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The Empire and Its Reformation – Lazarus von Schwendi’s Advice to Emperor Maximilian II (1574)

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On the other hand, the Catholics are similarly discontented and are as full of distrust as the others [i.e., the Protestants]. In the first place, they do not disclose to Your Majesty that in their opinion [you] have not shown any particular intentions or aims in religious matters, and that [you] have been too lenient toward your subjects. Namely, that you have, in general, courted the favor of first one, then another faction.

And given that Your Majesty is not wholly devoted to the papacy, Your Majesty may easily infer how great the goodwill toward, satisfaction with, and trust in you and your associates can possibly be. For one hates neutrality in these matters and considers it to be nearly as bad as overt apostasy and heresy.

In addition, the opposite misconception also figures largely with them, namely that the adherents of the new religion’s entire nature and intent are directed toward working out how they can constantly promote their own religion and totally oppress the Catholics, even going so far as wanting to oust the clergy from their foundations and properties.

And because they believe that they cannot hope for or realize as much protection, help, or action from Your Majesty as they would like (and feel they ought to have), one may readily observe that they join together amongst themselves and may thereby lend credence to the misunderstanding, prevarication, and impositions referred to above.

For all these and many other [reasons], which will not be reported to keep this [analysis] short, and so that no one is offended, Your Majesty may readily perceive the present state and condition of the Empire and the internal wounds and divisions of spirit and reach the conclusion that, under these conditions, something could easily occur that would feed and fan the smoldering fire on one side or the other like a sudden wind, so that the Empire would be placed in the direst danger and peril. For if things ever came to violence and internecine warfare, what wretched conditions would result from this! How the foreign nations would pour oil on the fire so that we would butcher each other ourselves and would ultimately fall into their hands and into those of the Turks, who would not close their eyes to such an opportunity.

And things are even more dangerous because both sides within the Empire have armed themselves to such an extent that one side would plainly be unable to exterminate the other without [causing] universal ruin. And because one side would need foreign assistance and support [to prevail], the other side will be no less anxious to [solicit it as well].

[It is a fact,] however, that all kingdoms and countries have ever and always gone to ruin through inner divisions and foreign intervention, and those who first solicited their [the foreigners’] assistance relished it little or not for long.

[The clergy would be most affected by such a war.]

Printing has opened the eyes of the world to good and evil, and has uncovered many hidden things and, in particular, many abuses in religious matters, which are impossible to conceal from the people and which cannot be manipulated out of their hearts or forced out by fear or punishment, and the world no longer wants to let itself be guided, led, and constrained though naivety, ignorance, and external discipline and ceremonies as in the old days, but rather wants to be guided and taught by thorough and complete instruction in religious matters.

[The papacy has proved itself to be intransigently opposed to the emperor’s exhortations to reform, and this has given rise to new resentments. By means of “tyranny and the sword,” and using “all sorts of cunning devices,” Rome had tried to incite rulers and authorities]

to pursue and exterminate the Lutheran heretics with violence and tyranny as being worse than Jews, Turks, and pagans.

[The alienation was increasing, to the point where Catholics could not even trust their own subjects.]

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