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Defense of the Imperial Church – Regensburg Reform (July 7, 1524)

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(B) Reform Ordinance, July 7, 1524

The damnable heresy (which appeals to the common man's desire to have his own will and is preached or interpreted under the pretext of brotherly love) is caused in part by the clergy's irregular character and way of life, and in part by abuses of the holy laws and ordinances, on account of which the clergy is no longer highly regarded.

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The soul lives chiefly from the Word that comes from the mouth of God, but it is not to be preached anywhere and by anyone, just as the Apostle Paul says, "And how shall they preach, except they be sent?" [Rom. 10:15] Accordingly, we establish and ordain that no one (whether a member of a religious order or of other exempt status)* may teach the Gospel unless he has been examined by the bishop or episcopal vicar concerning his way of life, character, and skill. And once the preachers have displayed a written credential in the form of an open letter, which, except for the scribe's fee, they will receive free of charge, and once they have been examined and installed, they shall preach the Gospel correctly, moderately, and clearly. And they shall not attempt to interpret in a new or false sense the passages that are somewhat obscure and unclear, or are difficult for reason to comprehend, but shall teach and explain according to the doctrine and instructions of the Church's holy Fathers, especially Cyprian, Chrysostom, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, and Gregory. Also, they shall be careful not to present dreams or fables as truth, [introduce] uncertainties instead of certainties, or say or preach things suppressed and condemned by the true Church. They shall preach with all modesty, avoiding polemics or curses, so that their preaching does not provoke anger among the people. Further, the bishops shall appoint several persons who are well schooled in doctrine, who shall find those who are best suited to preach according to the Gospel and to uproot the false Lutheran teachings; and they shall assure that the people are correctly instructed in Christian doctrine, and that he who diverges from it shall be relieved of his office, so that he does not lead others astray.

Accordingly, we address and warn each and every member of the clerical estate to conduct himself as prescribed by his estate and as desired by Christ, our only Savior, as He says: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." [Matt. 5:16] They should also wear proper clothing, as St. Paul writes. [I Cor. 4:11] Therefore, every prelate shall be especially attentive to this matter, so that members of religious orders under his authority shall not wear garments in stripes and colors but long robes. And they shall carry no weapons, except when they are traveling; nor shall they decorate their beards or hair. Rather, they shall have their tonsure shorn clean and take care not to anger the laity by improper dress – just as the canon laws prescribe.

* That is, exempt from episcopal jurisdiction – trans.

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