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A perversion of truth originating in the deceitfulness of one party, and culminating in the damage of another party

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Falsity (Lat. Falsitas), a perversion of truth originating in the deceitfulness of one party, and culminating in the damage of another party. Counterfeiting money, or attempting to coin genuine legal tender without due authorization; tampering with wills, codicils, or such-like legal instruments; prying into the correspondence of others to their prejudice; using false weights and measures; adulterating merchandise, so as to render saleable what purchasers would otherwise never buy, or so as to derive larger profits from goods otherwise marketable only at lower figures; bribing judges; suborning witnesses; advancing false testimony; manufacturing spurious seals; forging signatures; padding accounts; interpolating the texts of legal enactments; and sharing in the pretended birth of supposititious offspring are among the chief forms which this crime assumes. The punishment determined by the laws of former times for those convicted of it could scarcely savor of greater severity, or awaken a deeper horror of the crime itself. In the first place, the Roman law inflicted the death penalty on such evil-doers as were found guilty of falsifying imperial rescripts. Traces of this kind of legislation are still to be found in the Bull of Pius IX, “Apostolicae Sedis”, wherein the Holy See promulgates the sentence of excommunication specially reserved to the sovereign pontiff against all who dare to forge or interpolate Bulls, Briefs, and Rescripts of all kinds formulated in the name of the Holy Father, and signed either by the pope personally, by his vice-chancellor personally, or by his vice-chancellor’s proxy, or by some other individual specially commissioned thereunto by the sovereign pontiff himself.

Moreover, whosoever are guilty of publishing surreptitious or supposititious papal Bulls, Briefs, or Rescripts, of the kind already specified, render themselves amenable to the same ecclesiastical penalty. This sentence of excommunication takes effect as soon as the work of falsification becomes an accomplished fact, even though the false letters never pass into actual use. At the same time it must be noted, in passing, that as often as there is question of forging Apostolic Letters, the censure is not incurred prior to the actual publication of such letters. Those who are guilty, not of falsifying Apostolic Letters, but of deliberately using such as are already forged or interpolated, or of cooperating in such traffic, incur the censure of excommunication reserved to the ordinary of the diocese. According to D’Annibale (Commentary on the Constitution “Apostolicae Sedis”, n. 81) those who retain forged or interpolated Apostolic Letters in their possession, those who order the production of such letters, their advisers, abettors, or cooperators, are not liable to the sentence of excommunication.

In cases other than those here outlined, the enormity of the crime was emphasized by the civil law in confiscating the property of culprits and condemning them to perpetual exile. Though time has by no means lessened the intrinsic heinousness of the crime itself, it has witnessed considerable mitigation in the penalty thereunto attached; the discretion of the judge hearing the case is now the chief factor in determining the nature and the extent of punishment. While vicissitudes of time and place may suggest the expediency of modifications in the exigencies of positive law, there still remains an obligation which conscience always imposes on those guilty of this crime, an obligation founded in justice, and therefore quite independent of changes occurring in time or place. For this reason it is right to claim that as soon as the actual perpetration of this disorder begets injury to another party, the perpetrator of such damage is strictly bound in conscience to make good all such losses caused, or occasioned, by his fraud or deceit. This teaching meets with the unstinted approbation of moralists, notwithstanding the plausibility of a theory purporting to inculpate those who advance false testimony, but lifting from their shoulders the burden of repairing damages due to such false evidence. (See Forgery.)


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