Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/666

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other Councils repeated and enforced. It dealt with Reservations,—that deadly plague of papal and episcopal finance; with the moral disorders of the clergy; and with many abuses the effects of which have been strongly depicted in Protestant satires. The Synod of Freising in 1440 condemned usury and was loud in its denunciation of Jew money-lenders. There was a Synod of London in 1438; Edinburgh held another in 1445. The numerous and well-considered statutes of Söderköping, over which the Archbishop of Upsala presided in 1441, and of other assemblies in Scandinavia between 1443 and 1448, reveal the widespread evils from which religion was suffering; they insist on prayers in the vernacular, on frequent preaching, on a stricter discipline among the clergy. A French Synod at Rouen in 1445, which enacted forty-one canons, condemned in emphatic terms witchcraft and magic and many other popular superstitions, together with the non-residence of beneficiaries and the tax which prelates were not ashamed to gather in from priests who kept concubines. At Angers in 1448 a severe attack was made upon the traffic in spurious relics and false indulgences. Many strokes might be added to this picture; but there is an inevitable monotony, as in the abuses painted, so in the remedies proposed for them, none of which laid the axe to the root. Unless princes and nobles could be hindered from masquerading as bishops, though destitute of piety, learning, and vocation, the ancient evils must continue to flourish. The odious charges laid on a poverty-stricken clergy, at once too numerous and too heavily burdened, which took from them their first-fruits, their tenths, their fifteenths, were not abolished in a single one of these Councils. Nor was the abominable practice of charging money-dues on every office of religion abandoned, until the floods came and the great rains fell which threatened the house with destruction. The master-idol which it was impossible to pull down was Mammon. Culture was ruined by immorality, and religion itself by simony; while for the sake of a living crowds professed rules of perfection which they made little or no attempt to observe.

Yet Cusanus showed them a more excellent way. In February, 1451, he began to execute his legatine commission at Salzburg, where he presided over a local Synod. He travelled in unpretending guise, preached wherever he came, and displayed zeal and even tact, which was not his special quality, in reconciling the parish clergy with the Mendicants, and in bringing back monastic discipline to its former purity. At Vienna, in March, he appointed three visitors to the Austrian houses of St Benedict, then by no means attached to Rome. Fifty convents, in due time, accepted the reform. Cusanus took in hand the Augustinian Canons, held a Synod at Bamberg, and endeavoured to regulate the troublesome question of Easter Confession to the parish priest, on which strife was constantly arising with the friars. At Würzburg he received the homage of seventy Benedictine Abbots, who