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The Politics of Inquisitorial Accountability

It is to ask, again, ‘Who, whom?’. Who is it that exacts what from whom? What is exacted and how; how stable is the relation between the giver and receiver of the account; how is it achieved? There are two ways in which the inquisitorial procedure described here is coercive with respect to a bishop’s office. One aspect is that forms of accountability (always) play an important role in constructing and reinforcing norms of office. Norms frame the terms of disputes about the proper discharge of a role—because the transgression of the norms implicit or explicit in that role is what the dispute hangs on. Even if York Minster ultimately felt it could press its case no further at the Curia in 1196, it had been successful in securing an inquisition into Geoffrey’s conduct by appealing to recognizable episcopal norms which it said he had traduced. A second aspect of coercion is more basic still and has already been implied: successfully requiring that one person account to another is itself an act of coercion, and itself a political achievement.97 Procedure was needed to uphold right norms, but also needed to be politically practicable: laws, ethics, politics. Innocent III in fact articulated a three-part test of this sort to gauge when the papacy’s dispensing power could be used. Such decisions, he said, needed to follow ‘what is allowed (liceat) according to equity, what is appropriate (deceat) according to morality, and what is expedient (expediat) according to utility’.98 Canonical inquisitions offered answers of considerable sophistication and interest to each of these aspects.

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