Haeretico Comburendo

Haeretico comburendo a writ which, in England, "anciently lay against a heretic, who, having once been convicted of heresy by his bishop, and having abjured it, afterwards falling into it again, or into some other,: is thereupon committed to the secular power. This writ is thought by some to be as ancient as the common law itself; however, the conviction of heresy by the common law was not in any petty ecclesiastical court, but before the archbishop himself, in a provincial synod, and the delinquent was delivered up to the king, to do" with-him as he pleased; so that the crown had a control over the spiritual power; but by 2 Henry IV cap. 15, the diocesan alone, without the intervention of a synod, might convict of heretical tenets; and unless the convict abjured his opinions, or if, after abjuration, he relapsed, the sheriff was bound, ex officio, if required by the bishop, to commit the unhappy victim to the flames, without waiting for the consent of the crown. This writ remained in force, and was actually executed on two Anabaptists in the seventh of Elizabeth, and on two Arians in the ninth of James I. Sir Edward Coke was of opinion that this writ did not lie in his time; but it is now formally taken away by statute. 29 Car. II, cap. 9. But this statute does not extend to take away or abridge the jurisdiction of Protestant archbishops, or bishops, or any other judges of any ecclesiastical courts, in cases of atheism, blasphemy, heresy, or schism; but they may prove and punish the same, according to his majesty's ecclesiastical laws, by excommunication, deprivation, degradation, and other ecclesiastical censures. not extending to death, in such sort, and no other, as they might have done before the making of this act." Buck, Theological Dictionary, s.v.

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