|Giordano Bruno by Zdenek Janda
“Of human faculties in general, you will find that each is unable to contemplate itself, and therefore to approve or disapprove itself. How far does the proper sphere of grammar extend? As far as the judging of language. Of music? As far as the judging of melody. Does either of them contemplate itself, then? By no means.
“Thus, for instance, when you are to write to your friend, grammar will tell you what to write; but whether you are to write to your friend at all, or no, grammar will not tell you. Thus music, with regard to tunes; but whether it be proper or improper, at any particular time, to sing or play, music will not tell you. What will tell, then? That faculty which contemplates both itself and all other things.
“And what is that?
“The Reasoning Faculty (ἡ δύναμις ἡ λογική); for that alone is found able to place an estimate upon itself, – what it is, what are its powers, what its value and likewise all the rest. For what is it else that says, gold is beautiful? since the gold itself does not speak. Evidently, that faculty which judges of the appearances of things. What else distinguishes music, grammar, the other faculties, proves their uses, and shows their proper occasions? Nothing but this.
As it was fit, then, this most excellent and superior faculty alone, a right use of the appearances of things, the Gods have placed in our own power; but all other matters they have not placed in our power.
[Epictetus, Discourses (Λόγοι), I.1]
The Greek word hairesis (αἵρεσις) literally means “choice”. Throughout antiquity this term was used to refer to a school of thought, especially to the various philosophical “schools” such as Platonism, Stoicism, Pythagoreanism, Epicureanism, etc, and their sub-branches. Far from being pejorative, this usage of haeresis was not even value neutral, but actually had a distinctly positive connotation in that it referred to respected, established “schools” that had been founded by honored historical figures who were viewed as great sages. In fact, the founders of the main philosophical schools were often accorded openly religious reverence.
Christians adopted the term haeresis for their own purposes and imbued it with a new and very different, negative, meaning. It is this later Christian usage that is the origin of our English word “heresy”. The modern use of the term, however, has actually undergone significant further evolution, and, in fact, now has something like the opposite of its traditional Christian meaning, and has even come, in an odd sort of way, closer to its earlier, Pagan meaning. The three different uses of the term heresy just described are given, schematically, below:
1. Respected and established school of thought. (Pagan philosophical usage)
2. Non-Christian teaching ultimately of Satanic origin, although possibly masquerading as a false and deceptive “interpretation” of the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles. (traditional Christian usage)
3. Genuinely Christian teaching, possibly imperfect but nevertheless based on at least partially valid interpretations of the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles. (modern Christian usage)
The remainder of this post will focus on clarifying the second meaning of “heresy” as given above (labeled as the “traditional Christian usage”).
First we’ll have a look at two early heresiologists, Irenaeus and Eusebius, with special attention to their condemnation of Simon Magus, Menander, and the Ebionite sect. Second up is Dante’s description of the Sixth Ring of Hell, that special realm of Eternal Damnation reserved exclusively and explicitly for “heretics”. Third comes Pope Leo X’s condemnation of the heretic Martin Luther. Fourth, just to be fair and balanced, will be some selections from the writings of John Calvin on the Roman Church. These examples will all serve to demonstrate without any ambiguity with what purport Christians have used the term “heresy” throughout most of their bloody, intolerant history.
Part I. Ireneaus & Eusebius on Simon Magus, Menander, and the Ebionites
Part II. Dante: Heretics as the Outcasts of Heaven
Part III. Pope Leo X on the Heretic Martin Luther
Part IV. John Calvin’s characterizations of the Roman Church
I. Irenaeus and Eusebius
Irenaeus (born 2nd century, died c. 202) and Eusebius (c.263-339) were among the early masters of the dark art of Christian Heresiology.
♦ Irenaeus, Against All Heresies, 1:23.
1. Simon the Samaritan was that magician of whom Luke, the disciple and follower of the apostles, says, But there was a certain man, Simon by name, who beforetime used magical arts in that city, and led astray the people of Samaria, declaring that he himself was some great one, to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This is the power of God, which is called great. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had driven them mad by his sorceries. Acts 8:9-11 This Simon, then— who feigned faith, supposing that the apostles themselves performed their cures by the art of magic, and not by the power of God; and with respect to their filling with the Holy Ghost, through the imposition of hands, those that believed in God through Him who was preached by them, namely, Christ Jesus— suspecting that even this was done through a kind of greater knowledge of magic, and offering money to the apostles, thought he, too, might receive this power of bestowing the Holy Spirit on whomsoever he would.
4. Thus, then, the mystic priests belonging to this sect both lead profligate lives and practise magical arts, each one to the extent of his ability. They use exorcisms and incantations. Love-potions, too, and charms, as well as those beings who are called Paredri (familiars) and Oniropompi (dream-senders), and whatever other curious arts can be had recourse to, are eagerly pressed into their service. They also have an image of Simon fashioned after the likeness of Jupiter, and another of Helena in the shape of Minerva; and these they worship. In fine, they have a name derived from Simon, the author of these most impious doctrines, being called Simonians; and from them knowledge, falsely so called, 1 Timothy 6:20 received its beginning, as one may learn even from their own assertions.
5. The successor of this man was Menander, also a Samaritan by birth, and he, too, was a perfect adept in the practice of magic. He affirms that the primary Power continues unknown to all, but that he himself is the person who has been sent forth from the presence of the invisible beings as a saviour, for the deliverance of men. The world was made by angels, whom, like Simon, he maintains to have been produced by Ennœa. He gives, too, as he affirms, by means of that magic which he teaches, knowledge to this effect, that one may overcome those very angels that made the world; for his disciples obtain the resurrection by being baptized into him, and can die no more, but remain in the possession of immortal youth.
♦ Against All Heresies, 1:26.
1. Cerinthus, again, a man who was educated in the wisdom of the Egyptians, taught that the world was not made by the primary God, but by a certain Power far separated from him, and at a distance from that Principality who is supreme over the universe, and ignorant of him who is above all. He represented Jesus as having not been born of a virgin, but as being the son of Joseph and Mary according to the ordinary course of human generation, while he nevertheless was more righteous, prudent, and wise than other men. Moreover, after his baptism, Christ descended upon him in the form of a dove from the Supreme Ruler, and that then he proclaimed the unknown Father, and performed miracles. But at last Christ departed from Jesus, and that then Jesus suffered and rose again, while Christ remained impassible, inasmuch as he was a spiritual being.
2. Those who are called Ebionites agree that the world was made by God; but their opinions with respect to the Lord are similar to those of Cerinthus and Carpocrates. They use the Gospel according to Matthew only, and repudiate the Apostle Paul, maintaining that he was an apostate from the law. As to the prophetical writings, they endeavour to expound them in a somewhat singular manner: they practise circumcision, persevere in the observance of those customs which are enjoined by the law, and are so Judaic in their style of life, that they even adore Jerusalem as if it were the house of God.
3. The Nicolaitanes are the followers of that Nicolas who was one of the seven first ordained to the diaconate by the apostles.(1) They lead lives of unrestrained indulgence. The character of these men is very plainly pointed out in the Apocalypse of John, [when they are represented] as teaching that it is a matter of indifference to practise adultery, and to eat things sacrificed to idols. Wherefore the Word has also spoken of them thus: “But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate.”(2)
♦ Against All Heresies, 3:21
The Ebionites, following these, assert that He was begotten by Joseph; thus destroying, as far as in them lies, such a marvellous dispensation of God, and setting aside the testimony of the prophets which proceeded from God.
♦ Against All Heresies, 5:1
3. Vain also are the Ebionites, who do not receive by faith into their soul the union of God and man, but who remain in the old leaven of [the natural] birth, and who do not choose to understand that the Holy Ghost came upon Mary, and the power of the Most High did overshadow her … but they remain in that Adam who had been conquered and was expelled from Paradise.
♦ Eusebius Church History, Book II, Chapter XIII, Simon Magus
1. But faith in our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ having now been diffused among all men, the enemy of man’s salvation contrived a plan for seizing the imperial city for himself. He conducted there the above-mentioned Simon, aided him in his deceitful arts, led many of the inhabitants of Rome astray, and thus brought them into his own power.
2. This is stated by Justin, one of our distinguished writers who lived not long after the time of the apostles. Concerning him I shall speak in the proper place. Take and read the work of this man, who in the first Apology which he addressed to Antonine in behalf of our religion writes as follows:
3. And after the ascension of the Lord into heaven the demons put forward certain men who said they were gods, and who were not only allowed by you to go unpersecuted, but were even deemed worthy of honors. One of them was Simon, a Samaritan of the village of Gitto, who in the reign of Claudius Cæsar performed in your imperial city some mighty acts of magic by the art of demons operating in him, and was considered a god, and as a god was honored by you with a statue, which was erected in the river Tiber, between the two bridges, and bore this inscription in the Latin tongue, Simoni Deo Sancto, that is, To Simon the Holy God.
4. And nearly all the Samaritans and a few even of other nations confess and worship him as the first God. And there went around with him at that time a certain Helena who had formerly been a prostitute in Tyre of Phœnicia; and her they call the first idea that proceeded from him.
5. Justin relates these things, and Irenæus also agrees with him in the first book of his work, Against Heresies, where he gives an account of the man and of his profane and impure teaching. It would be superfluous to quote his account here, for it is possible for those who wish to know the origin and the lives and the false doctrines of each of the heresiarchs that have followed him, as well as the customs practiced by them all, to find them treated at length in the above-mentioned work of Irenæus.
6. We have understood that Simon was the author of all heresy. From his time down to the present those who have followed his heresy have feigned the sober philosophy of the Christians, which is celebrated among all on account of its purity of life. But they nevertheless have embraced again the superstitions of idols, which they seemed to have renounced; and they fall down before pictures and images of Simon himself and of the above-mentioned Helena who was with him; and they venture to worship them with incense and sacrifices and libations.
7. But those matters which they keep more secret than these, in regard to which they say that one upon first hearing them would be astonished, and, to use one of the written phrases in vogue among them, would be confounded, are in truth full of amazing things, and of madness and folly, being of such a sort that it is impossible not only to commit them to writing, but also for modest men even to utter them with the lips on account of their excessive baseness and lewdness.
8. For whatever could be conceived of, viler than the vilest thing— all that has been outdone by this most abominable sect, which is composed of those who make a sport of those miserable females that are literally overwhelmed with all kinds of vices.
♦ Eusebius Church History, Book III, Chapter XXVI, Menander the Sorcerer
1. Menander, who succeeded Simon Magus, showed himself in his conduct another instrument of diabolical power, not inferior to the former. He also was a Samaritan and carried his sorceries to no less an extent than his teacher had done, and at the same time reveled in still more marvelous tales than he.
2. For he said that he was himself the Saviour, who had been sent down from invisible æons for the salvation of men; and he taught that no one could gain the mastery over the world-creating angels themselves unless he had first gone through the magical discipline imparted by him and had received baptism from him. Those who were deemed worthy of this would partake even in the present life of perpetual immortality, and would never die, but would remain here forever, and without growing old become immortal. These facts can be easily learned from the works of Irenæus.
3. And Justin, in the passage in which he mentions Simon, gives an account of this man also, in the following words: And we know that a certain Menander, who was also a Samaritan, from the village of Capparattea, was a disciple of Simon, and that he also, being driven by the demons, came to Antioch and deceived many by his magical art. And he persuaded his followers that they should not die. And there are still some of them that assert this.
4. And it was indeed an artifice of the devil to endeavor, by means of such sorcerers, who assumed the name of Christians, to defame the great mystery of godliness by magic art, and through them to make ridiculous the doctrines of the Church concerning the immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the dead. But they that have chosen these men as their saviours have fallen away from the true hope.
♦ Church History, Book III, Chapter XXVII. The Heresy of the Ebionites.
1 The evil demon [Satan], however, being unable to tear certain others from their allegiance to the Christ of God, yet found them susceptible in a different direction, and so brought them over to his own purposes. The ancients quite properly called these men Ebionites, because they held poor and mean opinions concerning Christ.
2 For they considered him a plain and common man, who was justified only because of his superior virtue, and who was the fruit of the intercourse of a man with Mary. In their opinion the observance of the ceremonial law was altogether necessary, on the ground that they could not be saved by faith in Christ alone and by a corresponding life.
3 There were others, however, besides them, that were of the same name, but avoided the strange and absurd beliefs of the former, and did not deny that the Lord was born of a virgin and of the Holy Spirit. But nevertheless, inasmuch as they also refused to acknowledge that he pre-existed, being God, Word, and Wisdom, they turned aside into the impiety of the former, especially when they, like them, endeavored to observe strictly the bodily worship of the law.
4 These men, moreover, thought that it was necessary to reject all the epistles of the apostle, whom they called an apostate from the law; and they used only the so-called Gospel according to the Hebrews and made small account of the rest.
5 The Sabbath and the rest of the discipline of the Jews they observed just like them, but at the same time, like us, they celebrated the Lord’s days as a memorial of the resurrection of the Saviour.
6 Wherefore, in consequence of such a course they received the name of Ebionites, which signified the poverty of their understanding. For this is the name by which a poor man is called among the Hebrews.
♦ Summary of Irenaeus and Eusebius on Heresy.
Iraeneus and Eusebius place Simon Magus, his successor Menander, and the Jewish Ebionite sect among those considered to be heretics. Irenaeus emphasizes the practice of magic by Simon and Menander, and, moreover, according to Irenaeus, Simon and Menander believed that all of the supposed powers of Jesus and his disciples were due only to their knowledge of magic. Of the Ebionites, Irenaeus insists that they have no share in the new “marvelous dispensation” of Christianity, and they “remain in that Adam who had been conquered and was expelled from Paradise.” According to Eusebius, both Simon and Menander were “instrument[s] of diabolic power,” while the Ebionites also worked on behalf of “the evil demon,” that is, Satan.
Dante Alighieri (c.1265-1321) was born in Florence and died in Ravenna, Italy. If anything it is an understatement to simply say that he was one of the greatest geniuses of the Middle Ages. His philosophy and theology are based on Aristotle and Aquinas, which was typical of his times. And while he expresses (sometimes harsh) criticism of the Catholic Church, these criticisms were also fairly typical of the times, and Dante never questions either the authority of the Church, or the the soundness of orthodox Catholic theology.
♦ Inferno Canto IX:64-105 The Messenger from Heaven
Now, over the turbid waves, there came a fearful crash of sound, at which both shores trembled; a sound like a strong wind, born of conflicting heat, that strikes the forest, remorselessly, breaks the branches, and beats them down, and carries them away, advances proudly in a cloud of dust, and makes wild creatures, and shepherds, run for safety. Virgil uncovered my eyes, and said: ‘Now direct your vision to that ancient marsh, there, where the mists are thickest.’ Like frogs, that all scatter through the water, in front of their enemy the snake, until each one squats on the bottom, so I saw more than a thousand damaged spirits scatter, in front of one who passed the Stygian ferry with dry feet. He waved that putrid air from his face, often waving his left hand before it, and only that annoyance seemed to weary him. I well knew he was a messenger from Heaven, and I turned to the Master, who made a gesture that I should stay quiet, and bow to him.
How full of indignation he seemed to me! He reached the gate, and opened it with a wand: there was no resistance. On the vile threshold he began to speak: ‘O, outcasts from Heaven, why does this insolence still live in you? Why are you recalcitrant to that will, whose aims can never be frustrated, and that has often increased your torment? What use is it to butt your heads against the Fates? If you remember, your Cerberus still shows a throat and chin scarred from doing so.’
Then he returned, over the miry pool, and spoke no word to us, but looked like one preoccupied and driven by other cares, than of those who stand before him. And we stirred our feet towards the city, in safety, after his sacred speech.
Canto IX:106-133 The Sixth Circle: Dis: The Heretics
We entered Dis without a conflict, and I gazed around, as soon as I as was inside, eager to know what punishment the place enclosed, and saw on all sides a vast plain full of pain and vile torment.
As at Arles, where the Rhone stagnates, or Pola, near the Gulf of Quarnaro, that confines Italy, and bathes its coast, the sepulchres make the ground uneven, so they did here, all around, only here the nature of it was more terrible.
Flames were scattered amongst the tombs, by which they were made so red-hot all over, that no smith’s art needs hotter metal. Their lids were all lifted, and such fierce groans came from them, that, indeed, they seemed to be those of the sad and wounded.
And I said: ‘Master, who are these people, entombed in those vaults, who make themselves known by tormented sighing?’ And he to me: ‘Here are the arch-heretics, with their followers, of every sect: and the tombs contain many more than you might think. Here like is buried with like, and the monuments differ in degrees of heat.’ Then after turning to the right, we passed between the tormented, and the steep ramparts.
Canto X:1-21 Epicurus and his followers
Now my Master goes, and I, behind him, by a secret path between the city walls and the torments. I began: ‘O, summit of virtue, who leads me round through the circles of sin, as you please, speak to me, and satisfy my longing. Can those people, who lie in the sepulchres, be seen? The lids are all raised, and no one keeps guard.’ And he to me: ‘They will all be shut, when they return here, from Jehoshaphat, with the bodies they left above. In this place Epicurus and all his followers are entombed, who say the soul dies with the body. Therefore, you will soon be satisfied, with an answer to the question that you ask me, and also the longing that you hide from me, here, inside.’ And I: ‘Kind guide, I do not keep my heart hidden from you, except by speaking too briefly, something to which you have previously inclined me.’
Canto X:22-51 Farinata degli Uberti
‘O Tuscan, who goes alive through the city of fire, speaking so politely, may it please you to rest in this place. Your speech shows clearly you are a native of that noble city that I perhaps troubled too much.’ This sound came suddenly from one of the vaults, at which, in fear, I drew a little closer to my guide. And he said to me: ‘Turn round: what are you doing: look at Farinata, who has raised himself: you can see him all from the waist up.’
I had already fixed my gaze on him, and he rose erect in stance and aspect, as if he held the Inferno in great disdain. The spirited and eager hands of my guide pushed me through the sepulchres towards him, saying: ‘Make sure your words are measured.’ When I was at the base of the tomb, Farinata looked at me for a while, and then almost contemptuously, he demanded of me: ‘Who were your ancestors?’
I, desiring to obey, concealed nothing, but revealed the whole to him, at which he raised his brows a little. Then he said: ‘They were fiercely opposed to me, and my ancestors and my party, so that I scattered them twice.’ I replied: ‘Though they were driven out, they returned from wherever they were, the first and the second time, but your party have not yet learnt that skill.’
Canto X:52-72 Cavalcante Cavalcanti
Then, a shadow rose behind him, from the unclosed space, visible down to the tip of its chin: I think it had raised itself on to its knees. It gazed around me, as if it wished to see whether anyone was with me, but when all its hopes were quenched, it said, weeping: ‘If by power of intellect, you go through this blind prison, where is my son, and why is he not with you?’ And I to him: ‘I do not come through my own initiative: he that waits there, whom your Guido disdained perhaps, leads me through this place’
His words and the nature of his punishment had spelt his name to me, so that my answer was a full one. Suddenly raising himself erect, he cried: ‘What did you say? Disdained? Is he not still alive? Does the sweet light not strike his eyes?’ When he saw that I delayed in answering, he dropped supine again, and showed himself no more.
Canto X:73-93 Farinata prophesies Dante’s long exile
But the other one, at whose wish I had first stopped, generously did not alter his aspect or move his neck, or turn his side. Continuing his previous words, he said: ‘And if my party have learnt that art of return badly, it tortures me more than this bed, but the face of the moon-goddess Persephone, who rules here, will not be crescent fifty times, before you learn the difficulty of that art. And, as you wish to return to the sweet world, tell me why that people is so fierce towards my kin, in all its lawmaking?’ At which I answered him: ‘The great slaughter and havoc, that dyed the Arbia red, is the cause of those indictments against them, in our churches.’
Then he shook his head, sighing, and said: ‘I was not alone in that matter, nor would I have joined with the others without good cause, but I was alone, there, when all agreed to raze Florence to the ground, and I openly defended her.
Canto X:94-136 The prophetic vision of the damned
‘Ah, as I hope your descendants might sometime have peace,’ I begged him, ‘solve the puzzle that has entangled my mind. It seems, if I hear right, that you see beforehand what time brings, but have a different knowledge of the present.’ ‘Like one who has imperfect vision,’ he said, ‘we see things that are distant from us: so much of the light the supreme Lord still allows us. But when they approach, or come to be, our intelligence is wholly void, and we know nothing of your human state, except what others tell us. So you may understand that all our knowledge of the future will end, from the moment when the Day of Judgement closes the gate of futurity.’
Then, as if conscious of guilt, I said: ‘Will you therefore, tell that fallen one, now, that his son is still joined to the living. And if I was silent before in reply, let him know it was because my thoughts were already entangled in that error you have resolved for me.’
And now my Master was recalling me, at which I begged the spirit, with more haste, to tell me who was with him. He said to me: ‘I lie here with more than a thousand: here inside is Frederick the Second, and the Cardinal, Ubaldini, and of the rest I am silent.’ At that he hid himself, and I turned my steps towards the poet of antiquity, reflecting on the words that boded trouble for me.
Virgil moved on, and then, as we were leaving, said to me: ‘Why are you so bewildered?’ And I satisfied his question. The sage exhorted me: ‘Let your mind retain what you have heard of your fate, and note this,’ and he raised his finger, ‘When you stand before the sweet rays of that lady, whose bright eyes see everything, you will learn the journey of your life through her.’
Then he turned his feet towards the left: we abandoned the wall, and went towards the middle, by a path that makes its way into a valley, that, even up there, forced us to breathe its foulness.
♦ Summary of Dante on Heresy.
Dante places his “heretics” not in the temporary state of Purgatorio, but among those who suffer eternal damnation in the Inferno. They are “Ouctasts from Heaven”, and unambiguously placed among “the Damned.” The motley crew in the Sixth Ring of Hell includes Epicurus and his followers, singled out among the schools of ancient Pagan philosophy as especially condemnable; Frederick the Second, the archenemy of the Church who had the honor of being excommunicated twice; and Farinata the Ghibelline, who was so hated by the Church that both he and his wife were excommunicated posthumously, after which their buried bodies were disinterred and burned.
III. Pope Leo X
Pope Leo X (1475-1521) reigned from 1513 until his death in 1521. He was born Giovanni di Lorenzo de Medici, the second son of Lorenzo (“il Magnifico”) de’ Medici.
♦ EXSURGE DOMINE (coniunctio)
Condemning The Errors Of Martin Luther [in essence a final warning prior to excommunication]
Pope Leo X, Bull issued June 15, 1520
Arise, O Lord, and judge your own cause. Remember your reproaches to those who are filled with foolishness all through the day. Listen to our prayers, for foxes have arisen seeking to destroy the vineyard whose winepress you alone have trod. When you were about to ascend to your Father, you committed the care, rule, and administration of the vineyard, an image of the triumphant church, to Peter, as the head and your vicar and his successors. The wild boar from the forest seeks to destroy it and every wild beast feeds upon it.
Rise, Peter, and fulfill this pastoral office divinely entrusted to you as mentioned above.
Give heed to the cause of the holy Roman Church, mother of all churches and teacher of the faith, whom you by the order of God, have consecrated by your blood. Against the Roman Church, you warned, lying teachers are rising, introducing ruinous sects, and drawing upon themselves speedy doom. Their tongues are fire, a restless evil, full of deadly poison. They have bitter zeal, contention in their hearts, and boast and lie against the truth.
We beseech you also, Paul, to arise. It was you that enlightened and illuminated the Church by your doctrine and by a martyrdom like Peter’s. For now a new Porphyry rises who, as the old once wrongfully assailed the holy apostles, now assails the holy pontiffs, our predecessors.
Rebuking them, in violation of your teaching, instead of imploring them, he is not ashamed to assail them, to tear at them, and when he despairs of his cause, to stoop to insults. He is like the heretics “whose last defense,” as Jerome says, “is to start spewing out a serpent’s venom with their tongue when they see that their causes are about to be condemned, and spring to insults when they see they are vanquished.” For although you have said that there must be heresies to test the faithful, still they must be destroyed at their very birth by your intercession and help, so they do not grow or wax strong like your wolves. Finally, let the whole church of the saints and the rest of the universal church arise. Some, putting aside her true interpretation of Sacred Scripture, are blinded in mind by the father of lies. Wise in their own eyes, according to the ancient practice of heretics, they interpret these same Scriptures otherwise than the Holy Spirit demands, inspired only by their own sense of ambition, and for the sake of popular acclaim, as the Apostle declares. In fact, they twist and adulterate the Scriptures. As a result, according to Jerome, “It is no longer the Gospel of Christ, but a man’s, or what is worse, the devil’s.” . . . .
As far as Martin himself is concerned, O good God, what have we overlooked or not done? What fatherly charity have we omitted that we might call him back from such errors? For after we had cited him, wishing to deal more kindly with him, we urged him through various conferences with our legate and through our personal letters to abandon these errors. We have even offered him safe conduct and the money necessary for the journey urging him to come without fear or any misgivings, which perfect charity should cast out, and to talk not secretly but openly and face to face after the example of our Savior and the Apostle Paul. If he had done this, we are certain he would have changed in heart, and he would have recognized his errors. He would not have found all these errors in the Roman Curia which he attacks so viciously, ascribing to it more than he should because of the empty rumors of wicked men. We would have shown him clearer than the light of day that the Roman pontiffs, our predecessors, whom he injuriously attacks beyond all decency, never erred in their canons or constitutions which he tries to assail. For, according to the prophet, neither is healing oil nor the doctor lacking in Galaad.
But he always refused to listen and, despising the previous citation and each and every one of the above overtures, disdained to come. To the present day he has been contumacious. With a hardened spirit he has continued under censure over a year.
What is worse, adding evil to evil, and on learning of the citation, he broke forth in a rash appeal to a future council. This to be sure was contrary to the constitution of Pius II and Julius II our predecessors that all appealing in this way are to be punished with the penalties of heretics. In vain does he implore the help of a council, since he openly admits that he does not believe in a council.
Therefore we can, without any further citation or delay, proceed against him to his condemnation and damnation as one whose faith is notoriously suspect and in fact a true heretic with the full severity of each and all of the above penalties and censures . . . .
♦ The Bull “Decet Romanum” (coniunctio)
Through the power given him from God, the Roman Pontiff has been appointed to administer spiritual and temporal punishments as each case severally deserves. The purpose of this is the repression of the wicked designs of misguided men, who have been so captivated by the debased impulse of their evil purposes as to forget the fear of the Lord, to set aside with contempt canonical decrees and apostolic commandments, and to dare to formulate new and false dogmas and to introduce the evil of schism into the Church of God-or to support, help and adhere to such schismatics, who make it their business to cleave asunder the seamless robe of our Redeemer and the unity of the orthodox faith. Hence it befits the Pontiff, lest the vessel of Peter appear to sail without pilot or oarsman, to take severe measures against such men and their followers, and by multiplying punitive measures and by other suitable remedies to see to it that these same overbearing men, devoted as they are to purposes of evil, along with their adherents, should not deceive the multitude of the simple by their lies and their deceitful devices, nor drag them along to share their own error and ruination, contaminating them with what amounts to a contagious disease. It also befits the Pontiff, having condemned the schismatics, to ensure their still greater confounding by publicly showing and openly declaring to all faithful Christians how formidable are the censures and punishments to which such guilt can lead; to the end that by such public declaration they themselves may return, in confusion and remorse, to their true selves, making an unqualified withdrawal from the prohibited conversation, fellowship and (above all) obedience to such accursed excommunicates; by this means they may escape divine vengeance and any degree of participation in their damnation.
 [Here the Pope recounts his previous Bull Exsurge Domine and continues]
 We have been informed that after this previous missive had been exhibited in public and the interval or intervals it prescribed had elapsed [60 days]-and we hereby give solemn notice to all faithful Christians that these intervals have and are elapsed-many of those who had followed the errors of Martin took cognisance of our missive and its warnings and injunctions; the spirit of a saner counsel brought them back to themselves, they confessed their errors and abjured the heresy at our instance, and by returning to the true Catholic faith obtained the blessing of absolution with which the self-same messengers had been empowered; and in several states and localities of the said Germany the books and writings of the said Martin were publicly burned, as we had enjoined.
Nevertheless Martin himself-and it gives us grievous sorrow and perplexity to say this-the slave of a depraved mind, has scorned to revoke his errors within the prescribed interval and to send us word of such revocation, or to come to us himself; nay, like a stone of stumbling, he has feared not to write and preach worse things than before against us and this Holy See and the Catholic faith, and to lead others on to do the same.
He has now been declared a heretic; and so also others, whatever their authority and rank, who have cared nought of their own salvation but publicly and in all men’s eyes become followers of Martin’s pernicious and heretical sect, and given him openly and publicly their help, counsel and favour, encouraging him in their midst in his disobedience and obstinacy, or hindering the publication of our said missive: such men have incurred the punishments set out in that missive, and are to be treated rightfully as heretics and avoided by all faithful Christians, as the Apostle says (Titus 3:10-11).
 Our purpose is that such men should rightfully be ranked with Martin and other accursed heretics and excommunicates, and that even as they have ranged themselves with the obstinacy in sinning of the said Martin, they shall likewise share his punishments and his name, by bearing with them everywhere the title “Lutheran” and the punishments it incurs.
Our previous instructions were so clear and so effectively publicised and we shall adhere so strictly to our present decrees and declarations, that they will lack no proof, warning or citation.
Our decrees which follow are passed against Martin and others who follow him in the obstinacy of his depraved and damnable purpose, as also against those who defend and protect him with a military bodyguard, and do not fear to support him with their own resources or in any other way, and have and do presume to offer and afford help, counsel and favour toward him. All their names, surnames and rank-however lofty and dazzling their dignity may be-we wish to be taken as included in these decrees with the same effect as if they were individually listed and could be so listed in their publication, which must be furthered with an energy to match their contents.
On all these we decree the sentences of excommunication, of anathema, of our perpetual condemnation and interdict; of privation of dignities, honours and property on them and their descendants, and of declared unfitness for such possessions; of the confiscation of their goods and of the crime of treason; and these and the other sentences, censures and punishments which are inflicted by canon law on heretics and are set out in our aforesaid missive, we decree to have fallen on all these men to their damnation.
 We add to our present declaration, by our Apostolic authority, that states, territories, camps, towns and places in which these men have temporarily lived or chanced to visit, along with their possessions-cities which house cathedrals and metropolitans, monasteries and other religious and sacred places, privileged or un-privileged-one and all are placed under our ecclesiastical interdict, while this interdict lasts, no pretext of Apostolic Indulgence (except in cases the law allows, and even there, as it were, with the doors shut and those under excommunication and interdict excluded) shall avail to allow the celebration of mass and the other divine offices. We prescribe and enjoin that the men in question are everywhere to be denounced publicly as excommunicated, accursed, condemned, interdicted, deprived of possessions and incapable of owning them. They are to be strictly shunned by all faithful Christians.
 We would make known to all the small store that Martin, his followers and the other rebels have set on God and his Church by their obstinate and shameless temerity. We would protect the herd from one infectious animal, lest its infection spread to the healthy ones. Hence we lay the following injunction on each and every patriarch, archbishop, bishop, on the prelates of patriarchal, metropolitan, cathedral and collegiate churches, and on the religious of every Order-even the mendicants-privileged or unprivileged, wherever they may be stationed: that in the strength of their vow of obedience and on pain of the sentence of excommunication, they shall, if so required in the execution of these presents, publicly announce and cause to be announced by others in their churches, that this same Martin and the rest are excommunicate, accursed, condemned, heretics, hardened, interdicted, deprived of possessions and incapable of owning them, and so listed in the enforcement of these presents. Three days will be given: we pronounce canonical warning and allow one day’s notice on the first, another on the second, but on the third peremptory and final execution of our order. This shall take place on a Sunday or some other festival, when a large congregation assembles for worship. The banner of the cross shall be raised, the bells rung, the candles lit and after a time extinguished, cast on the ground and trampled under foot, and the stones shall be cast forth three times, and the other ceremonies observed which are usual in such cases. The faithful Christians, one and all, shall be enjoined strictly to shun these men.
We would occasion still greater confounding on the said Martin and the other heretics we have mentioned, and on their adherents, followers and partisans: hence, on the strength of their vow of obedience we enjoin each and every patriarch, archbishop and all other prelates, that even as they were appointed on the authority of Jerome to allay schisms, so now in the present crisis, as their office obliges them, they shall make themselves a wall of defence for their Christian people. They shall not keep silence like dumb dogs that cannot bark, but incessantly cry and lift up their voice, preaching and causing to be preached the word of God and the truth of the Catholic faith against the damnable articles and heretics aforesaid.
 To each and every rector of the parish churches, to the rectors of all the Orders, even the mendicants, privileged or unprivileged, we enjoin in the same terms, on the strength of their vow of obedience, that appointed by the Lord as they are to be like clouds, they shall sprinkle spiritual showers on the people of God, and have no fear in giving the widest publicity to the condemnation of the aforesaid articles, as their office obliges them. It is written that perfect love casteth out fear. Let each and every one of you take up the burden of such a meritorious duty with complete devotion; show yourselves so punctilious in its execution, so zealous and eager in word and deed, that from your labours, by the favour of divine grace, the hoped-for harvest will come in, and that through your devotion you will not only earn that crown of glory which is the due recompense of all who promote religious causes, but also attain from us and the said Holy See the unbounded commendation that your proved diligence will deserve.
 However, since it would be difficult to deliver the present missive, with its declarations and announcements, to Martin and the other declared excommunicates in person, because of the strength of their faction, our wish is that the public nailing of this missive on the doors of two cathedrals-either both metropolitan, or one cathedral and one metropolitan of the churches in the said Germany-by a messenger of ours in those places, shall have such binding force that Martin and the others we have declared shall be shown to be condemned at every point as decisively as if the missive had been personally made known and presented to them.
 It would also be difficult to transmit this missive to every single place where its publication might be necessary. Hence our wish and authoritative decree is that copies of it, sealed by some ecclesiastical prelate or by one of our aforesaid messengers, and countersigned by the hand of some public notary, should everywhere bear the same authority as the production and exhibition of the original itself.
 No obstacle is afforded to our wishes by the Apostolic constitutions and orders, or by anything in our aforesaid earlier missive which we do not wish to stand in the way, or by any other pronouncements to the contrary.
 No one whatsoever may infringe this our written decision, declaration, precept, injunction, assignation, will, decree; or rashly contravene it. Should anyone dare to attempt such a thing, let him know that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.
♦ Summary of the condemnation of the heretic Martin Luther by Pope Leo X.
Especially noteworthy is Pope Leo X’s comparison of Martin Luther to Porphyry, the late third century Pagan philosopher who was a fierce critic of the religion of Christianity. He also quotes from Jerome to characterize Luther’s heresy in this way: “It is no longer the Gospel of Christ, but a man’s, or what is worse, the devil’s.”
IV. John Calvin
|John Calvin & Thomas Hobbes
by Nina Matsumoto aka “Space Coyote”
John Calvin (1509-1564) was one of the most important leaders of the so-called “Protestant Reformation. The two works cited here were written in 1536 (the Institutes …) and in 1548 (On the true method …).
♦ The Institutes of the Christian Religion (link)
Book IV, Chapter 2. Comparison Between the False and the True Church
Section 2. The Roman Church and its claim
Since this is the state of matters under the Papacy, we can understand how much of the Church there survives. There, instead of the ministry of the word, prevails a perverted government, compounded of lies, a government which partly extinguishes, partly suppresses, the pure light. In place of the Lord’s Supper, the foulest sacrilege has entered, the worship of God is deformed by a varied mass of intolerable superstitions; doctrine (without which Christianity exists not) is wholly buried and exploded, the public assemblies are schools of idolatry and impiety. Wherefore, in declining fatal participation in such wickedness, we run no risk of being dissevered from the Church of Christ. The communion of the Church was not instituted to be a chain to bind us in idolatry, impiety, ignorance of God, and other kinds of evil, but rather to retain us in the fear of God and obedience of the truth.
They, indeed, vaunt loudly of their Church, as if there was not another in the world; and then, as if the matter were ended, they make out that all are schismatic who withdraw from obedience to that Church which they thus depicts that all are heretics who presume to whisper against its doctrine, (see sec. 5.) But by what arguments do they prove their possession of the true Church? They appeal to ancient records which formerly existed in Italy, France, and Spain, pretending to derive their origin from those holy men, who, by sound doctrine, founded and raised up churches, confirmed the doctrine, and reared the edifice of the Church with their blood; they pretend that the Church thus consecrated by spiritual gifts and the blood of martyrs was preserved from destruction by a perpetual succession of bishops. They dwell on the importance which Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origin, Augustine, and others, attached to this succession, (see sec. 3.)
How frivolous and plainly ludicrous these allegations are, I will enable any, who will for a little consider the matter with me, to understand without any difficulty. I would also exhort our opponents to give their serious attention, if I had any hope of being able to benefit them by instruction; but since they have laid aside all regard to truth, and make it their only aim to prosecute their own ends in whatever way they can, I will only make a few observations by which good men and lovers of truth may disentangle themselves from their quibbles.
First, I ask them why they do not quote Africa, and Egypt, and all Asia, just because in all those regions there was a cessation of that sacred succession, by the aid of which they vaunt of having continued Churches. They therefore fall back on the assertion, that they have the true Church, because ever since it began to exist it was never destitute of bishops, because they succeeded each other in an unbroken series. But what if I bring Greece before them? Therefore, I again ask them, Why they say that the Church perished among the Greeks, among whom there never was any interruption in the succession of bishops – a succession, in their opinion, the only guardian and preserver of the Church? They make the Greeks schismatic. Why? because, by revolting from the Apostolic See, they lost their privilege. What? Do not those who revolt from Christ much more deserve to lose it? It follows, therefore, that the pretence of succession is vain, if posterity do not retain the truth of Christ, which was handed down to them by their fathers, safe and uncorrupted, and continue in it.
Section 3. The false church, despite its high pretensions, shows that it does not hear God’s Word
In the present day, therefore, the pretence of the Romanists is just the same as that which appears to have been formerly used by the Jews, when the Prophets of the Lord charged them with blindness, impiety, and idolatry. For as the Jews proudly vaunted of their temple, ceremonies, and priesthood, by which, with strong reason, as they supposed, they measured the Church, so, instead of the Church, we are presented by the Romanists with certain external masks, which often are far from being connected with the Church and without which the Church can perfectly exist. Wherefore, we need no other argument to refute them than that with which Jeremiah opposed the foolish confidence of the Jews, namely, “Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord are these,” (Jer. 7: 4.) The Lord recognises nothing as his owns save when his word is heard and religiously observed. Thus, though the glory of God sat in the sanctuary between the cherubim, (Ezek. 10: 4,) and he had promised that he would there have his stated abode, still when the priests corrupted his worship by depraved superstitions, he transferred it elsewhere, and left the place without any sanctity. If that temple which seemed consecrated for the perpetual habitation of God, could be abandoned by God and become profane, the Romanists have no ground to pretend that God is so bound to persons or places, and fixed to external observances, that he must remain with those who have only the name and semblance of a Church (Rom.9:6).
This is the question which Paul discusses in the Epistle to the Romans, from the ninth to the twelfth chapter. Weak consciences were greatly disturbed when those who seemed to be the people of God not only rejected, but even persecuted the doctrine of the Gospel. Therefore, after expounding doctrine, he removes this difficulty, denying that those Jews, the enemies of the truth, were the Church, though they wanted nothing which might otherwise have been desired to the external form of the Church. The ground of his denial is, that they did not embrace Christ. In the Epistle to the Galatians, when comparing Ishmael with Isaac, he says still more expressly, that many hold a place in the Church to whom the inheritance does not belong, because they were not the offspring of a free parent. From this he proceeds to draw a contrast between two Jerusalems, because, as the Law was given on Mount Sinai, but the Gospel proceeded from Jerusalem, so many who were born and brought up in servitude confidently boast that they are the sons of God and of the Church; nay, while they are themselves degenerate, proudly despise the genuine sons of God. Let us also, in like manner, when we hear that it was once declared from heaven, “Cast out the handmaid and her son,” trust to this inviolable decree, and boldly despise their unmeaning boasts. For if they plume themselves on external profession, Ishmael also was circumcised: if they found on antiquity, he was the first-born: and yet we see that he was rejected. If the reason is asked, Paul assigns it, (Rom. 9: 6,) that those only are accounted sons who are born of the pure and legitimate seed of doctrine.
On this ground God declares that he was not astricted to impious priests, though he had made a covenant with their father Levi, to be their angel, or interpreter, (Mal. 2: 4;) nay, he retorts the false boast by which they were wont to rise against the Prophets, namely, that the dignity of the priesthood was to be held in singular estimation. This he himself willingly admits: and he disputes with them, on the ground that he is ready to fulfil the covenant, while they, by not fulfilling it on their part, deserve to be rejected. Here, then, is the value of succession when not conjoined with imitation and corresponding conduct: posterity, as soon as they are convicted of having revolted from their origin, are deprived of all honour; unless, indeed, we are prepared to say, that because Caiaphas succeeded many pious priests, (nay, the series from Aaron to him was continuous,) that accursed assembly deserved the name of Church. Even in earthly governments, no one would bear to see the tyranny of Caligula, Nero, Heliogabalus, and the like, described as the true condition of a republic, because they succeeded such men as Brutes, Scipio, and Camillus. That in the government of the Church especially, nothing is more absurd than to disregard doctrines and place succession in persons.
Nor, indeed was any thing farther from the intention of the holy teachers, whom they falsely obtrude upon us, than to maintain distinctly that churches exist, as by hereditary right, wherever bishops have been uniformly succeeded by bishops. But while it was without controversy that no change had been made in doctrine from the beginning down to their day, they assumed it to be a sufficient refutation of all their errors, that they were opposed to the doctrine maintained constantly, and with unanimous consent, even by the apostles themselves. They have, therefore, no longer any ground for proceeding to make a gloss of the name of Church, which we regard with due reverence; but when we come to definition, not only (to use the common expression) does the water adhere to them, but they stick in their own mire, because they substitute a vile prostitute for the sacred spouse of Christ. That the substitution may not deceive us, let us, among other admonitions, attend to the following from Augustine. Speaking of the Church, he says, “She herself is sometimes obscured, and, as it were, beclouded by a multitude of scandals; sometimes, in a time of tranquillity, she appears quiet and free; sometimes she is covered and tossed by the billows of tribulation and trial.” – (August. ad Vincent. Epist. 48.) As instances, he mentions that the strongest pillars of the Church often bravely endured exile for the faith, or lay hid throughout the world.
♦ Book IV, Chapter 18. Of the Popish Mass. How it not only profanes, but annihilates the Lord’s Supper.
Section 2. The Mass as blasphemy against Christ
Let us show, therefore as was proposed in the first place, that in the mass intolerable blasphemy and insult are offered to Christ. For he was not appointed Priest and Pontiff by the Fathers for a time merely, as priests were appointed under the Old Testament. Since their life was mortal, their priesthood could not be immortal, and hence there was need of successors, who might ever and anon be substituted in the room of the dead. But Christ being immortal, had not the least occasion to have a vicar substituted for him. Wherefore he was appointed by his Father a priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek, that he might eternally exercise a permanent priesthood (Heb. 5:6,10; 7:17,21; 9:11; 10:21; Ps. 110:4; Gen. 14:18). This mystery had been typified long before in Melchizedek, whom Scripture, after once introducing as the priest of the living God, never afterwards mentions, as if he had had no end of life. In this way Christ is said to be a priest after his order.
But those who sacrifice daily must necessarily give the charge of their oblations to priests, whom they surrogate as the vicars and successors of Christ. By this subrogation they not only rob Christ of his honour, and take from him the prerogative of an eternal priesthood, but attempt to remove him from the right hand of his Father, where he cannot sit immortal without being an eternal priest. Nor let them allege that their priestlings are not substituted for Christ, as if he were dead, but are only substitutes in that eternal priesthood, which therefore ceases not to exist. The words of the apostle are too stringent to leave them any means of evasion, viz., “They truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: but this man, because he continueth ever, has an unchangeable priesthood,” (Heb. 7: 23, 24.) Yet such is their dishonesty, that to defend their impiety they arm themselves with the example of Melchizedek. As he is said to have “brought forth (obtulisse) bread and wine,” (Gen. 14: 18,) they infer that it was a prelude to their mass, as if there was any resemblance between him and Christ in the offering of bread and wine. This is too silly and frivolous to need refutation. Melchizedek gave bread and wine to Abraham and his companions, that he might refresh them when worn out with the march and the battle. What has this to do with sacrifice? The humanity of the holy king is praised by Moses: these men absurdly coin a mystery of which there is no mention. They, however, put another gloss upon their error, because it is immediately added, he was “priest of the most high God.” I answer, that they erroneously wrest to bread and wine what the apostle refers to blessing. “This Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham,” “and blessed him.” Hence the same apostle (and a better interpreter cannot be desired) infers his excellence. “Without all contradiction, the less is blessed of the better.” But if the oblation of Melchizedek was a figure of the sacrifice of the mass, I ask, would the apostle, who goes into the minutes details, have forgotten a matter so grave and serious? Now, however they quibble, it is in vain for them to attempt to destroy the argument which is adduced by the apostle himself viz., that the right and honour of the priesthood has ceased among mortal men, because Christ, who is immortal, is the one perpetual priest (Heb. 7:17-19).
♦ From On the true method of giving peace to Christendom and reforming the Church (link)
We certainly deny not that the Church of God has always existed in the world; for we hear what God promises concerning the perpetuity of the seed of Christ. In this way, too, we deny not that there has been an uninterrupted succession of the Church from the beginning of the gospel even to our day; but we do not concede that it was so fixed to external shows — that it has hitherto always been, and will henceforth always be!, in possession of the Bishops. And how, pray, do they prove this to be necessary? No promise can anywhere be found. Nay rather, when Peter admonishes us that there will be false teachers in the Church, as there were among the ancient people, ( 2 Peter 2:1) and Paul declares that Antichrist will sit in the temple of God, ( 2 Thessalonians 2:4,) they point not to foreign enemies who by violent irruption and for a little time disturb the Church: they speak of what is called the ordinary administration of Prelates, that no one might dream of a tranquil and flourishing state of the kingdom of Christ. Therefore, if the Church resides in the successors of the Apostles, let us Search for successors among those only who have faithfully handed down their doctrine to posterity.
I know that this continuous Succession is extolled by Irenaeus, Origen, Augustine, and some other ancient writers. But it is mere imposition to attempt to employ their testimony in defense of the tyranny of the Papacy, which has nothing in common with the ancient form of the Church. Irenaeus and Origen had to do with base miscreants, who, while they advanced monstrous errors, gave out that they had received them by divine revelation. This falsehood was easily refuted, as many were still alive who had been familiar with the disciples of the Apostles. The remembrance of the doctrine which the Apostles had delivered was recent.
The very walls, in a manner, still re-echoed with their voice. Is it strange that those holy men cited as witnesses the Churches which had both been constituted by the Apostles, and had, without controversy, retained their constitution? Augustine was contending with the Donatists, who, inflated with frantic pride, boasted that they alone possessed the Church, though there was no reason why they should dissent from others. Augustine objects to them, that the Churches which they repudiated, and from which they had become schismatics, had flowed in uninterrupted succession from the Apostles. This he did on the best grounds, as the Donatists acknowledged that these Churches had persevered in the doctrine which they had originally received.
Very different is our case: for we deny the title of Successors of the Apostles to those who have abandoned their faith and doctrine. Those perfidious mediators who confound light and darkness are not ignorant how unlike, or rather how contrary, the present perverted government is to the ancient government of the Church. What effrontery, then, is it to use the name of the Church herself as a cloak for oppressing the Church?
Would that the Succession which, they falsely allege had continued until this day: with us it would have no difficulty in obtaining the reverence which it deserves. Let the Pope, I say, be the successor of Peter, provided he perform the office of an Apostle. Wherein does Succession consist, if it be not in perpetuity of doctrine? But if the doctrine of the Apostles has been corrupted, nay, abolished and extinguished by those who would be regarded as their successors, who would not deride their foolish boasting?
But to come to the fountainhead, how often in many places has their Succession been interrupted? Over how many Churches do their histories tell that heretics presided? Almost all Germany twice before our day abandoned the Roman See: once when Presbyters were forced to put away their wives, and a second time when Gregory VII., in his hostility to the Emperor Henry IV., sought to withdraw the Germans from him by fulminating at them. I omit more recent examples which will readily occur to the well-informed reader. Who, moderately versant in history, does not know that three Antipopes distracted the Church by their factions? Two of them at least appointed several bishops, and those again ordained presbyters. Where is the continuous Succession?
But, omitting these, it will be necessary to leap over Popess Joan, if they would continue their series from the Apostles! If ancient annals are examined we shall find that many primary Sees were occupied by heretics.
They gain nothing by concealing all these interruptions. — To return to more recent times. Until they prove the Council of Basle not to be legitimate, I shall always maintain that there is not an individual among the whole Popish clergy who is not schismatical. They all derive their origin from Eugenius, whom the Council not only deposed from the Papacy, but condemned with all his followers, as guilty of heresy and schism. I am aware of the usual answer. It is the only asylum remaining to them: they boldly repudiate the authority of that Council. But as it had all the marks which they require in a lawful Council, what force this repudiation ought to have let pious readers judge!
Even were these things not so, I deny that there is truly one bishop under the whole Papacy, unless indeed, in a proof of such consequence, we are satisfied with the title and the insignia. I do not now say what kind of insignia they are by which they attract reverence. All the pious know that they are profane masks, at the sight of which the Apostles, if they were alive, would stand amazed. Assume, however, that if there was the reality besides, they would be in other respects befitting, are we to judge them bishops from mere empty parade? They have nothing episcopal about them except that a few occasionally mount the pulpit to deliver one or two sermons, and then, as if they had performed their part, do something else the rest of the year. Others are kept back by ignorance, and a goodly number from thinking it somehow or other beneath their dignity to address the people, although scarcely one in a hundred could be found who could perform the office of teaching without making himself a laughingstock.
♦ Summary of John Calvin on the Roman Catholic Church
Calvin obviously does not consider the Catholic Church to be Christian in any meaningful sense. The most sacred ritual of the Roman Church is an act of blasphemy, and the Church’s claims of a seamlessly “continuous Succession” linking it back to Jesus are without merit.
Also see the next post in this series: Augustine in defense of torturing heretics.
|From the film “The Trial of Joan of Arc” by Robert Bresson,
Joan of Arc played by Florence Delay