Condemned on a Technicality
After prolonged, intensive questioning by Cauchon and the other members of the tribunal, Jeanne d’Arc gave them no answers that could constitute heresy. They accused her of practicing sorcery, but she testified repeatedly that she only followed the word of God and believed in the infallibility of the Church and Pope.
The clerics then proclaimed that her cross-dressing was an abomination to God, to which she answered, “the clothes are a small matter, the least of all things”. However, Cauchon soon realized that through a technicality in canon law, the tribunal could condemn her on this small thing.
When Cauchon later asked Jeanne d’Arc whether she would ever disobey the Church, she responded, in her usual fashion, that she only fulfilled the word of God. But the Church that Cauchon referred to was something called the Church Militant, or the Catholic Church on Earth, not the Church in heaven with God, known as the Church Triumph. That meant if Jeanne d’Arc didn’t obey the directives of the tribunal on behalf of the Church Militant, she would technically be in disobedience of the church and a heretic.
On May 24, the tribunal convinced Jeanne d’Arc to sign a legal document stating her submission to the Church and recanting her claims about hearing the saints’ voices. Attached to that document was a cedula, or royal decree, also avowing that she would no longer wear men’s clothing. Upon her renunciation, the tribunal released Jeanne d’Arc back to prison without indicting her for any crime.
Yet, three days later in prison, Jeanne d’Arc was again wearing men’s clothes. In a later trial, some testified that guards had stolen Jeanne’s female clothes and replaced them with male clothes. Whatever the case, as soon as Cauchon heard the news, he immediately condemned her for lapsed heresy on the grounds of cross-dressing. The same day, the tribunal handed Jeanne d’Arc over to the secular court for her punishment: burning at the stake.