Authors: Julian Barnes
In the third place, the summons is incorrectly drawn, since it refers to the woodworm who currently have their habitation in
the church of Saint-Michel in the village of Mamirolle. Does this mean every single
that is in the church? But there are many who live peaceable lives offering no threat whatsoever to the
. Must a whole village be summoned to court because there is a gang of robbers living within it? This is no sound law. Further, it is an established principle that defendants should be identified to the court. We have under examination two particular felonious acts, the injury to the leg of the Bishop’s throne, and the injury to the roof of the church, and it is plain from any scant knowledge of the nature of the animals being charged that those woodworm which currently make their habitation in the leg could not possibly have had anything to do with the roof, and that those woodworm which make their habitation in the roof cannot possibly have had anything to do with the leg. Thus it is that two parties are charged with two crimes without separation in the writ of party and crime, which renders the summons invalid for failure of specificity.
In the fourth place, and without prejudice to the aforesaid, I will argue that not only, as we have proposed, is it contrary to Man’s law and the Church’s law to try the
in this fashion, it is also contrary to God’s law. For whence came these tiny creatures against whom the solemn might of this court is being flung? Who created them? None other than Almighty God who created us all, the highest and the lowest. And do we not read in the first chapter of the sacred book of Genesis that God made the beast of the earth after his kind, the cattle after their kind, and every living thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind, and God saw that it was good? And further did not God give unto the beasts of the earth and unto every creeping thing every seed upon the face of the earth, and every tree upon the face of the earth, and every fruit of every tree as meat? And yet further, did he not give order unto them all to be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth? The Creator would not have instructed the beasts of the earth and every creeping thing to multiply had He not, in His infinite wisdom, provided them with food, which He did so, expressly giving the seeds and the fruit and the trees as meat. What have these humble
done since the
day of Creation but exercise the inalienable rights conferred on them at that time, rights which Man has no power to curtail or abrogate? That the woodworm make their habitation where they do may prove inconvenient to Man, but that is not sufficient reason to seek to rebel against the rules of Nature laid down at the Creation, such rebellion being a direct and insolent disobedience to the Creator. The Lord breathed life into the woodworm, and gave him the trees of the earth for meat: how presumptuous and how perilous it would be for us to seek to countermand the will of God. No, rather, I submit to the court that we should direct our attention not to the supposed felonies of God’s humblest creation, but to the felonies of man himself. God does nothing without a purpose, and the purpose in permitting the
to take up their habitation in the church of Saint-Michel can have been none other than as a warning and a punishment against the wickedness of mankind. That the woodworm were allowed to infest the church rather than any other building is, I further submit, an even more severe warning and punishment. Are those who come before the court as petitioners so certain of their obedience to God, so sure of their humility and Christian virtue that they would accuse the humblest animal before accusing themselves? Beware the sin of pride, I tell those petitioners. Cast out the beam from your own eye before you seek to extract the mote from the eye of another.
In the fifth and final place, the procurator
pour les habitans
asks the court to hurl against the
that bolt of lightning known as excommunication. It is my duty to submit to you, and without prejudice to any of the aforesaid, that such a punishment is both inappropriate and unlawful. Excommunication being the separation of the sinner from communion with God, a refusal to permit him to eat of the bread and drink of the wine that are the body and blood of Christ, a casting-out from the Holy Church and its light and its warmth, how therefore can it be lawful to excommunicate a beast of the field or a creeping thing from upon the earth which has never been a communicant of the Holy Church? It cannot be a fit and proper punishment to deprive a defendant of that which he has never possessed in the
first place. This makes bad law. And secondly, excommunication is a process of great terror, a casting of the sinner into fearsome darkness, an eternal separation of the sinner from the light and from the goodness of God. How can this be an appropriate punishment for a
which does not possess an immortal soul? How is it possible to condemn a defendant to eternal torment when he does not have eternal life? These animals cannot be expelled from the Church since they are not members of it, and as the Apostle Paul says, ‘Ye judge them that are within and not them also that are without.’
I ask, therefore, that the case be rejected and non-suited, and without prejudice to the foregoing, that the defendants be acquitted and exempted from all further prosecution.
Bartholomé Chassenée, Jurist
Réplique des habitans
Gentlemen, it does me honour to appear again before your solemn court, to plead for justice as did that poor offended mother who appeared before Solomon to claim her child. Like Ulysses against Ajax I shall fight the procurator for the
, who has produced before you many arguments as bedizened as Jezebel.
In the first place, he contends that this court has no power and jurisdiction to try the bestial felonies that have taken place at Mamirolle, and towards this end argues that we are no better in God’s eye than the woodworm, no higher and no lower, therefore we do not have the right to sit in judgment on them like Jupiter, whose temple was on the Tarpeian rock from whence were traitors flung. But I shall refute this as Our Lord turned the moneylenders out of the Temple at Jerusalem, and in this way. Is man not higher than the animals? Is it not clear from the holy book of Genesis that the animals, which were created before man, were so created in order to be subservient to his use? Did not the Lord give unto Adam dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that
moveth upon the earth? Did not Adam give the names to all the cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field? Was not the dominion of man over the animals asserted by the Psalmist and reiterated by the apostle Paul? And how may man have dominion over the animals and such dominion not include the right to punish them for their misdeeds? Furthermore, this right to sit in judgment over the animals, which the procurator for the
so actively denies, is specifically given to man by God himself, as appears in the sacred book of Exodus. Did not the Lord lay down unto Moses the sacred law of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth? And did he not continue thus, if an ox gore a man or a woman, that they die, then the ox shall be surely stoned, and his flesh shall not be eaten? Does the holy book of Exodus not thus make clear the law? And does it not go on further, that if one man’s ox hurt another’s, that he die, then they shall sell the live ox, and divide the money of it, and the dead ox also they shall divide? Has not the Lord laid it down thus, and given man the judgment over the animals?
In the second place, that the woodworm are to be excused trial because of their failure to attend court. But they have been correctly summoned in accordance with all due process. They have been summoned as the Jews were summoned to be taxed by Augustus Caesar. And did not the Israelites obey? Which among those present here would prevent the
from coming to court? My humble petitioners might have wished to do so, and to this end they might have sought to burn in the flames the leg of the throne that cast Hugo, Bishop of Besançon, into a state of imbecility by striking his head on the altar step, but like Christians stayed their hand, preferring instead to submit the matter to your solemn judgment. What enemy, therefore, might the accused
encounter? The distinguished procurator has made reference to cats eating rats. I was not aware, Gentlemen, that cats had taken to devouring woodworm on their way to court, yet no doubt I shall be corrected if I am in error. No, there is only one explanation of the refusal of the accused to appear before you, and that is a blind and most wilful disobedience, a hateful silence, a guilt
that blazes as the burning bush which did appear unto Moses, a bush which blazed but was not consumed, even as their guilt continues to blaze with every hour that they obstinately refuse to appear.
In the third place, it is argued that God created the woodworm even as he created Man, and that he gave him the seeds and the fruit and the trees as meat, and that whatever they might choose to eat therefore has the blessing of God. Which is indeed the main and essential pleading of the procurator for the
, and I hereby refute it thus. The sacred book of Genesis tells us that God in his infinite mercy and generosity gave unto the beasts of the field and unto the creeping things all the seeds and the fruit and the trees as meat. He gave the trees unto those creatures which have the instinct to devour trees, even though this might be a hindrance and a discomfort to Man. But He did not give them the cut wood. Where in the Holy Book of Genesis is it allowed that the creeping things of the earth may inhabit the cut wood? Did the Lord intend when He permitted a creature to burrow within the oak tree that the same creature had the right to burrow within the House of the Lord? Where in the Holy Scripture does the Lord give unto the animals the right to devour His temples? And does the Lord instruct His servants to pass by on the other side while His temples are devoured and His Bishops reduced to a state of imbecility? The pig that eats the holy sacramental wafer is hanged for its blasphemy, and the
that makes his own habitation in the habitation of the Lord is no less blasphemous.
Furthermore, and without prejudice to the foregoing, it has been argued that the Lord created the woodworm even as He created Man, and that therefore everything the Lord might do has the Lord’s blessing, however pestilential and maleficent it might be. But did the Almighty Lord, in His matchless wisdom and beneficence, create the weevil in order that it destroy our crops, and the woodworm in order that it destory the Lord’s house? The wisest doctors of our Church for many centuries have examined every verse of the Holy Scripture just as Herod’s soldiers searched for innocent children, and they have found no
chapter, no line, no phrase wherein there is mention of the woodworm. Therefore the question which I lay before the court as the essential question in this case is the following: was the woodworm ever upon Noah’s Ark? Holy writ makes no mention of the woodworm embarking upon or disembarking from the mighty vessel of Noah. And indeed how could it have been so, for was not the Ark constructed of wood? How can the Lord in his eternal wisdom have allowed on board a creature whose daily habits might cause the shipwreck and disastrous death of Man and all the beasts of the Creation? How could such a thing be so? Therefore, it follows that the woodworm was not upon the Ark, but is an unnatural and imperfect creature which did not exist at the time of the great bane and ruin of the Deluge. Whence its generation came, whether from some foul spontaneity or some malevolent hand, we know not, yet its hateful malice is evident. This vile creature has given over its body to the Devil and thereby put itself beyond the protection and shelter of the Lord. What greater proof could there be but the manner of its desecrations, the cunning odiousness with which it hurled Hugo, Bishop of Besançon, into imbecility? Was this not the work of the Devil, to proceed thus in darkness and secrecy for many years, and then make triumph of his foul purpose? Yet the procurator for the
argues that the woodworm have the blessing of the Lord in all that they do and all that they eat. He contends, therefore, that what they did in devouring the leg of the Bishop’s throne had the blessing of the Lord. He contends further that the Lord by his own hand smote down one of the Bishops of his own Holy Church just as He smote down Belshazzar, as He smote down Amalek, as He smote down the Midianites, as He smote down the Canaanites, as He smote down Sihon the Amorite. Is this not a vile blasphemy which the court must extirpate even as Hercules did cleanse the stables of Augeas?
And in the fourth place, it is contended that the court does not have the power and the right to pronounce the decree of excommunication. But this is to deny the very authority conferred by God upon his dear spouse, the Church, whom He
has made sovereign of the whole world, having put all things under Her feet, as the Psalmist affirms, all sheep and oxen, the beasts of the field, the fowl of the air, the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. Guided by the Holy Spirit, the Church can do nothing wrong. Indeed, do we not read in our sacred texts of serpents and poisonous reptiles whose venom has been conjured from them? Do we not read in the sacred book of Ecclesiastes that ‘Surely the serpent will bite without enchantment’? Therefore it is in holy concord with God’s teaching that the Church has for centuries used its mighty but righteous power to hurl anathemata and excommunication against those noxious animals whose foul presence is an offence to the eye of the Lord. Did not David’s maledictions on the mountains of Gilboa cause the rain and the dew to cease there? Did not Jesus Christ the son of God ordain that every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit should be hewn down and cast into the fire? And if an irrational thing shall be destroyed because it does not produce fruit, how much more is it permitted to curse it, since the greater penalty includes the less:
cum si liceat quid est plus, debet licere quid est minus
. Was not the serpent cursed in the Garden of Eden, making it to crawl upon its belly for the rest of its life? And when the town of Aix was infested by serpents which inhabited the warm baths and killed many of the inhabitants by biting them, did not the holy Bishop of Grenoble excommunicate the serpents, whereupon they departed? And thus did the Bishop of Lausanne free Lake Leman from the infestation of eels. And thus did the same Bishop expel from the waters of the same lake those blood-suckers which fed on the salmon which the devout were wont to consume on fast-days. And did not Egbert, Bishop of Trier, anathematize the swallows whose chirping interrupted the prayers of the devout? And did not St Bernard likewise and for like reason excommunicate swarms of flies, which on the morrow, like Sennacherib’s host, were all dead corpses? And did not the crozier of St Magnus, the apostle of Algau, expel and exterminate all manner of rats, mice and cockchafers? Therefore is it not right and established that this court may cast the bolt of
excommunication upon these defilers and assassins of God’s holy temple? The procurator for the
argues that since a woodworm has no immortal soul it cannot be excommunicated. But have we not shown, firstly, that the woodworm is no natural beast, having not been on the Ark of Noah, and secondly, that the actions for which it has been summoned to appear before the court are clear evidence that it has been taken over by a malign spirit, namely that of Lucifer? How much more necessary, therefore, is the order of excommunication which I hereby beg and demand from this court.