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St. Joan of Arc QUESTION from Jeff London April 5, 2000 I recently watched the movie Joan of Arc and was told previously that it was a pretty accurate movie portrayal of what really happened. In the movie you get the intention that the church was really against Joan and her communications with God's angels. The church was not protective of Joan and set her free to be executed by the state. This makes the church, or at least, it’s members at that time, look bad. Is this really how it happened ? If not-please explain. The Church is holy because of Christ, not it's members. Is this a case of corrupt members in an incorrupt church? Was it part of God's plan to make Joan a martyr to accomplish what needed to be accomplished?
In Christ's love, Jeff
ANSWER by Mrs. Suzanne Fortin, B.A. on April 9, 2000 Dear Jeff
I only watched a few segments of one of the two recent Joan of Arc movies. The one I saw I thought looked like a sensationalist piece of trash written by people who didn’t really know the Catholic faith and weren’t sympathetic towards it. Joan did not have an aura of sanctity in the least, which is what you would expect from network television. Personally, I never trust mainstream media to ever get anything right about history. They do not recapture the soul of the past.
Joan of Arc was prosecuted for heresy by Bishop Cauchon, whose interests were with the English. Bishop Cauchon’s diocese, Beauvais, was in Burgundy, a duchy that was allied with the English. They wanted to destroy Joan of Arc because they knew she had been the force behind the recent victories of the French. So the whole trial was politically motivated from start to finish. Joan wasn’t even allowed to have an advocate. During her trial, she was interrogated so as to confuse her into saying something that could be interpreted as heretical. She wanted to appeal to the pope, but her request was ignored. Finally she signed a long document making a retraction, the terms of which were not clearly laid out to her. By agreeing to the retraction, she essentially renounced that her voices had been authentic. As she couldn’t read, she didn’t really know what she was signing. One of the terms of the retraction was that she was not to wear male attire. To do so would be considered a relapse into heresy, which is absolutely ridiculous. A few days after the retraction, she put on male attire, as she had always done, in order to protect her modesty. She was dragged before the Inquisition then relaxed to the secular arm.
It wasn’t that there was no one in the Church who would have protected her. She was in the hands of the English and Burgundians, who wanted her destroyed. They would not have allowed any cleric to come to her defense. They wanted to stack the cards against her.
Twenty-four years later, the Pope held a rehabilitation trial and annulled the sentence of heresy.
I think everything that happens in this world happens to fulfill God’s Will. All evils happen either to prevent a greater evil, or to allow a greater good. In this case, Joan was allowed to suffer this injustice in order to bear witness to the Faith. When asking why injustices happen, we should always try to see the good that come of them, or the evil prevented by them. While evil will always remain a mystery, it doesn’t have to be a complete mystery.
Thanks for your question.
God Bless, Suzanne Fortin
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