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The Catholic Triumph – The Edict of Restitution (March 6, 1629)

Published by Emperor Ferdinand II (r. 1619-37) on March 6, 1629, the Edict of Restitution crowned the military victories of Catholic forces (i.e., the Imperial and Catholic League armies) between 1618 and 1628. The emperor's purpose in issuing the edict was to enforce a Catholic reading of the Religious Peace of Augsburg of 1555. If enforceable, this policy would require the restoration to the Catholics of more than a dozen prince-bishoprics and some 500 monasteries and other ecclesiastical foundations that the Protestants had secularized from 1552 on. Based on Ferdinand's conception of his own authority and powers as emperor, the edict bypassed the Empire's usual legislative process – the Imperial Diet acting in the names of "emperor and estates," as the formula went. Its enforceability, therefore, rested chiefly on the possibility of converting Catholic military victories into stronger monarchical rule. Some properties were handed over, true, but German Protestant defeats and the specter of a more centralized and powerful Empire provoked the German invasions of anti-Habsburg powers, both Protestant (e.g., Sweden in 1531) and Catholic (France in 1534). These interventions assured the survival of the German confessional convivencia (co-existence) established at Augsburg in 1555. Favored by most of the German princes, Catholic and Protestant, and eventually accepted by the emperor, its principles were redefined by the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, which remained in force until 1803.

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We, Ferdinand II, by God’s grace elected Roman Emperor [ . . . ] announce the following to each and all electors, princes, [etc.] and also all others of Ours and the Empire’s subjects and dependents of whatever dignity, status, and nature, Our friendship, grace, and all the best. Many of you will doubtless already know and recognize all too well in what injurious dissension and ruin Our dear fatherland of the German Nation has for a long time been living.

[Since resorts to the law brought no success, alliances were formed—some with foreign powers and even the Ottomans—for the purpose of overthrowing the Religious Peace. Meanwhile the emperor’s purpose was to promote a compromise, employing the Religious Peace as a basis for the settlement of the conflicts. Upon that document was based the argument that the mediate (1) ecclesiastical foundations, monasteries, and prelatures—those not directly under the emperor—were also covered by the rules of 1555 and thus might not be confiscated by the territorial rulers. Upon this consideration the following is based.]

The incontrovertible conclusion is that those mediate foundations and monasteries that were confiscated after the Treaty of Passau [1552] or after the Religious Peace [1555] were exempt [from confiscation], and that therefore estates of the Augsburg Confession (2) possessed no legal right to reform or confiscate them. Although this was not permitted, it was done to the detriment of the concerned parties’ rights and of justice. [ . . . ]

It is true that the Religious Peace in § 15 guarantees that the estates of the Augsburg Confession shall be undisturbed in the faith, rites, and church ordinances that they established or may establish in their principalities, lands, and lordships. Some pretend, however, to conclude from that that they also possess the power to reform the monasteries in these lands. Yet, although these monasteries depend on the secular powers for the protection they are owed, in their establishments and spiritual affairs they have nothing to do with the lands and lordships. Rather, as already noted, they belong to God and the churches. For this reason they are exempt and free from secular jurisdictions and governance.

[The members of religious orders possess a similar legal protection.]

(1) Princes, nobles, urban regimes, monasteries, and other ecclesiastical foundations that stood directly under Imperial authority were said to be “immediate” to the Empire. Nobles, urban regimes, and ecclesiastical institutions that stood under the authority of a territorial prince or an Imperial city, and thus only indirectly under (mediated) Imperial authority, were said to be “mediate” to the Empire – trans.
(2) Adherents of the Confession of Augsburg = Lutherans – trans.

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