« PreviousContinue »
yielded implicit obedience to the orders from Rome. In all matters domestic or foreign of every nation, the Priesthood, through its influence over the minds of men, exercised irresistible sway. The Pope, as the chief of this powerful Hierarchy, was nothing else for several centuries than the Dictator of Europe.
In 1229, a secret ecclesiastical tribunal was organized by Gregory IX. called the Inquisition, before which any person accused of heresy was brought, and often condemned to torture or to death. This odious institution, which sacrificed thousands of lives, was established in most of the States of Europe, and was only abolished in Spain, its last stronghold, when Napoleon entered in 1808.
A few historical facts will illustrate the vast extent of the Papal power during the Middle Ages. In 1200, Innocent III. laid an interdict on France. An interdict declared the whole Nation out of the pale of the Church. In 1208, the same Pope laid an interdict on England. He also pronounced sentences of deposition from the throne against King John of England and Otho IV. of Germany; and to escape the consequences, John acknowledged himself the vassal of the Pope. In 1245, Innocent IV. excommunicated and deposed the Emperor of Germany. In 1294, Boniface VIII. was arbiter between the Kings of France and England. Over two hundred Over two hundred years later, we find Julius II., in 1503, giving permission to Prince Henry of England, afterwards Henry VIII., to marry Catherine of Arragon.
Up to this period Papal domination was so complete that Bishops and Cardinals frequently acted as Ministers of State in the various Kingdoms of Europe,
and sometimes appeared at the head of armies. It may be supposed that the Monarchs of Europe, whose absolute power none contested save the Popes, constantly resisted the dictation of Rome, but such was the superstition of all classes that the Monarchs were compelled, however reluctantly, to submit.
At various intervals attempts at rebellion against the Church of Rome were made.
As early as the eleventh century a band of heretics appeared in the south of France called the Albigenses. They had adopted the doctrines of the Manicheans, that is, the opposing principles of good and evil.
Another sect called the Waldenses appeared also in the south of France in the twelfth century. They attacked the morals of the Clergy, and proposed to translate the Scriptures into the current tongue. The Papacy became alarmed at these symptoms of disaffection, and Alexander III. began by excommunicating the disturbers. A little later, 1204, Innocent III. preached a Crusade against these rebels to the Mother-church, and an army was organized, which, under different leaders, committed terrible atrocities, killing thousands of the heretics, and dispersing the rest.
In the beginning of the fourteenth century, Walter Lollard, said to be an Englishman, appeared in Germany. He attacked the doctrines of the Roman Church, and declared that all its ceremonies were the inventions of the Priests. He was arrested, condemned by the Inquisition, and burnt at Cologne, 1322. He left 20,000 followers, called the Lollards.
In the middle of the same century, in England, Wickliffe made a furious onslaught on the Church of Rome. Being deprived of his place as Principal of the College of Canterbury by the Archbishop, he appealed
to the Pope, who decided against him. Exasperated at this he made war on the Papal power, assailing in turn all the essential tenets of the Church. He denied the Necessity of Confession; the Damnation of Children who died before Baptism; the Efficacy of Indulgences; the Supremacy of the See of Rome; the Hierarchy; the Right of the Clergy and Monks to Property. The King, Edward III., whom Wickliffe had sustained against the Pope, favored him, but the Pope, Gregory II., ordered the Archbishop of Canterbury to arrest him. Cited before a Council called by the Archbishop, he escaped a condemnation through the influence of one of the Royal Princes, the Duke of Lancaster. A second Council held in London, 1382, condemned ten of his declarations as heresy, but the Clergy could proceed no further, as Wickliffe was under the Royal protection.
In the beginning of the following century, 1409, John Huss, who was the Confessor of the Queen of Bohemia, adopted with great ardor the Anti-Papal opinions of Wickliffe, and began attacking the authority of the Pope, and denouncing the vices of the Clergy; the Excommunications; the Indulgences; the Worship of the Virgin and the Saints. He was excommunicated by the Pope, Alexander V., and summoned before the Council of Constance, where he was condemned as a heretic. Refusing to retract, he was sentenced to be burnt, 1414. He died with intrepidity, persisting in his opposition. His followers were so numerous that they took up arms, and a civil war ensued which lasted many years.
Another rebellious sect called the Moravian Brothers appeared some years later, and increased in spite of great persecution.
LUTHER, CALVIN, AND KNOX.
In the early part of the sixteenth century came Luther, who by his courage and ability succeeded in establishing a Schism in the Roman Church that was destined to be permanent. There is no doubt the success of Luther was facilitated by the efforts of Wickliffe and John Huss. Moreover, the superstition of previous centuries was gradually melting away, and the dread of Papal denunciation was fast disappearing. A spirit of Scepticism united to a hatred of the Papal power had long been fermenting in the German mind; and it only wanted an occasion, above all some resolute man, to evoke it, when it was sure to break forth and assume formidable proportions.
Luther was the son of a poor miner. He joined the Augustine Monks, and then became a Professor of the University. The Pope, Leo X., to raise money* ordered the sale throughout Christendom of Indulgences for Sin, 1517, and gave this privilege to the Dominican Monks of Germany. The Augustine Monks, irritated at this preference, urged Luther to attack this wholesale distribution of Indulgences. He engaged zealously
*This money was at first intended for a Crusade against the Turks, but was employed to finish the church of St. Peter at Rome. Leo X. was a liberal patron of letters, arts, and sciences. During this brilliant epoch flourished Ariosto, Macchiavelli, Michael Angelo, and Raphael.
in the work, and published a powerful denunciation of this Papal scandal, which reverberated through Germany. The chief of the Dominicans publicly burnt Luther's book, and the Pope summoned him to Rome. He refused to go, and the Legate of the Pope at Augsburg demanded a retraction. As he spurned this summons his arrest was ordered, but he escaped, and protected by the Elector of Saxony he launched into a fierce assault on the Church.
He was wonderfully endowed for such a contest. His nature was aggressive and turbulent; his eloquence earnest and soul-stirring; and his industry indefatigable. With the impetuosity of a torrent he wrote and harangued incessantly. Repudiating all authority but the Holy Scriptures, he denounced the Papacy; the Roman Church; Monastic Vows; the Celibacy of Priests; the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy; the Possession of Property by the Clergy. He likewise rejected the Worship of the Saints; the dogmas of Purgatory, of Confession, and the Mass; only recognizing Baptism and the Eucharist of two Kinds.
Leo X. proscribed him by a Bull of Excommunication, 1520, and ordered his writings to be burnt. In return, Luther publicly burnt the Pope's Bull at Wittemberg, with all the decisions of the Holy See. Summoned before the Diet at Worms, 1521, be went there provided with a safe-conduct from the Emperor of Germany, Charles V., and refusing to retract, he was declared under the ban of the Empire. He escaped from Worms, and was concealed for nine months in a Palace of his protector, the Elector of Saxony. 'He devoted this period, 1522, to a translation of the Bible into the German language.