Contumacy Explained

Contumacy Explained

Contumacy, from the Latin contumacy, is the tenacity and hardness of persisting in an error. The term is used in the law linked to rebellion, when a defendant refuses to appear in court.

The defendant, therefore, incurs default when he does not attend the court to acquit those charges that are formulated in an instruction. The contumacy requires the imputation of a crime and that the accused has knowledge of the prosecution of him: by disobeying the court order and not going to court, he becomes contumacious.

Default can be understood as the will of the accused to distance himself from the judicial process, which prevents his effective judgment. Faced with this attitude, the court may decree the defendant’s contumacy, who from that moment may be detained with the aim of being brought back to the process.

According to, the qualification of a defendant as stubborn implies an attitude assumed by the latter towards the judicial process. Its absence supposes a behavior that transmits an opposition to the concretion of the implicit steps in any process faced by the Justice.

The judges, in any case, must analyze the causes that produce the absence of the defendant to confirm if the default has occurred or if the absence is linked to other reasons.

In the processes of the Inquisition, the condition of one who fled or who was not present when the court required it was known as contumacy or Contumatia. For inquisitorial law, default proved the defendant ‘s guilt.

Default was one of the many concepts related to inquisitorial law, which was characterized by applying the legal principle of informality, which allowed the judge or court to actively participate in the process, adding their own claims and allegations before issuing a sentence ; At present, the contradictory principle (also called device or accusatory) is used, which guarantees that each part of the legal body fulfills different functions and that they do not overlap.

A person accused of witchcraft or heresy was not necessarily condemned to burn at the stake, although this did not mean that there were no consequences to the persecution of the Inquisition. Depending on his position on the inquisitorial error, a Christian could occupy one of the following categories: abiuratio, protestatio, relapsia, purgatio, contumatia (contumacy) and pertinatia. Let’s see below what each one consisted of:

* protestio: for some historians, it is the first legal institution to anticipate the inquisition. When submitting a literary work to a printing press, for example, writers included a preemptive self-criticism, the protestio, which was made up of the professio fidei, the cautio, and the declaratio. In summary, the authors stated that they belonged to the Catholic Church and followed its mandates, declared that they were unaware if part of their works lacked the precepts of religion, and accepted the potential consequences of their errors (such as the correction of part of their texts);

* purgatio: it was a public oath originating in Rome that was made in front of witnesses who shared the same social status and that arose as a direct consequence of a complaint (la defamatio) and the consequent suspicion of the inquisitor (la suspicia): when the defamed person she was not purged, she was excommunicated and considered stubborn;

* abiuratio: when the accused person recognized his fault and declared himself repentant or publicly rejected the commission of the heresy;

* relapsia: the condition of one who committed heresy, ending without exception in a sentence of death;

* pertinatia: if the accused person insisted on error, on heresy, he was considered pertinacious and, as was the case with relapsia, the death sentence was inevitable.