The Reformations Series – what’s next

What is the old advice about eating an elephant? One bite at a time. So far I have been able to keep up and ahead of things on this Saturday morning feature “The Reformations.” The elephant bit back in terms of parochial responsibilities, some other projects that need attention, and some need to gather notes and such for what lays ahead.

What lays ahead? There will be more on the Swiss Reformation focused on Zwingli and the movement in Zurich, the rise of the Anabaptist movement, its persecution by Zwingli, and its movement into the Low Countries and beyond. Other reformations that need more detailed attention include: England, France and the rise of Calvinism, John Calvin in Geneva, and the spread of Calvinism throughout Europe.  Two other topics that need attention are the Catholic Counter Reformation as well as the religious-political wars and resulting treaties.

Now you know one of my summer projects. So….. this will be the last of the Reformation posts for a while. I hope you’ve enjoyed it so far.

The Reformation in Switzerland

The Swiss Milieu. The Reformation is Switzerland progressed in a different way from Germany. Where Germany had no central monarch or government, Switzerland already had a republic in essential operation via the Old Swiss Confederacy. Their governance was an odd rotating administration of the common lands which was alternately a cause of tension and a source of “we need to figure this out.” Continue reading

Luther, Indulgences, and their legacy

One of the tipping points for Martin Luther was the “sale of indulgence” by the papal-appointed Dominican Friar, Johann Tetzel, In his 95 Theses Luther strongly disputed the claim that Indulgences could provide freedom from God’s punishment for sin much less be purchased. The last seven days of posts have not addressed the theological issues presented in the German Reformation – not that they are not important – but more such information is easily obtained on the internet from any variety of sources. The previous posts were intended to focus on the milieu of factors already present in Germany, a variety of interests and passions outside Luther’s control or influence, and why Luther succeeded where other Reformers had not. But I thought I should at least give some perspective on indulgences. They were abused then as well as misunderstood then and still misunderstood today. Far too many Catholics need to know their faith better lest they become Pelagians or Semi-Pelagians as regards Indulgences. (Be curious …. go ahead click the links!) Continue reading

German Reform: too late

There is an old expression: the enemy of my enemy is my friend. That did not apply in the German Reformation. The enemy (Rome) was Luther’s best friend. Rome was their own worst enemy.

When Leo X announced the renewal of indulgences in order to finance St. Peter’s Basilica, there were a plethora of voices from Emperor Maxillian to his own Roman Curia who warned the pope that the idea was feeding accelerant into a smoldering fire of revolution among the German social classes. His own Papal Nuncio to Germany reported to Pope Leo that the Germans were only waiting for “some fool” to open his mouth against Rome. Some fool did: John Tetzel attempted to peddle indulgences in Saxony where the Elector of Saxony had already forbidden their sale. In the eyes of the German princes, nobles, knights and Burghers, Rome had infringed upon Saxony’s territorial rights. And Rosa Parks would not give up her seat on the bus. This infringement of rights was not the initiating act, it was the hinge, the tipping point. Continue reading

Going Viral in 1520

The development of the printing press, furthermore, aided Luther’s success. For all the reasons described in previous posts, the time was ripe for change. There was no other European nation that was more ready – it just needed a tipping point. Many point to the printing press as the tipping point, but the real tipping point was that Luther quickly moved to publishing in the German language. His ideas were no longer limited to the intellectual elites and Church scholars. He bypassed that “battlefield” and attacked in a language all  the people – high and low-born alike could understand – German. Continue reading

German Reform: vested interests

The previous post pointed to the broad resentment of German society to the eternal taxation be it from the Church or from the Imperial Courts of the Emperor. There were other economic factors also in view: land, wealth and revenue. But consider the latter category. Perhaps revenue is from the sale of land, animals, crops, or other items; but perhaps revenue is the very stream of taxes causing the resentment – and your class thinks it belong to them. One person’s vested interest may very well be another’s burden. Continue reading

German Reform: princes, patricians, and peasants

In a previous post we introduced the dynamic of taxation as one element of the German Reformation. But who was specifically the target of Imperial and Papal fund raisers? To answer that one needs to consider the social strata of all who would be caught in the taxing nets of the “outsiders” – the Pope and his ostensibly all-Italian Curial mafia, or, the gapping maw of the Holy Roman imperial court. Continue reading

The dominoes begin to tumble

In the conclave after the death of the Medici Pope Leo X, Leo’s cousin, Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici, was the leading figure. With Spanish and French cardinals in a deadlock, the conclave looked to an absent prelate as a compromise candidate, Adriaan Florensz Boeyens of the Netherlands, a former tutor of the HRE Charles V.  On 9 January 1522 he was elected by an almost unanimous vote. He is the only Dutchman to become pope and he was the last non-Italian pope until the Polish John Paul II 455 years later. Adrian had never been to Italy and actually inquired where he could hire lodging for his stay in Rome as pope. He was sure to be dismissed and hated by the people of Rome. Continue reading

German Reform: taxation

As noted in an earlier post, the “Investiture Controversy” was not simply about who named and appointed a bishop or abbot. It was about power, politics and profits. Nationalized churches and the supremacy of the state over church affairs existed in France, Spain, and England long before Luther. Italy and Germany, however, did not experience this trend toward a nationalized church since they lacked effective national monarchies – both of these “countries” were highly divided

The monarchies of France and England had little money diverted from their treasuries to Rome. In Germany, on the other hand, clerical and papal abuses would supply ample incentive for religious reformers. Anti-clericalism and anti-papalism were bound to flourish in a society that allowed the clergy excessive power and wealth. The German Experience was much different. Continue reading

Leo X – the Protestant Break

Born Giovanni di Lorenzo de’ Medici, he was the second son of Lorenzo the Magnificent of Florence. Early in his pontificate he oversaw the majority of and the closing sessions of the Fifth Council of the Lateran, but failed sufficiently to implement the reforms agreed. He is probably best remembered for granting indulgences for those who donated to reconstruct St. Peter’s Basilica, which practice was challenged by Martin Luther’s 95 Theses. He seems not to have taken seriously the array of demands for church reform that would quickly grow into the Protestant Reformation. His Papal Bull of 1520, Exsurge Domine, simply condemned Luther on a number of areas and made ongoing engagement difficult. Continue reading