many evil
bewitchments through the most Holy Sacrament, as will be shown in the
Next: Question XVI
The Foregoing Truths are Set out in Particular, this by a Comparison of the Works of Witches with Other Baleful Superstitions.