exsurge domine


#1

I heard that the pope at the time of Martin Luther wrote in Exsurge Domine that anyone who was against burning heretics at the stake was automatically excommunicated. This sounds odd to me, but I don’t have the skill or time to chase it down.
Does anyone have broader understanding of what was going on here, or if it is even true?


#2

Yes, he did. It is point #33 of the heresies of Martin Luther in this document. As with all papal documents it must be taken in the context of what was going on at the time, some would argue that this is an infallible statement, but others (and the Catholic Church of course) would argue that this is not an infallible statement binding on all of the faithful for all time. Also, burning at the stake was not all that common, and in fact the Inquisition was begun by the Catholic Church to provide a fair and balanced judgment upon those who were accused of heresy to stop the indiscriminate burning of "heretics" by townspeople without the Church's authority that had been going on.

Of course, the revisionist Protestant/Enlightenment/Kulturkampf anti-Catholic history of the world that is passed today as gospel has twisted these facts to make it seem that the Catholic Church is some horrible, oppressive, authoritarian monster that killed anyone that disagreed with them, but that simply is not the case.

But given the historical context, and the incredible threat that Protestantism did pose to the Church, (and it has proven throughout the centuries to be a destructive force leading many astray into heresy and away from the One True Church), Pope Leo X's condemnations of Luther were extreme and necessary as a deterrent to those he feared may follow Luther. And again, his concerns have only been proven true over the centuries.

Hope this is helpful a bit.

God bless.

-Paul


#3

As I understand you, this is how I read Exsurge Domine as well.

This is a hard issue for my understanding of Papal Infallibly - Exsurge Domine is not only a powerful document, but the document describes the full authority of the document itself and how it went through the proper Catholic Church vetting process.

In a way, I can see Leo X’s point - in that if someone were successfully preaching heresy, would it not be better to use the fire to bring about repentance rather than put the souls of others at risk? Can we always step back and let the poison run it’s course, or is our duty to stop it even though it causes pain? Does the fact that I could potentially see a reason for killing a man for simply talking somehow reflect on me? Or does the way we let our civilization tear down our God-given Church the worse sin?

No easy answers on this one from any standpoint, in my opinion.


#4

Not quite correct, although Luther's statement: "To burn heretics is against the will of the Spirit" is listed among his errors.

Exsurge Domine:
artsandsciences.sc.edu/hist/faculty/edwardsk/hist310/reader/exsurge.pdf

Certainly the Medici Pope Leo X made grave mistakes in dealing with the new Protestants, severely underestimating the problem. Martin Luther also made many errors, from a Catholic point of view.


#5

[quote="benjohnson, post:3, topic:310742"]
This is a hard issue for my understanding of Papal Infallibly

[/quote]

This particular pronouncement is not held as an infallible statement by Pope Leo X, so it should cause no distress in the belief of Papal Infallibility.


#6

The bull does 3 things:

1) explicitly condemns 41 "errors" of Martin Luther, among them the following one:
"33. To burn heretics is against the will of the Spirit."

2) threatens with "automatic major excommunication" all faithful who read, "consider", publish or preach the 41 "errors"

3) urges all faithful to burn Luther's writings, in order to avoid excommunication.

A poster above tries to excuse Pope Leo, but there's a small detail: if the pope was so well intentioned and so enlightened, he could have chosen other errors from the 95 theses, without mentioning Luther's stance on burning heretics.
We can understand the historical context, but to praise this bull as "necessary" because of "the incredible threat that Protestantism did pose to the Church, (and it has proven throughout the centuries to be a destructive force leading many astray into heresy and away from the One True Church)" is absurd. The survival of the earthly power of a church cannot be more important than the lives of innocent people.


#7

[quote="vames, post:6, topic:310742"]
The bull does 3 things:

1) explicitly condemns 41 "errors" of Martin Luther, among them the following one:
"33. To burn heretics is against the will of the Spirit."

2) threatens with "automatic major excommunication" all faithful who read, "consider", publish or preach the 41 "errors"

3) urges all faithful to burn Luther's writings, in order to avoid excommunication.

A poster above tries to excuse Pope Leo, but there's a small detail: if the pope was so well intentioned and so enlightened, he could have chosen other errors from the 95 theses, without mentioning Luther's stance on burning heretics.
We can understand the historical context, but to praise this bull as "necessary" because of "the incredible threat that Protestantism did pose to the Church, (and it has proven throughout the centuries to be a destructive force leading many astray into heresy and away from the One True Church)" is absurd. The survival of the earthly power of a church cannot be more important than the lives of innocent people.

[/quote]

I did not praise the bull, I merely pointed out the historical context. Pope Leo X made many errors in his handling of the Reformation, and his information that he based this Bull on was incomplete at best. But given the information he knew then he felt it was necessary to make a strong statement against Luther to keep others from being led astray, and as I said, his fear of Protestantism was not unfounded, as it has wrought havoc in the Church and many people who otherwise would be in the Catholic Church are not now. That is all I was saying, I did not praise the Bull as you characterize, but I do believe it was well-intentioned albeit, admittedly, very poorly handled. I also gave historical context to the "heretic burning" that is mischaracterized by many historians and those wishing to cast aspersions on the Catholic Church. The Church did not go around burning innocent people, that is an unfair characterization of what was happening at the time.

Hope this clarifies my previous post.

God bless.

-Paul


#8

Catholic teaching sure does agree with you, but the document itself says that it has the full authority of the Church.

Specifically, this part: "In virtue of our pastoral office committed to us by the divine favor we can under no circumstances tolerate or overlook any longer the pernicious poison of the above errors without disgrace to the Christian religion and injury to orthodox faith. "

In Decet Romanum Pontificem is where the full authority of Pope Leo X’s comes out against Luther’s heresy.

“No one whatsoever may infringe this our written decision, declaration, precept, injunction, assignation, will, decree; or rashly contravene it. Should anyone dare to attempt such a thing, let him know that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.”

It’s a hard quandary for those of us one the outside that don’t quite ''get it."


#9

[quote="benjohnson, post:8, topic:310742"]
It's a hard quandary for those of us one the outside that don't quite ''get it."

[/quote]

Ah, yes, I did not see your "Lutheran" tag there! My apologies. I'm assuming you've probably looked into a bit more thoroughly than just stumbling across this thread here lol, so I doubt I could cover something you've already gone over and thought about. But, we live in hope that one day we can be one as Jesus prayed.

God bless!

-Paul


#10

[quote="PJD1987, post:9, topic:310742"]
But, we live in hope that one day we can be one as Jesus prayed.

God bless!

-Paul

[/quote]

Thank you kindly!

I sincerely pray for that day, and if the day doesn't come in my lifetime, that I may have the joy to walk beside you.

God bless you too!


#11

[quote="vames, post:6, topic:310742"]
The survival of the earthly power of a church cannot be more important than the lives of innocent people.

[/quote]

Protestant Germany alone burned more than 100,000 so-called "witches". The English Protestants burned around 30,000 during the same time period. My intention is not to get into a battle over who committed the worst autrocities, but to put things in perspective from a historical point of view.


#12

[quote="SteveVH, post:11, topic:310742"]
Protestant Germany alone burned more than 100,000 so-called "witches". The English Protestants burned around 30,000 during the same time period. My intention is not to get into a battle over who committed the worst autrocities, but to put things in perspective from a historical point of view.

[/quote]

Yes, for some reason most people at the time, Protestant and Catholic, seemed to be OK with brutality that I cannot wrap my mind around. They still are in some places. My mental hypothesis was that perhaps the pope was addressing the question of whether the heretical should be stopped with all the kinds of force considered appropriate by everyone at the time, or maybe his manner of speaking would be understood differently at another point in time from what was intended. I'm not well versed enough to make a very adequate conjecture.


#13

[quote="katy, post:12, topic:310742"]
Yes, for some reason most people at the time, Protestant and Catholic, seemed to be OK with brutality that I cannot wrap my mind around. They still are in some places. My mental hypothesis was that perhaps the pope was addressing the question of whether the heretical should be stopped with all the kinds of force considered appropriate by everyone at the time, or maybe his manner of speaking would be understood differently at another point in time from what was intended. I'm not well versed enough to make a very adequate conjecture.

[/quote]

:thumbsup:


#14

[quote="katy, post:12, topic:310742"]
Yes, for some reason most people at the time, Protestant and Catholic, seemed to be OK with brutality that I cannot wrap my mind around. They still are in some places. My mental hypothesis was that perhaps the pope was addressing the question of whether the heretical should be stopped with all the kinds of force considered appropriate by everyone at the time, or maybe his manner of speaking would be understood differently at another point in time from what was intended. I'm not well versed enough to make a very adequate conjecture.

[/quote]

I think its also just a bias of us living in this particular time in history. We all want to believe we're more sophisticated than our predecessors from the age of the Reformation and beyond. That we've somehow progressed, we're more enlightened, we know better. But are we really any less brutal? We still have wars, we murder unborn children, we murder our own citizens through the power of the state, we still have crime, and crimes on a massive scale (ie genocide), we still torture. I think its unfair to judge our ancestors as heathens (not that anyone has, just saying) when we are plagued by the same sins and lack of judgment. So that's another context worth taking into account when thinking about things of this nature.

God bless!

-Paul


#15

=katy;10221288]I heard that the pope at the time of Martin Luther wrote in Exsurge Domine that anyone who was against burning heretics at the stake was automatically excommunicated. This sounds odd to me, but I don't have the skill or time to chase it down.
Does anyone have broader understanding of what was going on here, or if it is even true?

God judgment call:thumbsup:

BUT you and ME would both have been wrong if I'm reading this correctly?

papalencyclicals.net/Leo10/l10exdom.htm
CONDEMNING THE ERRORS OF MARTIN LUTHER

Exsurge Domine
Bull of Pope Leo X issued June 15, 1520

In virtue of our pastoral office committed to us by the divine favor we can under no circumstances tolerate or overlook any longer the pernicious poison of the above errors without disgrace to the Christian religion and injury to orthodox faith. Some of these errors we have decided to include in the present document; their substance is as follows:

  1. The Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter, is not the vicar of Christ over all the churches of the entire world, instituted by Christ Himself in blessed Peter.

  2. That heretics be burned is against the will of the Spirit.

  3. To go to war against the Turks is to resist God who punishes our iniquities through them.

No one of sound mind is ignorant how destructive, pernicious, scandalous, and seductive to pious and simple minds these various errors are, how opposed they are to all charity and reverence for the holy Roman Church who is the mother of all the faithful and teacher of the faith; how destructive they are of the vigor of ecclesiastical discipline, namely obedience. This virtue is the font and origin of all virtues and without it anyone is readily convicted of being unfaithful.

Therefore we, in this above enumeration, important as it is, wish to proceed with great care as is proper, and to cut off the advance of this plague and cancerous disease so it will not spread any further in the Lord's field as harmful thornbushes. We have therefore held a careful inquiry, scrutiny, discussion, strict examination, and mature deliberation with each of the brothers, the eminent cardinals of the holy Roman Church, as well as the priors and ministers general of the religious orders, besides many other professors and masters skilled in sacred theology and in civil and canon law. We have found that these errors or theses are not Catholic, as mentioned above, and are not to be taught, as such; but rather are against the doctrine and tradition of the Catholic Church, and against the true interpretation of the sacred Scriptures received from the Church. Now Augustine maintained that her authority had to be accepted so completely that he stated he would not have believed the Gospel unless the authority of the Catholic Church had vouched for it. For, according to these errors, or any one or several of them, it clearly follows that the Church which is guided by the Holy Spirit is in error and has always erred. This is against what Christ at his ascension promised to his disciples (as is read in the holy Gospel of Matthew): "I will be with you to the consummation of the world"; it is against the determinations of the holy Fathers, or the express ordinances and canons of the councils and the supreme pontiffs. Failure to comply with these canons, according to the testimony of Cyprian, will be the fuel and cause of all heresy and schism


#16

[quote="PJD1987, post:14, topic:310742"]
That we've somehow progressed, we're more enlightened, we know better. But are we really any less brutal? We still have wars, we murder unborn children, we murder our own citizens through the power of the state, we still have crime, and crimes on a massive scale (ie genocide), we still torture.

[/quote]

Amen! We sadly are more cruel to our own children, and yet we have the pride to think that we're better than those of the past.

I'm grudgingly now pro-life, and for 36 years on this earth I was pro-choice even though abortion touched my family when I was a child. I have seen what evil looks like - he's a good looking six foot tall man with blue eyes and blonde hair and he has everything he could ever ask for. And for 36 years he looked back at me in the mirror without even having the decency to flinch.


#17

I don't get the problem here.

Pope Leo isn't saying that it is moral in every instance to burn heretics. He is condemning Luther (and anyone else who repeats Luther) for unilaterally holding that capital punishment (or at least a certain kind of capital punishment) is categorically against God's will.

Luther doesn't have the authority to make such a statement and the Catholic Church has always taught that capital punishment in certain circumstances could be moral. There is nothing in this condemnation that offends Catholic teaching.


#18

[quote="Oregooner, post:17, topic:310742"]
There is nothing in this condemnation that offends Catholic teaching.

[/quote]

The bull says that the phrase "To burn heretics is against the will of the Spirit" is so wrong that anyone who believes it deserves excommunication. So Catholic teaching was then in favor of burning heretics. But the Church doesn't teach us such thing anymore; on the contrary, she is in favor of religious liberty and regards Protestants as brothers. So if we are honest, we can't really say "There is nothing in this condemnation that offends Catholic teaching". The bull wasn't talking about death punishment for serial killers, but about death punishment for heretics.


#19

[quote="vames, post:18, topic:310742"]
The bull says that the phrase "To burn heretics is against the will of the Spirit" is so wrong that anyone who believes it deserves excommunication. So Catholic teaching was then in favor of burning heretics. But the Church doesn't teach us such thing anymore; on the contrary, she is in favor of religious liberty and regards Protestants as brothers. So if we are honest, we can't really say "There is nothing in this condemnation that offends Catholic teaching". The bull wasn't talking about death punishment for serial killers, but about death punishment for heretics.

[/quote]

With respect, I believe you are applying modern standards to the 16th Century Church, as I said in a previous post, the context is important.

God bless.

-Paul


#20

Of course the context is important, I don’t dispute that :slight_smile: I only said that the Church doesn’t teach this anymore.


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