Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/713

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.


of the Curia he was speedily found to be a heretic and he perished at the stake. Although St Bonaventura deprecated, on account of the scandals and quarrels which it provoked, the Mendicant preachers’ habit of attacking the corruption of the priesthood, it was ever a favourite topic; and the preaching of such men as Olivier Maillard, Geiler von Kaisersberg, Guillaume Pepin, Jean Clérée, Michel Menot, and a host of others, unquestionably contributed largely to stimulate the irresistible impulse which finally insisted on reform. With the invention of printing their eloquence reached larger audiences; for their sermons were collected and printed and received a wide circulation.

That a reform of the Church in its head and its members was necessary had long been generally conceded. For more than a century Europe had been clamouring for it. For this it had gathered its learning and piety at Constance, 1414-18; the Curia had skilfully eluded the demand and the assembly delegated the task to future Councils which, by the decree Frequens, it decreed should be convoked at regular intervals of seven years. In obedience to this decree a Council met at Pavia and Siena in 1423-4, where the effort was again made and again frustrated. When the term came around in 1431 and the Church, assembled at Basel, determined not to be balked again, the resolute energy of the reformers speedily caused a rupture with the papacy, and the Basilian canons, aimed at some of the more crying abuses, were stedfastly ignored. The responsibility thus devolved upon the papacy, which had rendered abortive the efforts of the Councils and, after its bitter experience at Basel, had successfully resisted the constantly recurring demands for the enforcement of the decree Frequens. To meet this responsibility successive Popes, from Martin V to Leo X, issued reformatory decrees, the promulgation and non-observance of which only served as an acknowledgment of the evil and of the impossibility of its correction.

At length, in 1511, the schismatic Council of Pisa, held by the disaffected Cardinals under the auspices of Louis XII, forced the hand of Julius II, and to checkmate it he issued a summons for a General Council to assemble in Rome, April 19, 1512, to resist the schism, to reform the morals of laity and clergy, to bring about peace between Christian princes and to prosecute the war with the Turk. Not much was to be hoped of a Council held in Rome under papal presidency; but Europe took the project seriously. The instructions of the Spanish delegates ordered them to labour especially for the reformation of the Curia; for the chief objection of the infidels to Christianity arose from the public and execrable wickedness of Rome, for which the Pope was accountable. It was apparently to forestall action that, in March, 1512, Julius appointed a commission of eight Cardinals to reform the Curia and its officials and, on March 30, he issued a bull reducing the heavy