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A History of the Reformation (Vol. 1 of 2)

He had made up his mind that Luther must be condemned


On

the other hand, it is well to remember that the young Emperor did not take the side of the Pope nor commit himself to the Curial ideas of the absolute character of papal supremacy. He laid stress on the unity of the Catholic (mediaeval) Church, on the continuity of its rites, and on the need of maintaining its authority; but the seat of that authority was for him a General Council. The declaration in no way conflicts with the changes in imperial policy which may be traced during the opening weeks of the Diet, nor with that future action which led to the Sack of Rome and to the Augsburg Interim (1548). It is possible that the young ruler had read and admired Luther's earlier writings, and that he had counted on him as an aid in bringing the Church to a better condition. It is more than probable that he already believed that it was his duty to free the Church from the abuses which abounded;(187) but Luther's fierce attack on the Pope disgusted him, and a reformation which came from the people threatened secular as well as ecclesiastical authority. He had made up his mind that Luther must be condemned, and told the German princes that he would not change one iota of his determination. But this did not prevent him making use of Luther to further his diplomatic dealings with the Pope and wring concessions from the Curia. For one thing, the Pope had been interfering with the Inquisition in Spain, trying to mitigate its severity; and Charles, like his maternal grandfather, Ferdinand
of Aragon, believed that the Holy Office was a help in curbing the freedom-loving people of Spain, and had no wish to see his instrument of punishment made less effectual. For another, it was evident that Francis I. was about to invade Italy, and Charles wished the Pope to take his side. If the Pope gave way to him on both of these points, he was ready to carry out his wishes about Luther as far as that was possible.(188)

? 3. In the City of Worms.

The city of Worms was crowded with men of diverse opinions and of many different nationalities. The first Diet of the youthful Emperor (Charles was barely one and twenty), from whom men of all parties expected so much, had attracted much larger numbers than usually attended these assemblies. Weighty matters affecting all Germany were down on the _agenda_. There was the old constitutional question of monarchy or oligarchy bequeathed from the Diets of Maximilian; curiosity to see whether the new ruler would place before the Estates a truly imperial policy, or whether, like his predecessors, he would subordinate national to dynastic considerations; the deputies from the cities were eager to get some sure provisions made for ending the private wars which disturbed trade; all classes were anxious to provide for an effective central government when the Emperor was absent from Germany; local statesmen felt the need of putting an end to the constant disputes between the ecclesiastical and secular powers within Germany; but the hardest problem of all, and the one which every man was thinking, talking, disputing about, was: "To take notice of the books and descriptions made by Friar Martin Luther against the Court of Rome."(189) Other exciting questions were stirring the crowds met at Worms besides those mentioned on the _agenda_ of the Diet. Men were talking about the need of making an end of the papal exactions which were draining Germany of money, and the air was full of rumours of what Sickingen and the knights might attempt, and whether there was going to be another peasant revolt. These questions were instinctively felt to hang together, and each had an importance because of the way in which it was connected with the religious and social problems of the day. For the people of Germany and for the foreign representatives who were gathered together at Worms, it is unquestionable that the Lutheran movement, and how it was to be dealt with, was the supreme problem of the moment. All these various things combined to bring together at Worms a larger concourse of people than had been collected in any German town since the meeting of the General Council at Constance in 1414.


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