Necessary Because The Church
THE Roman church was sadly in
need of a reformation, but she refused to surrender the elements that
corrupted her, and slew those who tried to save her. There were two
papal ordinances which especially contributed toward the terrible and
widespread depravity of her priesthood: (1) enforced celibacy
(forbidding priests to marry), and (2) exemption of the clergy from the
domain of civil law, so that government officials could not punish them
for any crime. H. C. Lea says of the Roman Catholic clergyman:
"No matter what crimes he
might commit, secular justice could not take cognizance of them, and
secular officials could not arrest him. He was amenable only to the
tribunals of his own order, which were debarred from inflicting
punishments involving the effusion of blood, and from whose decisions
an appeal to the supreme jurisdiction of distant Rome conferred too
often virtual immunity."–"History of the Inquisition of
the Middle Ages," Vol. I, p. 2. New York:1888.
This author makes a further
statement concerning a
"complaint laid before the
pope by the imperial Diet held at Nurnberg early in 1522 .... The
Diet, in recounting the evils arising from the ecclesiastical
jurisdiction which allowed clerical offenders to enjoy virtual
immunity, adduced, among other grievances, the license afforded to
those who, debarred by the canons from marriage, abandoned themselves
night and day to attempts upon the virtue of the wives and daughters
of the laity, sometimes gaining their ends by flattery and presents,
and sometimes taking advantage of the opportunities offered by the
confessional. It was not uncommon, indeed, for women to be openly
carried off by their priests, while their husbands and fathers were
threatened with vengeance if they should attempt to recover them. As
regards the sale to ecclesiastics of licenses to indulge in habitual
lust, the Diet declared it to be a regular and settled matter, reduced
to the form of an annual tax, which in most dioceses was exacted of
all the clergy without exception, so that when those who perchance
lived chastely demurred at the payment, they were told that the bishop
must have the money, and that after it was handed over they might take
their choice whether to keep concubines or not"–"An
Historical Sketch of Sacerdotal Celibacy in the Christian
Church," pp. 431, 432, and Note 1. Boston,:Houghton Mifflin and
Co., Riverside Press, 1884.
Let the reader remember that
"complaints were made by the
highest authority in the empire"–Ibid.
Professor Philip Limborch records
the same fact, and adds: "Erasmus says:
'There is a certain German
bishop, who declared publicly at a feast, that in one year he had
brought to him 11,000 priests that openly kept women for they pay
annually a certain sum to the bishop. This was one of the hundred
grievances that the German nation proposed to the Pope's nuncio at the
convention at Nuremberg, in the years 1522 and 1523. Grievance
91"–"History of the Inquisition," p. 84.
H. C. Lea says:
"The extent to which the
evil sometimes grew may be guessed from a case mentioned by Erasmus,
in which a theologian of Louvain refused absolution to a pastor who
confessed to having maintained illicit relations with no less than two
hundred nuns confided to his spiritual charge"–"An
Historical Sketch of Sacerdotal Celibacy," pp. 567, 568.
While the pope had ample
machinery in the Inquisition for correcting his sinning priests, yet he
was very lenient with them, except for "heresy." In fact,
heinous depravity seemed to have been worse where the Inquisition
reigned supreme. H. C. Lea continues:
"It is rather curious that
in Spain, the only kingdom where heresy was not allowed to get a
foothold, the trouble seems to have been greatest and to have first
called for special remedial measures"–Id., p. 568. Of the
"remedial" laws enacted in 1255, 1274, and 1302, Lea says:
"However well meant these efforts were, they proved as useless as
all previous ones, for in 1322 the council of Valladolid, under the
presidency of the papal legate, [enacted still more laws]. The acts of
this council, moreover, are interesting as presenting the first
authentic evidence of a custom which subsequently prevailed to some
extent elsewhere, by which parishioners were wont to compel their
priests to take a female consort for the purpose of protecting the
virtue of their families from his assaults."–Id., p. 310.
"The same state of affairs
continued until the sixteenth century was well advanced."–Id.,
"We have already seen
ecclesiastical authority for the assertion that in the Spanish
Peninsula the children sprung from such illicit connections rivaled in
numbers the offspring of the laity." –Id., p. 336.
Such conditions seem almost
unbelievable. But, when in 1900 W. H. Taft was sent to the Philippines
to establish civil government with a public school system there, he
reported finding in those islands conditions similar to those described
above. See Senate Document No. 190, 56th Congress, 2nd Session:
"Message from the President of the United States, 1901 A. D.
" If some Protestants of
today had known the conditions existing at the time of the Reformation
they would not have judged Dr. Martin Luther so critically for his
That the Reformation was the
inevitable result of the fallen condition of the Catholic Church, was
acknowledged by the speakers at the Council of Trent.
H. C. Lea says:
"Even in the Council of
Trent itself, the Bishop of St. Mark, in opening its proceedings with
a speech, January 6th, 1546, drew a fearful picture of the corruption
of the world, which had reached a degree that posterity might possibly
equal but not exceed. This he assured the assembled fathers was
attributable solely to the wickedness of the pastors, who drew their
flocks with them into the abyss of sin. The Lutheran heresy had been
provoked by their own guilt, and its suppression was only to be hoped
for by their own reformation. At a later session, the Bavarian orator,
August Baumgartner, told the assembled fathers that the progress of
the Reformation was attributable to the scandalous lives of the
clergy, whose excesses he could not describe without offending the
chaste ears of his auditory. He even asserted that out of a hundred
priests there were not more than three or four who were not either
married or concubinarians –a statement repeated in a consultation on
the subject of ecclesiastical reform drawn up in 1562 by order of the
Emperor Ferdinand, with the addition that the clergy would rather see
the whole structure of the church destroyed than submit to even the
most moderate measure of reform."–"An Historical Sketch of
Sacerdotal Celibacy," pp. 518, 519.
Indulgences" Aroused Protest
The subject of indulgences is of
great importance at this time, for the strenuous protest of Romanists
against any discussion of this subject has changed both our schoolbooks
and our encyclopedias. We therefore invite the reader to a careful
investigation of this subject. The grossest doctrines that ever
disgraced the church of Rome, usually began as apparently innocent
injunctions, which developed for centuries into the final monstrosity.
This was the case with "indulgence." It began simply as a
release from some ecclesiastical punishment.
Catholic authorities today teach
that there are two kinds of punishments for sin, one eternal and the
other temporal. Dr. M. J. Scott, S. J., says:
"The forgiveness of sin is .
. . the remission of the eternal chastisement .... "After the
guilt and eternal punishment have been remitted there remains the
temporal chastisement, . . . which must be suffered either here or . .
. hereafter . . . by the suffering of Purgatory"–"Things
Catholics Are Asked About," p. 145. New York:P. J. Kenedy and
The debt in purgatory may be
settled in this life by penances, masses, or by indulgences. On the cost
of having masses celebrated see "Fifty Years in the Church of
Rome" by Charles Chiniquy, chap. XXV. Catholic authors admonish a
Catholic to settle his account with the church in this life, for when he
"his family might have
hundreds of Masses offered up for his soul," before it affects
him in purgatory–" Things Catholics Are Asked About," p.
As some Catholics may be
unwilling to pay such sums for their deceased relatives, Dr. J. T. Roche
"The last will and testament
of a Catholic in which there is no provision made for Masses gives
evidence of an oversight which is truly deplorable. Children and
heirs-at-law are the same the world over. In many instances they are
dissatisfied with the bequests made to them individually. Their
disappointment precludes the possibility of having Masses said for the
dead testator. Some of them too are so selfish and grasping that they
cannot think of parting with even a small portion of their inheritance
to comply with what is clearly a duty"–"Masses for the
Dead," pp. 23, 24. (This booklet bears the sanction of the
Catholic Church and its censor).
The Pope's Spiritual Bank
The Roman Catholic Church teaches
that a person can by his good works and penances, pay off his own debt,
and have some to spare. These extra good works form a Spiritual Bank
from which the pope can draw for the benefit of those who lack, as the
following quotations show. Dr. M. J. Scott says:
"A sinner has it in his own
power to merit forgiveness and mercy while he
lives"–"Things Catholics Are Asked About," p. 148.
Rev. J. Procter writes:
"Some holy ones of God more
than satisfy the debt of temporal punishment which they owe to the
Eternal Father .... All these satisfactions,' these merits, these
uncalled-for penances, are not lost, nor are they useless and in vain.
They form a spiritual treasure-house, a 'bank' we have called it, upon
which the Church can draw for the benefit of her needy
children."– "Indulgences" (Roman Catholic), p. 9.
London:Catholic Truth Society.
Canon Law says:
"To the Roman Pontiff is
committed by Christ the entire spiritual treasury of the Church,
wherefore only the Pope and those to whom he has given participation
in the power by law, have the ordinary power to grant
indulgences." (Canon 912)."–"The New Canon Law,"
Rev. S. Woywod, O. F. M., pp. 143, 144. New York:1918.
The Catholic Encyclopedia
"According to Catholic
doctrine, therefore, the source of indulgences is constituted by the
merits of Christ and the saints. This treasury is left to the keeping,
not of the individual Christian, but of the Church. "This
treasure He . . . entrusted to Blessed Peter, the keybearer, and his
successors"–Vol. VII, pp. 785, 784.
"By a plenary indulgence is
meant the remission of the entire temporal punishment due to sin so
that no further expiation is required in purgatory. A partial
indulgence commutes only a certain portion of the penalty. "An
indulgence is valid both in the tribunal of the Church and in the
tribunal of God"–Id., p. 783.
"When the church, therefore,
by an indulgence, remits this penalty, her action, according to the
declaration of Christ, is ratified in heaven"–Id., p. 785.
"Here, as in many other
matters, the love of money was the chief root of the evil; indulgences
were employed by mercenary ecclesiastics as a means of pecuniary
gain"–Id., p. 787. We shall now enter into a careful
examination of the two questions: (1) whether Catholic authorities,
before the Protestant Reformation., had begun to represent indulgences
as actual remissions of sin; and (2) if these indulgences could be
purchased for money. Professor William E. Lunt says of the period
following 1095 A. D.: "The
commercialization of indulgences began with those issued in connection
with the Crusades"–"Papal Revenues in the Middle
Ages," Vol. I, p. 115. Columbia University Press, 1934.
"Boniface IX (1389-1404)
issued several bulls of plenary indulgence to aid the building of the
dome of the cathedral at Milan. In the course of the fifteenth century
plenary indulgences for similar purposes became common .... One third
or one half was the share most commonly taken by the pope,
occasionally it amounted to two thirds"–Id., p. 114.
"The general Summons of Pope
Innocent III to a Crusade A. D. 1215 [requested all civil rulers] for
the remission of their sins [to furnish soldiers. To all who joined in
the Crusade, and also to those who could not go themselves, but who
paid the expense of sending a substitute, the pope declared:] 'We
grant full pardon of their sins.' [To those who went at their own
expense, he promised not only] full pardon of their sins, [but he
says:] 'We promise them an increase of eternal salvation.'
"–"Bullarium Romanum, editio Taurinensis," Vol. III,
p. 300; copied in "Select Historical Documents of the Middle
Ages," E. F. Henderson, pp. 337, 339, 343. London:1892.
This papal permission to secure
an indulgence by paying for a substitute in one's place, to fight in the
Crusades, soon developed into a system of paying for indulgences.
Another means of enormous income to the Holy See was started by Pope
Boniface VIII, by inaugurating the "Jubilees" with their
indulgences. We read of these:
"Jubilees–On the 22nd of
February of the present Year 1300, he issued a Bull, granting a full
Remission of all Sins to such as should in the present Year, beginning
and ending at Christmas, or in every other Hundreth Year, visit the
Basilica of the two Apostles St. Peter and St. Paul [on fifteen
different days.]–Bower's "History of the Popes," Vol. VI,
year 1300, p. 474.
Herbert Thurston, S. J., in his
book: " The Roman Jubilee," bearing the sanction of the
Catholic Church, and of its "censor," says:
"And the same year, since a
solemn remission of all sins, to wit, both of guilt and of penalty (solemnis
remissio omnium peccatorum, videlicet culparum et paernarum), was
granted by Pope Boniface to all who visited Rome, many–both
Christians and Tartars–came to Rome for the aforesaid
indulgence"– Id., p. 12. London and Edinburgh:1925, abridged
Of the Jubilee of 1450 we
"Large sums of money were
brought as offerings by the pilgrims, and we learn that money was
scarce at this time, because 'it all flowed into Rome for the
Jubilee.' . . . Early in the following year the Pope . . . despatched
legates to certain foreign countries, to extend the Jubilee indulgence
to the faithful who were unable to visit Rome. The conditions usually
enjoined were a visit, or series of visits, to the cathedral of the
Diocese, and an alms to be offered there for a special
intention"–Id., p. 27.
During one of these Jubilees, we
are told, there were millions in Rome, and the plague that had broken
out carried off innumerable victims. Graves were to be seen all along
the roads. H. C. Lea declares:
"The pilgrim who went to
Rome to secure pardon came back much worse than he started." And
any one who joined the "crusades" against the Turks or the
"heretics" to gain a "plenary indulgence," if he
came back alive, "was tolerably sure to return a lawless
bandit."–"The Inquisition of the Middle Ages," Vol.
I, pp. 42, 43.
Pope Alexander VI ordered a
Jubilee in 1500, but great as the crowds were who sought the papal
indulgence at Rome, there remained a still greater number in the British
Isles, "who were prevented from seeking Rome"; and so the pope
issued another "Bull dated 9 December 1500," proclaiming a
Jubilee in 1501 for Britain. Professor William E. Lunt quotes the
following from Polydore Vergil's "Historiae Anglicae"'
'A Chronicler's Account of the
Sale of Jubilee Indulgences in England.–It was not gratuitous
liberality, for Alexander . . . had decreed what was the price of his
grace for providing for the salvation of men"– "Records of
Civilization Sources and Studies," No. XIX, "Papal Revenues
In the Middle Ages," Vol. II, p. 477.
Professor Lunt informs us that
this Papal Bull is found in the "British Museum, Cottonian MS,
Cleop. E. III, fol. 157V," "as entitled by Gairdner, Letters
and Papers Illustrative of the Reigns of Richard III and Henry VII, II,
93-100," from which we quote the following:
"The Article of the Bull of
the holy Jubilee of full remission and great joy granted to the realm
of England, Wales, Ireland, and Garfiesey, . . . by granting of great
indulgence and remission of sins and trespasses." Those who
"at any time after the publication hereof to the last evensong of
the Octaves of Easter next coming, truly confessed and contrite, visit
such churches as shall be assigned · . . and there put into the chest
for the intent ordained such sum or gratuity of money, gold or silver,
as is limited and taxed here following in the last end of this paper,
to be spent for the defense of our faith, shall have the same
indulgence, pardon, and grace, with remission of all their sins, which
they should have had if they had gone personally to Rome in the year
of grace." –Id., pp. 478, 479.
Then follows the "Tax
"Tax that every man shall
put into the chest that will receive this great grace of their
"First, every man and woman,
. . . having lands, tenements, or rents, amounting to the yearly value
of £2,000 or above, must pay, or cause to be paid, . . . and
effectually, without fraud or deceit, put into the chest . . . lawful
money current in that country where they be, £3,6s. and 8d *17.
"Also, every man and woman
having tenements and rents to the yearly value of £1,000 or above, to
the sum of £2,000 exclusive, must pay for themselves and their wives
and children 40s"–Id., pp. 481,-482.
This sliding scale goes down to
the payment of 12d.
"The Pope . . . granted full
authority and power to the venerable father in God, Jasper Powe, his
orator and commissary, to absolve [any one who] hath committed simony,
. . . with all those that occupy evil gotten goods, all usurers, and
all such that wrongfully and unlawfully occupyeth or witholdeth other
men's goods, . . . that they may lawfully keep and occupy the same
goods, first making composition for the same with said commissary of
some certain sum of money to be spent in the foresaid holy
use"–Id., pp. 482, 483.
Hon. Thomas E. Watson, U. S.
Senator from Georgia, writes'
"Claude d'Espence was Rector
of the University of Paris in the sixteenth century. He published a
'Commentary on the Epistle to Titus.' He was [al devoted Roman
Catholic and his standing was high in his church Here is what he wrote
and published about the 'Tariff on Sins" "'Provided money
can be extorted, everything prohibited is permitted. There is almost
nothing forbidden that is not dispensed with for money They give
permission to priests to have concubines There is a printed book which
has been publicly sold for a considerable time, entitled, The Taxes of
the Apostolical Chancery, from which one may learn more enormities and
crimes than from all the books of the Summists. And of these crimes,
there are some which persons may have liberty to commit for money,
while absolution from all of them, after they have been committed, may
"In the British Museum are
two small volumes which contain the Pope's Chancery Taxes, and his
Penitential Taxes. These books–in manuscript bound in vellum–were
taken from the archives of Rome. upon the death of Innocent XII. The
Prothonotary, Amyon, was the abstractor. One of the booklets bears
date, '6 February, 1514" the other '10 March, 1520.' The
inscription is 'Mandatum Leonis, Papae X.,'–which, freely rendered,
means that the compilation of these Taxes was ordered by Pope Leo
Watsonian," October, 1928, Vol. II, No. IX, pp. 275, 276.
"Pope Could Empty
Henry Charles Lea says:
"An enthusiastic Franciscan
taught at Tournay, in 1482, that the pope at will could empty
purgatory .... The same year . . . the church of Saintes, having
procured a hull of indulgence from Sixtus IV, announced publicly that,
no matter how long a period of punishment had been assigned by divine
justice to a soul, it would fly from purgatory to heaven as soon as
three sols were paid in its behalf to be expended in repairing the
church .... The doctrine . . . was pronounced to be unquestionable
Catholic truth by the Dominican Silvestro Mozzolino, in his refutation
of Luther's Theses, dedicated to Leo X. (F. Silvest. Prieriatis
Dialogus, No. 27.) As Silvestro was made general of his order and
master of the sacred palace, it is evident that no exceptions to his
teaching were taken at Rome. Those who doubt that the abuses of the
system were the proximate cause of the Reformation can consult Van
Espen, Jur. Eccles. Universi P. II., tit. vii, cap. 3, No.
9-12"–"History of the Inquisition in the Middle
Ages," Vol. I, p. 43, note.
Some Roman Catholic writers claim
that the "taxes" charged in those "Tax Tables" were
simply registration fees for the absolutions or pardons granted. If this
were true, why are they called "taxes," and why should the
registration fee for one man be fifty times as much as for another that
had committed the same sin? Or why should registration fees vary so
greatly for the different sins?
William Coxe, F. R. S., F. A. S.,
speaking of the time of Luther, says:
"The sale of indulgences
gave rise to the schism of a great part of Europe from the church of
Rome. "Indulgences, in the early ages, were merely a diminution
of ecclesiastical penances, at the recommendation of confessors or
persons of peculiar sanctity. This license soon degenerated into an
abuse, and being made by the popes a pretext for obtaining money, was
held forth as an exemption from the pains of purgatory, and afterwards
as a plenary pardon for the commission
of all sins whatsoever; and this unchristian doctrine *19
was justified on the principle no
less absurd than impious and immoral. "With a view to replenish
the exhausted treasury of the church, Leo X had recourse to the sale
of indulgences, an expedient which had been first invented by Urban
II, and continued by his successors; Julius II had bestowed
indulgences on all who contributed towards building the church of St.
Peter, at Rome, and Leo founded his grant on the same pretence. But .
. . this scandalous traffic had been warmly opposed in Germany. · . .
These indulgences were held forth as pardons for the most enormous
crimes; they were publicly put up for sale, and even forced upon the
people, and Tetzel and his coadjutors indulged themselves in
drunkenness, and every other species of licentiousness, in which they
squandered their share of the profits, and not unfrequently produced
indulgences as stakes at the gaming table"–"History of the
House of Austria," Vol. I, pp. 384-386.
Professor Coxe continues in a
"We subjoin the form of
absolution used by Tetzel: "'May our Lord Jesus Christ have mercy
upon thee, and absolve thee by the merits of his most holy passion And
I, by his authority, by that of his blessed apostles, Peter and Paul,
and of the most holy pope granted and committed to me in these parts,
do absolve thee, first, from all ecclesiastical censures, in whatever
manner they have been incurred; and then from all thy sins,
transgressions, and excesses, how enormous soever they may be, even
from such as are reserved for the cognizance of the Holy See; and as
far as the keys of the holy church extend, I remit to thee all
punishment which thou deservest in purgatory on their account; and I
restore thee to the holy sacraments of the church, to the unity of the
faithful, and to that innocence and purity which thou possessest at
baptism; so that when thou diest, the gates of punishment shall be
shut, and the gates of the paradise of delight shall be opened; and if
thou shalt not die at present, this. grace shall remain in full force
when thou art at the point of death. In the name of the Father, and of
the Son, and of the Holy Ghost"–Seckend. Comment Lib. I, p.
14." –Id., p. 385.
The author has several
photographic reproductions of these "Indulgences." The
"Congregation of the Propaganda" at Rome, 1883, published a
book called "Il Tesoro dele Sacre Indulgence," which attempts
to justify the sale of indulgences by monks at the time of Martin
Luther. (Chap. III.) Dr.
William Robertson gives the same facts in the "History of the Reign
of the Emperor Charles the Fifth," Vol. I, pp. 460-463, as have
been quoted from Dr. Coxe. In a footnote Dr. Robertson adds the
following of Tetzel's arguments:
"'The souls confined in
purgatory, for whose redemption indulgences are purchased, as soon as
the money tinkles in the chest, instantly escape from that place of
torment and ascend into heaven .... For twelve pence you may redeem
the soul of your father out of purgatory; and are you so ungrateful
that you will not rescue your parent from torment?"–Id., p.
Turning The Tables On Tetzel
John Dowling, D. D.,
"A gentleman of Saxony had
heard Tetzel at Leipsic, and was much shocked by his impostures. He
went to the monk, and inquired if he was authorized to pardon sins in
intention, or such as the applicant intended to commit? 'Assuredly,'
answered Tetzel; 'I have full power from the Pope to. do so.' 'Well,'
returned the gentleman, 'I want to take some slight revenge on one of
my enemies, without attempting his life. I will pay you ten crowns, if
you will give me a letter of indulgence that shall bear me harmless.'
Tetzel made some scruples; they struck their bargain for thirty
crowns. Shortly after, the monk set out from Leipsic. The gentleman,
attended by his servants, laid wait for him in a wood between
Juterboch and Treblin,–fell upon him, gave him a beating, and
carried off the rich chest of indulgencemoney the inquisitor had with
him. Tetzel clamored against this act of violence, and brought an
action before the judges. But the gentleman showed the letter signed
by Tetzel himself, which exempted him beforehand from all
responsibility. Duke George who had at first been much irritated at
this action, upon seeing this writing, ordered that the accused should
be. acquitted"–"History of Romanism," p. 445. New
Some people finally began to feel
that, if the pope could empty purgatory at will, he must be very
hard-hearted to leave so many millions in the flames just because the
people did not buy sufficient indulgences to free them! Was not the pope
more concerned about the souls of his spiritual children in purgatory,
than about the building of a magnificent church at Rome? Should not the
shepherd be more concerned about his sheep than about their wool? People
had begun to break the shackles and think for themselves. A storm was
brewing, only waiting for some one to take the lead.
When God's hour strikes, He
always has His instruments ready for action. On the 31st of October,
1517, Dr. Martin Luther stepped up to the beautiful Castle Church at
Wittenberg, and nailed on its door the ninety-five theses he had written
against the sale of indulgences. In two weeks
"these propositions were
circulated over all Germany .... In a month they had made the tour of
Europe"–"History of Protestantism," J. A. Wylie, Vol.
I, chap. X, p. 267.
Thus the Reformation began, and it
continued till a large part of Europe broke away from the Roman Church;
and only by the work of Jesuits were some of these countries brought
back to the Roman fold.
We shall now leave it with the
reader to decide, whether or not sufficient proof has been given of the
corrupt condition of the medieval church to justify a Reformation. When
the Church refused to be reformed, turned against the Reformers, and
bitterly opposed all attempts to place the Bible in the hands of the
common people, then the time had come to separate from her communion,
and establish churches where the people would be fed with the word of
God, and where there was liberty to obey it.