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

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Furthermore, the clergy shall avoid public taverns, which they may enter only while traveling. Then, just as at home and elsewhere, they must avoid gluttony, drunkenness, and gaming, which the canon law forbids, and also insults, cursing, fighting, and all other violations and provocations, such as dancing, public gambling, and mixed socializing, so that their actions will not provoke criticism of their clerical dignity. [ . . . ]

Priests who are pastors, or their vicars, shall not burden their subjects or parishioners with stole fees and other pastoral demands, beyond those obligations prescribed by the law. They shall also not pressure them to pay for Masses for the dead after the funeral, such as on the seventh or the thirtieth day or on the anniversary. Similarly, they must not demand offerings, except on the high feast days, and then only as voluntary gifts. Concerning burials, the administration of the sacraments, and other spiritual services, the clergy shall and must not demand or seek from anyone a contract, agreement, or preliminary payment. Further, if parishioners refuse or fail to respect the pastor's rights, no one may for this reason refuse to give them the sacraments or forbid a burial. In this proscription we do not forbid the collection of such pastoral dues as are established by custom and thus rightfully belong to the clergy.

[ . . . ]

[ . . . ] It is improper for priests to indulge themselves in excesses, lest people say, "Their God is the belly." Rather, their office requires them to serve the Almighty with modesty and chastity by saying Mass for the forgiveness of sins.

Further, [it is important that] the clergy should not be despised for attending more to money than to the salvation of souls, which occurs when a layman, having confessed a grave sin, is told by the priests he must seek absolution in some other place at his own, not inconsiderable cost. Therefore, we establish and order that from now on any confessor may absolve any layman who confesses contritely of all secret sins, great or small, which the bishops have previously reserved for their own judgment. The only exceptions are murders, heretics, and excommunicants, who must be sent to the bishop or his vicar-general. Nothing may be charged for absolution, as one calls the forgiveness of or release from sin.

This constitution changes nothing with respect to priests and other members of the clergy.

St. Paul says that no one shall be too quick to lay on hands, so that no one shall lightly be ordained to the cure of souls. [I Tim. 5:22] Therefore, we order that before he may be ordained to the priesthood, everyone, whether a member of a religious order or not, shall be examined by the bishop or his official. It does not accord with his charge, nor does it sufficiently serve the parish community, when, without permission from the bishop or his vicar-general, a pastor installs a vicar in his own place and continues to take a share of the pastorate's incomes. One must not muzzle [i.e., starve] a working ox, so we refer the sharing of revenues to the judgment of the bishop or his vicar-general.*

[ . . . ]

And since it is much more salutary that God's temple [ . . . ] be served by learned rather than unlearned, incompetent persons – which is especially important in these times – henceforth only those will be accepted in Holy Orders who surpass others in good morals, life discipline, and ability as established through a proper examination.

[ . . . ]

* This refers to the share of a benefice's revenues that the incumbent was obliged to pay his vicar, who was not benefice – trans.

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