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An introduction to his life and work

Johannes Cochlaeus stands among the prominent members of the Catholic reaction to the Reformation during its first three decades. His work serves as valuable evidence for scholars of the division of western Christianity that took place in the sixteenth century. Two qualities give him a special place among the early Catholic respondents to Protestantism: the volume of his work and the rhetorical ferocity of his reaction to the beginnings of Protestantism. He was the most prolific and most acerbic of the Catholic polemicists, and both of these qualities in tandem give him a historical importance that is only now being recognized. This chapter offers the reader of the Commentary an introduction to the main events of Cochlaeus's career and an assessment of his treatment of Luther.

in Luther’s lives

This chapter discusses the conflict between the lower clergy and French bishops concerning the hierarchical authority and jurisdiction that gave the latter absolute authority over the former. These disagreements brought many tough challenges for French bishops for they were pitted against members of the lower clergy, and even against the might of the papacy, as they sought to implement their vision of Tridentine discipline. The bishops were forced to define and defend their rights of jurisdiction so that their monarchical authority could reign supreme in their dioceses.

in Fathers, pastors and kings
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Two contemporary accounts of Martin Luther

This book presents a contemporary, eyewitness account of the life of Martin Luther translated into English. Johannes Cochlaeus (1479–1552) was present in the great hall at the Diet of Worms on April 18, 1521 when Luther made his famous declaration before Emperor Charles V: ‘Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen’. Afterward, Cochlaeus sought Luther out, met him at his inn, and privately debated with him. Luther wrote of Cochlaeus, ‘may God long preserve this most pious man, born to guard and teach the Gospel of His church, together with His word, Amen’. However, the confrontation left Cochlaeus convinced that Luther was an impious and malevolent man. Over the next twnety-five years, Cochlaeus barely escaped the Peasant's War with his life. He debated with Melanchthon and the reformers of Augsburg. It was Cochlaeus who conducted the authorities to the clandestine printing press in Cologne, where William Tyndale was preparing the first English translation of the New Testament (1525). For an eyewitness account of the Reformation—and the beginnings of the Catholic Counter-Reformation—no other historical document matches the first-hand experience of Cochlaeus. After Luther's death, it was rumoured that demons seized the reformer on his death-bed and dragged him off to Hell. In response to these rumours, Luther's friend and colleague Philip Melanchthon wrote and published a brief encomium of the reformer in 1548. Cochlaeus consequently completed and published his monumental life of Luther in 1549.

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Mirrors of French ideals?

This chapter discusses the French ideal of the good bishop and the episcopacy. It explains that the French vision combined the appropriate elements of the archetypes provided by Cardinal Archbishop Charles Borromeo and the bishop of Geneva, François de Sales. This pastoral ideal married governmental duties with an intense spirituality that particularly emphasised charity and interior mortification. The chapter contends that the private correspondence and compositions of bishops and other leading clergy reveal that this construct of pastoral care, spirituality and theology fulfilled a need felt within the episcopate itself, and was diffused, both formally and informally, to provide an inspiring framework for administrative work and personal life.

in Fathers, pastors and kings
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French clerical reformers and episcopal status

This chapter focuses on the work of French clerical reformers concerning episcopal status. Throughout the seventeenth century, these reformers produced important contributions to the related issues of the nature and functions of episcopacy and the character of French episcopal reform. They principally concentrated on the hierarchical authority of bishops, and it was as a function of this that they treated the perfection of the episcopal state, its power to perfect and its obligation of personal sanctity. The chapter suggests that Cardinal Pierre de Bérulle and his disciples made crucial contributions to the development of seventeenth-century episcopal ideology through their emphasis on the superb theological character and hierarchical authority of episcopacy.

in Fathers, pastors and kings

If Luther remains a figure of heroic proportions, it is due as much to the work of his admirers as to his own efforts. And Philip Melanchthon, Luther's closest colleague, was so successful in creating a legendary Luther that his own role in Reformation history has been regarded as less substantial and influential than it actually was. After being called to Wittenberg, Melanchton showed potential to make it a center for humanism. Later, the ninety-five issues that Martin Luther listed as debatable struck at the heart of Catholic practice. They also served as articles in an indictment of traditional ecclesiastical authority. Within a year Luther would become the pole around which Western Christendom would orientate itself. Within three years Luther himself would be condemned and excommunicated by the Roman church; and before his death the dividing lines that demarcate the Western confessions to this day would be firmly in place.

in Luther’s lives

This chapter presents Philip Melanchthon's life history of Dr Martin Luther. Here, Melanchthon paints his friend in a good light, nothing his contributions to faith and the Church. These were a few controversies, such as when Luther was not certainly getting rid of indulgences themselves, but only urging moderation. Luther added to the explanation of the doctrines on penance, the remission of sins, faith and indulgences, also these topics: the difference between divine and human laws, the doctrine on the use of the Supper of the Lord and the other Sacraments, and concerning Prayers. The chapter notes that just as he entered upon this cause without desire for private gain, he only battled by teaching and avoided taking up arms, and he wisely distinguished the conflicting duties of a Bishop teaching the Church of God, and of Magistrates, who restrain the multitude by the sword.

in Luther’s lives
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in Luther’s lives
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This chapter addresses the episcopate's understanding of its status and its role towards another power that consistently sought to increase its sway over the French church: the gallican crown and its secular officials. The bishops' tensed relations with successive popes resulted in several clashes between the bishops and the French crown. The chapter suggests that from the bishops' conflicts with the state and the papacy, and indeed with the lower clergy, emerged a strong sense of communion and collective identity within the episcopate, based on the belief that prelates were duty-bound to protect their office and their brethren.

in Fathers, pastors and kings