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Ordering Protestant Churches – Visitation and School Ordinances in the Palatinate (1556)

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There are two kinds of general deficiencies and failings – some concern the churches and the parishioners, others the pastors and church staff themselves.

The first punishable offense of the congregations and the parishioners is lax and irregular attendance at church. The people either don’t go or go only slowly to church to hear the sermon.

Second, the contempt and scant regard for the Holy Sacrament [ . . . ].

Third, that no catechism classes are held except in a very few places. And if some pastors have attempted to institute them, they have had to give it up again because no one came to church to [hear] their sermons and teaching.

[Fourth, that no alms are given after the celebration of the Sacrament. Funds for building maintenance were being used for other purposes.]

Sixth, that even now all sorts of idolatrous pictures, altarpieces, flags, and papist ceremonies to which the common rabble is still attached and which it uses to perpetuate superstitious practices were found in many churches.

[Seventh, that vestments and other textiles were rotting away.

The visitors recommended that the Elector release a printed mandate, pressing for the cessation of abuses. The report makes suggestions about what such a mandate ought to address. Finally, the errors and shortcomings observed among pastors and church staff are addressed:]

First, most of the older people were raised under the [influence of the] papacy and have not learned and are not used to anything but hearing Mass read. They are like old wineskins that sour and cannot easily hold the new wine of evangelical teaching. The young men have not studied at a proper university, but only in the particular schools (5). They were supported as poor boys, but as soon as they came of age, they entered into ecclesiastical service before they were ready, driven by poverty.

[Second, the report points out the inadequacy of clerical stipends. Pastors were so concerned with earning a living that they had no time to study or to fulfill their pastoral duties. The parishioners gave grudgingly, the pastors were dissatisfied and left themselves open to charges of parsimony. Third, most of them had an annual income of no more than 40-50 Gulden, which was not sufficient to maintain a household, to say nothing of buying clothing and books. The Palatine churches were not, however, poor. But confiscated church property was withheld from the pastors, and this, among other things, is cited as a reason for their wretchedness.]

Because, then, as we have said, the pastors are ignorant farmers, and must even suffer hunger at times, a fourth problem arises, namely, that many despise them for it.

[As a result, church discipline was very poor among them, whereby “the window was opened to vice” and they, for their part, didn’t keep their congregations in order.]

Such great misery and wretchedness, [namely] that so many thousands of souls should be lost forever [is a cause that] should rightly be taken to heart by all authorities, and, in particular, by your Electoral Grace [ . . . ].

(5) Latin preparatory schools.

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