Monday, September 2, 2013

Foundations of the Anglican Church XXXVIX

Castel Sant'Angelo where Clement VII sought
refuge from the troops of Charles V during the
Sack of Rome in 1527
Luther’s preaching swept Germany as his complaints about the torpid state of the Church spread to other preachers who took up his cry against the superficial and vapid religiosity that was being pedaled to the faithful as authentic Christianity.  Luther’s simple message that salvation is not something that we earn but which is given us freely by a loving and generous God ignited the minds and hearts of countless souls.  Luther had no intention of starting a new Church—indeed he never saw his work as anything more than reforming the One Church—but his excommunication put a divide between him and Papal Christianity.  Many Germans quickly rallied to his side of the divide.  Luther and other German preachers who agreed with him no longer looked to the bishops for leadership but prepared to take the Church out into the deep waters of reform on their own.  The bishops, for the greater part, were a sorry lot.  They held their offices in gift from the Emperor or various German princes.  Their benefices made them princes in their own right and gave them a most comfortable life in their palaces with hordes of servants and every luxury.  They were not loyal to Rome, much less to the Gospel, but only anxious to preserve their own position and saw the evangelical fervor of Luther as a threat that they too might be expected to take the Gospel seriously and give themselves to the work of God’s Kingdom rather than to hunting and whoring and drinking and gluttony and luxury.  Left without leadership from the bishops Luther and other evangelicals bravely struck out to translate their theological principals into reformed pastoral practice.  One of Luther’s first acts was to provide a German translation of the scriptures so that every German who knew how to read, could read the Bible.  He wrote dozens of hymns in German so that they could sing their faith with the same enthusiasm they sang in the beerhalls—and he used many beer-hall tunes that have become to subsequent generations and to us “religious” music.  He translated the Mass into German and while keeping its basic structure of Introit, Confession of Sin, Kyrie, Gloria, Collect etc. he did eliminate any idea that the Mass was a sacrifice independent of Christ’s Sacrifice on Calvary.  (In this regard the poor exegetical methodology referred to in the last posting did him and the liturgy harm as he stripped the Anaphora—the Great Prayer of Thanksgiving over the bread and wine—down to the simple words of consecration.)   While he did translate the Mass to German, he did not object to those congregations who preferred the Latin and Latin persisted in many places for several centuries.  Bach, as you may note, wrote Latin settings for the Evangelical Mass.  He also retained the use of altars, candles, crucifixes and was indifferent about retaining vestments.  Luther had a personal devotion to the Mother of God and while by the mid 1520’s he no longer spoke of her as an intercessor, he did preach and speak about her.  Indeed he had no objection to statues of Mary or the saints but he was anxious for his followers to put their faith in Christ alone as our intercessor before God.  This, of course, is harmonious with the scriptures which emphasize, especially the Letter to the Hebrews, that we have but one intercessor and that is Jesus Christ.  (We Catholics see Mary and the saints as sort of secondary intercessors who join their prayers to those of Christ the High Priest on our behalf but who are not intercessors in their own right.) 
Luther’s zeal, combined with German temper, led him to excoriate the unreformed Catholicism of the Bishops and especially of the Pope.  The Papal insistence on pomp and the money to maintain the papal pomp led Luther to see the Pope(s) as the prophesied Anti-Christ who would set themselves up as false deities.  Luther had anything but an irenic personality and his quick temper enflamed the minds and hearts of many who followed his reformed evangelicalism and they came to see the pope and papal Catholicism as a demonic cult.
Ok, here is where this story begins to affect Henry and his request for an annulment of his marriage to Katherine of Aragon. 
The most powerful monarch of the day was Katherine’s nephew, Charles V.  Charles was the son of Katherine’s sister—Juana the Mad.  (Why she was called “mad” or crazy is a great story in itself but we aren’t going there.)  Charles inherited from her the throne of Spain and the Spanish empire in the New World as well as Naples, southern Italy, Sicily, and Sardinia.  Not a bad inheritance.  But that was only part of it.  Charles’ father—and Juana’s husband—was Philip the Handsome of Burgundy.   Philip’s father died before he could inherit from his father, the Emperor Maximilian, the Holy Roman Empire—a vast empire consisting of today’s Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Poland, Czech Republic, and much of Northern Italy.  This inheritance then passed to Charles.  Charles was a devout Catholic and anxious to preserve the Church from Luther but many of his German subjects had embraced Luther’s reforms.  In 1527 Charles led an army down into Italy to quell rebellions brewing there and solidify his power.  In the process he found himself in conflict with a French backed anti-Imperial league consisting of Florence, Milan, Venice and the papacy.  This put Charles at military odds with Pope Clement VII and Charles’ troops ended up sacking Rome.  Clement fled the papal palace and took refuge in the Castle Sant’Angelo.  But Charles’ troops were mostly Germans—and mostly Lutherans.    For them their attack on Rome was an attack on the anti-Christ and the subsequent sack of the city was horrendous.  Priests were murdered at their altars, nuns raped in their convents, and thousands of Romans—believers and non-believers alike—were put to the sword.  The Pope’s Swiss guards were all but wiped out defending the Vatican.  Tons of gold and silver were carried off as the Roman churches and basilicas were stripped of their treasures—and as the houses of Cardinals and bishops were pillaged alongside the monasteries and convents. 
Charles himself was not in command of the army at the time of the siege.  In fact the problem is that no one was in command.  The designated leader, the Duke of Bourbon, had been killed in the opening skirmish; moreover the army was in mutiny because the emperor had been slow in paying them for their Italian campaign.  The Lutheran troops particularly were in a blood frenzy as they saw themselves as God’s avengers.  The 1527 sack of Rome effectively put an end to the Roman Renaissance and there was a tremendous slowdown in the vast programs of building and art that had characterized Rome for the previous three decades. 
It was at this particularly poor time to ask a favor from the Pope that England’s King Henry wanted an annulment from his wife, Katherine of Aragon, aunt to the Emperor Charles.  Clement was in no position to alienate the Emperor by sanctioning his aunt being dumped for a Trophy Wife and Queen.  But there is more to the story—far more—and the real reason may have more to do with Medici politics than Clement’s fear of pissing off Charles. 

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