Luther and the Reformation: eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 145 pages of information about Luther and the Reformation:.

Leo seized upon this system with all the vigor and unscrupulousness characteristic of the Medici.  Had he been asked whether he really believed in these pardons, he would have said that the Church always believed the pope had power to grant them.  Had he spoken his real mind in the matter, he would have said that if the people chose to be such fools, it was not for him to find fault with them.  And thus, under plea of raising funds to finish St. Peter’s, he instituted a grand trade in indulgences, and thereby laid the capstone of hierarchical iniquity which crushed the whole fabric to its base.

The right to sell these wares in Germany was awarded to Albert, the gay young prince-archbishop of Mayence.  He was over head and ears in debt to the pope for his pallium, and Leo gave him this chance to get out.[6] Half the proceeds of the trade in his territory were to go to his credit.  But the work of proclaiming and distributing the pardons was committed to John Tetzel, a Dominican prior who had long experience in the business, and who achieved “a forlorn notoriety in European history” by his zeal in prosecuting it.


[4] In the famous Bull of Gregory IX., published in 1234, that pope exhorts and commands all good Christians to take up the cross and join the expedition to recover the Holy Land.  The language is:  “The service to which mankind are now invited is an effectual atonement for the miscarriages of a negligent life.  The discipline of a regular penance would have discouraged many offenders so much that they would have had no heart to venture upon it; but the holy war is a compendious method of discharging men from guilt and restoring them to the divine favor.  Even if they die on their march, the intention will be taken for the deed, and many in this way may be crowned without fighting.”—­Given in Collier’s Eccl., vol. i.

[5] The Roman Chancery once put forth a book, which went through many editions, giving the exact prices for the pardon of each particular sin.  A deacon guilty of murder was absolved for twenty pounds.  A bishop or abbot might assassinate for three hundred livres.  Any ecclesiastic might violate his vows of chastity for the third part of that sum, etc., etc.—­See Robertson’s Charles V.

[6] The pallium, or pall, was a narrow band of white wool to go over the shoulders in the form of a circle, from which hung bands of similar size before and behind, finished at the ends with pieces of sheet lead and embroidered with crosses.  It was the mark of the dignity and rank of archbishops.  Albert owed Pope Leo X. forty-five thousand thalers for his right and appointment to wear the archbishop’s pallium.

It was in this way that the Roman Church was accustomed to sell out benefices as a divine right.  Even expectative graces, or mandates nominating a person to succeed to a benefice upon the first vacancy, were thus sold.  Companies existed in Germany which made a business of buying up the benefices of particular sections and districts and retailing them at advanced rates.  The selling of pardons was simply a lower kind of simoniacal bartering which pervaded the whole hierarchical establishment.

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Luther and the Reformation: from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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