Pope John XXII's decree against alchemyIn 1317 Pope John XXII issued a decree against the alchemists De Crimine Falsi Titulus VI. I Joannis XXII. [circa annum 1317 Avenioni]
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The Crime of Falsification.
Poor themselves, the alchemists promise riches which are not forthcoming; wise also in their own conceit they fall into the ditch which they themselves have digged. For there is no doubt that the professors of this art of alchemy make fun of each other because, conscious of their own ignorance, they are surprised at those who say anything of this kind about themselves; when the truth sought does not come to them they fix on a day [for their experiment] and exhaust all their arts; then they dissimulate [their failure] so that finally, though there is no such thing in nature, they pretend to make genuine gold and silver by a sophistic transmutation; to such an extent does their damned and damnable temerity go that they stamp upon the base metal the characters of public money for believing eyes, and it is only in this way that they deceive the ignorant populace as to the alchemic fire of their furnace. Wishing to banish such practices for all time, we have determined by this formal edict that whoever shall make gold or silver of this kind or shall order it made, provided the attempt actually follows, or whoever shall knowingly assist those engaged (actually) in such a process, or whoever shall knowingly make use of such gold or silver either by selling it or giving it for debt, shall be compelled as a penalty to pay into the public treasury, to be used for the poor, as much by weight of genuine gold and silver as there may be of alchemic metal, provided it be proved lawfully that they have been guilty in any of the aforesaid ways; for those who persist in making alchemic gold, or, as has been said, in using it knowingly, let them be branded with the mark of perpetual infamy. But if the means of the delinquents are not sufficient for the payment of the amount stated, then the good judgment of the justice may commute this penalty into some other (as, for example, imprisonment, or another punishment, according to the nature of the case, the difference of individuals, and other circumstances). Those, however, who in their regrettable folly go so far as not only the sell moneys thus made but even despise the precepts of the natural law, pass the bounds of their art and violate the laws by deliberately coining or casting or having others coin or cast counterfeit money from alchemic gold or silver, we proclaim as coming under this animadversion, and their goods shall be confiscate, and they shall be considered as criminals. And if the delinquents are clerics, besides the aforesaid penalties they shall be deprived of any benefices they shall hold and shall be declared incapable of holding further benefices.