Rorate Caeli

Joan of Arc :
II - The danger of ill-motivated Church authorities

6 janvier 1412 – 6 janvier 2012
A special guest-series by Côme de Prévigny

Joan of Arc (II) : A Saint in isolation

Joan interrogated in prison by His Eminence Henry Beaufort, 
Cardinal-Bishop of Winchester 
(Paul Delaroche)

"God takes great pity on the people of France. It is necessary that you, Joan, that you go to France," her voices repeated to her unceasingly. She said it time and again, both to her brothers in arms as to her judges: she would rather a thousand times to return to the house of her parents than to enlist in such a trying adventure. But God had entrusted to her a mission to which she would remain forever faithful during the two decades of her earthly existence. She was obedient to the point of death, and death at the stake. Before a life that is so brief, so oriented towards God, how to avoid seeing in her a Christlike figure, a bearer of lessons for our times?

The Johannic epic, following a life as hidden as it was bright, seems as ephemeral as the predication of Our Lord through Galilee and Judea. The fortifications opened up before the attacks of Joan's armies, as the villages of the Holy Land were convinced by the invincible preaching of Christ. And, nonetheless, the acclamations at the gates of the cities were as a prelude to a tragic outcome, in which the Maid was to go up to the stake as the Son of God had carried His Cross up to Golgotha. Joan, the young shepherdess from Lorraine, was inhabited by God. Even amidst combats, she wandered away to kneel down and find council from the Creator. Jesus, the son of a carpenter, frequently withdrew from the band of his disciples in order to speak, face to face, with His Father.

The trial for sorcery started in Rouen against Joan was iniquitous. And yet it assembled the entire Establishment of the official Church. One hundred and twenty men took part in it, including a Cardinal, a prince of the Church, a great number of bishops, dozens of canons, sixty doctors in Canon Law or Theology, ten abbots, ten representatives of the University of Paris, the brightest part of ecclesiastical science in the heart of Christendom. In their presence, the shepherdess, despite her replied filled with common sense and inspired by the Holy Spirit, was condemned in advance, as the son of the carpenter seemed condemned beforehand when summoned to appear before the Sanhedrin. In the presence of this sign of contradiction, the English applied such an intense pressure on the court presided by the Bishop of Beauvais that it recalled that of the people used by the Hebraic authorities and who greatly influenced the decision of Pontius Pilate. Alas, not even the ecclesiastical authorities are protected from yielding to ideology, power, or the opinions of the age, to the detriment of the common good, and in such cases their verdicts, far from expressing the will of God, simply betray the mandate that was given to them.

In the course of Joan's trial, among those who used the most sacred titles in order to utter sentences that were true abuses of authority, there were plotters, such as the Count of Warwick, such as Pierre Cauchon, who made every effort to obtain death for Joan. After the English wardens had ensnared her and made her wear man's clothes in order to prevent their assaults, the Bishop of Beauvais rejoiced: "She has been caught," [4] he said to those around him, elated for finding a reason to sacrifice her on the altar of human whims. Also among these authorities were the adulators, the cowards who paved the way for the accusation, such as Abbot of Fécamp, who, not without incurring in false humility, presented himself as uncapable of speaking up after "doctors so numerous and so great that their like cannot perhaps be found in the universe" [5]. As Pontius Pilate, he washed his hands, thus giving support to the worst informers. It happens similarly in the course of the passion of the Church, with those who suffered in silence and with those who above all expected the direct condemnation of the defenders of traditional doctrine. The court that condemned Christ proceeded in the same way. Both judge and party, it delivered an unappealable decision. Discarding the most elementary rules of justice, it heard only the accusers and grasped at the most irrelevant details to soothe the hatred of Salome's heirs, who, moved by a hateful whim, one day demanded a head on a plate!

[Part I: A Saint in armor]
[Part III: A Saint under excommunication]

[4] Transcript of the trial of Joan of Arc, Deposition of Friar Isambard de la Pierre, O.P.
[5] Transcript of the trial of Joan of Arc, 44th session, April 12, 1431.


  1. A. Anderson11:11 AM

    Thank you for this series on dear Saint Joan.

    O Lord, you wondrously raised up Saint Joan d'Arc, your virgin, to defend the Faith and her country in Your Name.

    Through her intercession grant that the Church may overcome the snares of Her enemies, and attain lasting peace.


    Saint Joan of Arc, pray for us!

  2. Barbara11:13 AM

    "Joan, the young shepherdess from Lorraine, was inhabited by God."

    This had to be true, how else could she have resisted "the entire Establishment of the official Church."

    "Alas, not even the ecclesiastical authorities are protected from yielding to ideology, power, or the opinions of the age, to the detriment of the common good, and in such cases their verdicts, far from expressing the will of God, simply betray the mandate that was given to them."

    Well now, that really addresses so many ecclesiastical leaders today...when are they gonna wake up?

    The entire essay is excellent - and so inspiring! - Ah, wonderful St. Joan, pray for us!

  3. "The danger of ill-motivated Church authorities"....Like Bugnini?

  4. Superb, thought provoking series; very impressed with the parallels of her life, the life of the Founder of our Faith, & the current state of affairs. Thank you for this series & this site!

  5. I have four daughters and a son.

    I think it's lamentable how many parents trust ecclesial and other authorities vis-a-vis their kids.

    Are men universally castrated these days?

    God must hate me for putting four daughters in my two hands, but in two hands they are not better put; I always have a legally-placed Glock on my hip.

  6. Peterman4:33 AM

    It amazes me today that people can read about St. Jeanne and not believe that the Holy Kingdom of France will be restored (St Jeanne insisted that France always be called "the Holy Kingdom of France"). Saint Jeanne was given a mission by God to save France. France today may be in terrible times today but she will be the first to return to her Catholic faith and just monarchical government. Many, many saints from all over the world have written about this event sometime in the future, it's very fascinating reading.

  7. As Fr. Humbert Clerissac, OP, is now rather widely quoted as having said:

    "It is easy to suffer for the Church. The difficult thing is to suffer at the hands of the Church."


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