Saturday, December 31, 2011

Abuses in the Sale of Indulgences, 1512

As found in A Source Book for Mediaeval History: Selected Documents Illustrating the History of Europe in the Middle Ages, by Oliver J Thatcher, Ph.D. and Edgar H. McNeal, Ph.D., pgs 338-340 (1905).  The following is a religious piece that reflects the views of both an individual from 1893 as well as those from 1512 & 1517

179.  Abuses in the Sale of Indulgences, 1512.

Fr. Myconius, Geschichte der Reformation.

Several references have been made to the need of a reform in the matter of indulgences. Cardinal Raymond, papal legate in 1503, complained that the agents who sold indulgences were actuated only by the basest motives of gain and were thoroughly dishonest. Myconius (his German name was Mecum) was a Franciscan monk who became a Protestant.

We have thought it best to give first a statement of the doctrine of indulgences in order that the abuses in their sale may be more clearly apparent.
"It is the catholic doctrine that when a sin is forgiven its punishment is not necessarily at the same time remitted. Through the power of the keys the eternal punishment is remitted, but generally there remain temporal punishments which must be satisfied either in this world by means of good works, or in the next by enduring punishment in purgatory. The Bible, by examples as well as by statements, teaches that with the removal of the eternal guilt and punishment, the temporal punishment is not always remitted. Adam and Eve, after committing sin, repented and were justified by God, but they were driven out of Paradise and compelled to endure infinite misfortunes, and even death itself, as a punishment of their sin. We are taught the same by the example of the Israelites who were pardoned for their sin of murmuring through the prayers of Moses, but, as a punishment for their sin, were excluded from the promised land and perished in the wilderness.... From this it is seen that the Bible demands not only the conversion of the heart, but also that we render satisfaction by enduring temporal punishment for the sin....
"This satisfaction which we must render [i.e., this temporal punishment which we must endure] is a part of the sacrament of penance, and must be imposed on us by the minister of penance [i.e., the priest]. The doctrine of indulgences is inseparably connected with that of satisfaction. By indulgence is meant a remission of the temporal punishment made by a priest by means of the application of the treasure of the church. The treasure of the church is the whole sum of the merits of Jesus Christ ... in addition to all the good works or merits of all the saints. ... In the church, as St. Thomas Aquinas well says, some have done greater penance than the measure of their sins demanded. Others have suffered with patience many unjust tribulations, with which they would have expiated the temporal punishments of many more sins than they have committed. [All such good works in excess of what they needed to make satisfaction for their own sins are called works of supererogation, and being meritorious, their merit is added to the treasure of the church and may, at the discretion of the church, be applied to the benefit of others who are lacking in such good works.] One of the ways in which the church distributes this common possession (treasure of merits) is by means of indulgences."—From the Theologia Dommatica of Prof. Dati, vol. iii, Chap. XXIX, Florence, 1893.

Anno 1512. Tetzel gained by his preaching in Germany an immense sum of money which he sent to Rome. A very large sum was collected at the new mining works at St. Annaberg, where I heard him for two years. It is incredible what this ignorant and impudent monk used to say. ... He declared that if they contributed readily and bought grace and indulgence, all the hills of St. Annaberg would become pure massive silver. Also, that, as soon as the coin clinked in the chest, the soul for whom the money was paid would go straight to heaven.... The indulgence was so highly prized that when the agent came to a city the bull was carried on a satin or gold cloth, and all the priests and monks, the town council, schoolmaster, scholars, men, women, girls, and children went out in procession to meet it with banners, candles, and songs. All the bells were rung and organs played. He was conducted into the church, a red cross was erected in the centre of the church, and the pope's banner displayed....

Anno 1517. It is incredible what this ignorant monk said and preached. He gave sealed letters stating that even the sins which a man was intending to commit would be forgiven.  He said the pope had more power than all the apostles, all the angels and saints, even than the Virgin Mary herself. For these were all subject to Christ, but the pope was equal to Christ. After his ascension into heaven Christ had nothing more to do with the management of the church until the judgment day, but had committed all that to the pope as his vicar and vicegerent.

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