And then there are cases where the jury's decision is widely disputed. We are overly familiar today with trials which do not end public debate over the guilt or innocence of the parties involved, but these trials are not new. Current debates on network news, talk radio, blogs, and the like echo the extraordinary publicity surrounding some trials and the famous pamphlet wars of the past. These usually concerned cases which had significance beyond simple sexual impropriety, but the discussions often obsessively treat the sexual behavior of the participants.
The case between Catherine Cadière and her spiritual director, Jean-Baptiste Girard, was a famous and closely-followed scandal of its time. She accused him of seduction, "spiritual incest" (that is, introducing sex into a religious relationship of power), witchcraft, and heresy. The case was so notorious that the Crown intervened, ordering the Parlement of Aix to try the complaint. Of course, the case and trial were titillating. Clerical impropriety has always been fascinating, and this case included more than its share of perverse behavior as well as more mundane sexual relations. The controversy also embodied a deep political and religious division in France centering on the role of the Society of Jesus, the Jansenists, and the monarchy. As it happened, trying the case did not settle it; the Parlement issued a split decision. Twelve of the judges decided that Girard should be burned; the other twelve called for Cadière to be hanged.