Recantation means a personal public act of denial of a previously published opinion or belief. It is derived from the Latin retractionem (the nominative form of the verb retractio or the past participle of the noun retractareto, meaning "to pull back").
Philosophically recantation it is linked to a genuine change of opinion, often caused by a serious event which reveals a better or more complete representation of a presumed truth. For example, Recantation was the title of a 16th-century book by Bishop Augustine of Hippo correcting his former writings as an ordinary teacher of rhetoric prior to his becoming a cleric which he described as "a recantation of opinion with admission of error".
In classical Roman poetry, after deliberately describing something extravagantly or hyperbolically for memorable dramatic effect, recantation was used to briefly redefine the material subject fairly and honestly.
- Heresy (wrong choice) which means questioning or doubting dogmatic established beliefs
- Blasphemy (evil-speaking) which is the act of insulting or showing contempt for a religious deity.
- Apostasy which implies either revolt against or renunciation or abandonment of a prescribed religious duty, especially disloyalty sedition and defection
In the Roman Catholic Church, the Inquisition, Holy Office, or even on rare occasion the contemporary Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) required an act of renunciation to enforce an orthodoxy.
In a theocracy an order to recant may include threats of physical punishment such as prison or corporal punishment which may include death or lethal cruelty such as the burning at the stake suffered by Jeanne d'Arc.
- In this country of England it is thought well to kill an admiral from time to time to encourage the others!