GHDI logo

The Plight of the Old Faith – Peter Canisius, SJ, to Giovanni Cardinal Morone (1576)

page 3 of 6    print version    return to list previous document      next document

9. So many incur the censures and punishments reserved to the Apostolic See that this can hardly be regarded as a venial sin. Since it is rather difficult to request absolution or dispensation from the Apostolic See – people are often afraid of or do not want to communicate with Rome – two aids seem necessary to help the souls that still have not completely shaken off the yoke of obedience. First, the papal nuncios to the emperor should become well acquainted with the controversial questions, possess more than an average command of the Latin language, be wise, lenient, and zealous, and live virtuously and without any appearance of greed. They should receive extensive authority for granting absolution and dispensations and should also be authorized to confer these powers on others. Second, because it is difficult and nearly impossible to make people appeal to the papal nuncio if they have not already turned to Rome, the pope needs to have in different areas of Germany some reliable and knowledgeable representatives to whom he should also grant extensive authority. However, to grant such extensive authority to bishops, who are burdened with an ignorance second to none in all of these matters, amounts not to dispensing but rather to squandering grace.

10. It is difficult for anyone to comprehend the woeful situation in Germany and its plight, unless he has it with his own eyes and becomes acquainted with it from his own experience. It would thus be beneficial, so as to resolve the many questions properly and to conduct German affairs with the Apostolic See quickly and easily, if the pope were to choose as secretary for the business of the northern lands someone from the College of Cardinals who knows about Germany’s affairs. The nuncios and others should write to and consult this person, from whom they could obtain a quick settlement of the business at hand. They would in this case not be obliged to wait so long for a reply from the Secretary of State, who already has enough work to do.

Addendum to the Summer of 1576 Letter to Giovanni Cardinal Morone

The Holy Father, whom Germany owes so much, will render even more outstanding services to Germany if he establishes – as I stated above – at least three apostolic nuncios there. These can certainly help to rouse the sleepy-headed bishops from their deep slumber and to strengthen the Catholic princes in their devotion to their faith. Indeed, the German bishops and princes would welcome it if nuncios native to their own lands were sent to them from time to time because, on the one hand, they would prefer to speak and give their opinions to them in German rather than Latin – many can barely speak Latin – and, on the other hand, they usually mistrust other nationalities. Perhaps this could be made possible over time if, at the very least, “secret nuncios,” who are Germans, seek out princes and bishops or are added as advisers to the other nuncios.

In my opinion, one must focus on remedying the serious abuses that emanate from the cathedral churches and that infect the entire German clergy (2). If this cause of so many grievances is not repaired, there will be no hope whatsoever of finding for Germany good bishops and prelates instead of those who are currently selected from the degenerate nobilities.

(2) Refers to the cathedral chapters, colleges of priests who elected bishops and, in principal, shared with them the governance of the episcopal territories (in which the bishops exercised temporal authority). Most such chapters were predominantly or absolutely in the hands of regional nobilities – trans.

first page < previous   |   next > last page