So far back as the Council of Vienne in 1311, William Durandus, nephew of the "Resolute Doctor," when commissioned by Clement V to advise him on the method of holding that assembly, had answered in a volume which we may still consult that "the Church ought to be reformed in head and members." The phrase was caught up, was echoed during the Great Schism at Pisa (1409), in the stormy sessions of Constance (1414-18), at Basel (1431-49), and to the very end of the fifteenth century. It became a watchword, not only in the manifestos of French or German princes at issue with the Apostolic See, but on the lips of Popes themselves and in official documents. But though searching and sweeping, the formula had its limits. Reformation was conceivable of persons, institutions and laws; it could not, on Catholic principles, be admitted within the sphere of dogma, or identified with Revelation; it must leave untouched the root-idea of medieval Christendom that the priesthood possessed a divine power in the Mass and in the Sacraments, conferred by the episcopal laying-on of hands. It affected nothing beyond discipline or practice; and only that portion of the Canon Law might be revised which was not implicitly contained in the Bible or in the unanimous teaching of the Fathers as expounded by the Church. Foxe of Winchester, writing to Wolsey in 1520, well defined the scope of amendment; he had found, he says, that everything belonging to the primitive integrity of the clergy, and especially to the monastic state, was perverted either by dispensations or corruptions, or else had become obsolete from age or depraved by the iniquity of the times. Thus even Alexander VI, startled into momentary penitence by the murder of his son, the Duke of Gandia, appointed a committee of Cardinals in 1497, to draw up a scheme for the reformation of morals which, he declared, must begin with the Roman Curia. The mere summary of abuses to be corrected, or of better dispositions to be taken, in the government of the Church, extends to one hundred and twenty-eight heads, as set forth in the papal Letters beginning, "In apostolicae sedis specula." Julius II,
Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/656
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