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

The eruption of evangelical agitation in the 1520s challenged the Imperial bishops, who possessed no concepts or structures for collective church reform. While a few secular princes advocated straightforward repression, many bishops knew, and some even admitted, that Luther’s teachings flourished because of longstanding clerical indiscipline and neglect of pastoral and catechetical duties. The possibility of reform depended on collaboration between spiritual and temporal authorities, bishops and lay princes, just as success for the evangelicals depended on collaboration between preachers and civic magistrates. Shortly after Emperor Charles V (r. 1519-1556) instituted his first countermeasure, the Edict of Worms (1521), he ordered Austria to support the archbishop of Salzburg's measures to reform the clergy. The most important early consultation of Catholic rulers took place on July 6, 1524, at Salzburg, where the papal legate, Lorenzo Campeggio, met with representatives of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, the dukes of Bavaria, and twelve southern prince-bishops. They formed an association (A) dedicated to defending the old faith against heresy, to upholding traditional practices against innovations, and to punishing married monks and priests, clandestine preachers, and all those who spread false teachings through print. On the following day, July 7, they enacted a reform ordinance (B). Its provisions were a veritable catalogue of the abuses that reformists had complained about since the early fifteenth century. And although these provisions anticipated the disciplinary decrees of the Council of Trent (1546-63) in many respects, they included no innovations in agency beyond the revival of provincial and diocesan synods.

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(A) Treaty of Association, July 6, 1524

[Archduke Ferdinand obligated himself and the Catholic estates represented at a meeting in Regensburg to join an alliance with the aim of enforcing the Edict of Worms in their territories.]

In the first place, to the praise of God Almighty, to the honor of His holy Mother, all the dear saints and angels, for just obedience toward the Holy Father and His Imperial Majesty and toward the edicts, mandates, and decisions they have issued, also for the spiritual welfare of ours and our principals' subjects, we and our principals accept and hold to the common Christian understanding of the Holy Gospel and other divine writings, according to the interpretations of the Church's holy teachers, who have approved and defended the teachings [of these writings] through their sound, honorable morals and manner of living, even through their martyrdom. We will in no way permit or tolerate this Gospel to be proclaimed against praiseworthy Christian traditions and usage of good words and good works and true Christian brotherhood, nor in any other perverted sense. Further, if anyone shall preach, spread, or adhere to damnable heresies or blasphemy concerning Christ, our only Savior, His praiseworthy Mother, the Virgin Mary, and the dear saints or other [sacred] things, and shall give open scandal and spread rebellion among the Christian common people, and if such is attested by confession or trustworthy report and experience and found worthy of condemnation, he shall be punished according to the Imperial edict [of Worms] and according to the nature of his guilt, crime, and violation. And to the end that the Holy Word of God be preached according to its true meaning and interpretation without tumult or offense, but with moderation, we will and shall establish in ours and our gracious lords' principalities and bishoprics, jurisdictions, lands, and districts, as mentioned above, that no one shall be permitted to preach in the churches unless he has heretofore been examined by his spiritual superior [i.e., bishop] and been judged able, competent, and trustworthy. Similarly, the preachers who have been preaching in the past shall also be examined for their competence, and no clandestine preaching shall be allowed. [ . . . ]

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