Sunday, March 02, 2014

Hadrian`s Confession

Baldassare Peruzzi (1481 – 6 January 1536), Niccolò Tribolo  (1500–7 September 1550) and Michelangelo Anselmi (c. 1492 – c. 1554) and others
The Tomb of Pope Adrian (Hadrian) VI (1523 - 1529)
c 1533 with later additions c 1750
S. Maria dell’Anima, Rome

Pope Adrian VI appears to be at rest in his tomb in S. Maria dell’Anima in Rome which was commissioned by his close personal friend and confidant, his fellow Dutchman Cardinal Willem van Enckevoirt (1464 – 19 July 1534)

Van Enckevoirt was the only cardinal created by Pope Hadrian in his short pontificate and rests also in the same Church in Rome

The tomb depicts a peacefulness and rest which seeemed to elude the Pope during his Pontificate

Until the election of Saint John Paul II four hundred and fifty five years later, Adriaan Florensz (Boeyens)was the last non-Italian to be elected Pope

The epitaph on his tomb is
 "Proh Dolor! Quantum refert in quae tempora vel optimi cujusque virtus incidat" -

Even the best of men may be born in times unsuited to their virtues
It would appear that he was indeed one of the best of men with many virtues

He took up the task of reforming the church with great earnestness, starting with the Curia, but could accomplish little in the face of opposition by the corruption of members within the Curia and the Italian hierarchy. He also had to deal with the German theologians and the Lutheran reformers, and the Turkish armies.

The first two problems are still with us and are of course on the agenda of Pope Francis today

Another similarity with Saint John Paul II was in the desire to recognise publicly the sins and faults of the Church and its members

The occasions when ecclesiastical authorities – Pope, Bishops, or Councils – have openly acknowledged the faults or abuses which they themselves were guilty of, have been quite rare. 

But it was the reforming Pope Adrian VI who acknowledged publicly in a message to the Diet of Nuremberg of November 25, 1522, “the abominations, the abuses...and the lies” of which the “Roman court” of his time was guilty, “deep-rooted and extensive…sickness,” extending “from the top to the members.” 

Adrian VI deplored the faults of his times, precisely those of his immediate predecessor Leo X and his curia

He wrote:
“Each of us must examine [his conscience] with respect to what he has fallen into and examine himself even more rigorously than God will on the day of his wrath” 
The confession came in  his instruction to Francesco Chieregati,  Bishop of Teramo, his nuncio in Germany, 

Chieregati, on the instructions of the Pope, read it to the assembled Diet in Nuremberg

The relevant pages of the book are these:

According to the historian Pastor, such a public confession was entirely without precedent

A translation given in Foxe`s Book of Martyrs is as follows:
"Further, this you shall say unto them, that we confess ourselves, and deny not, but that God suffereth this persecution to be inflicted upon his church for the sins of men, especially of priests and prelates of the clergy. For certain it is, that the hand of the Lord is not shortened, that he cannot save; but our sins have divided between God and us; and therefore he hideth his face from us that he will not hear us. 
The Scripture testifieth, that the sins of the people do issue out from the sins of the priests. 'And therefore,' saith Chrysostom, 'Christ, going about to cure the sick city of Jerusalem, first entered into the temple, to correct the sins of the priests, like a good physician, which first beginneth to cure the disease from the very root.' 
We know that in this holy see there have been many abominable things of long time wrought and practised; as abuses in matters spiritual, and also excesses in life and manners, and all things turned clean contrary. And no marvel if the sickness, first beginning at the head, that is, at the high bishops, have descended aftewards to inferior prelates. 
All we (that is, prelates of the church) have declined every one after his own way; neither hath there been one that hath done good, no not one. Wherefore need it is, that all we give glory to God, and that we humble our souls to him, considering every one of us from whence he hath fallen; and that every one do judge himself, before he be judged of God in the rod of his fury. 
For the redress whereof you shall insinuate unto them, and promise in our behalf, that in us shall be lacking no diligence of a better reformation, first beginning with our own court: that like as, this contagion first from thence descended into all the inferior parts, so reformation and amendment of all that is amiss, from the same place again, shall take his beginning; whereunto they shall find us so much the more ready, for that we see the whole world so desirous of the same. 
We ourselves, as you know, never sought this dignity, but rather coveted, if we otherwise might, to lead a private life, and in a quiet state to serve God; and also would utterly have refused the same, had not the fear of God, and the manner of our election, and misdoubting of some schism to follow after, have urged us to take it. And thus took we the burden upon us, not for any ambition of dignity, or to enrich our friends and kinsfolks, but only to be obedient to the will of God, and for reformation of the catholic church, and for relief of the poor, and especially for the advancement of learning and learned men, with such other things more as appertaineth to the charge of a good bishop and lawful heir of St. Peter. 
And though all errors, corruptions, and abuses be not straight-ways amended by us, men ought not thereat to marvel. The sore is great, and far grown, and is not single, but of manifold maladies together compacted; and therefore to the curing thereof we must proceed by little and little, first beginning to cure the greater and the most dangerous, lest, while we intend to amend all, we destroy all. 'All sudden mutations,' saith Aristotle, 'in a commonwealth, are perilous;' and, He that wringeth too hard, straineth out blood, Prov. xxx. 
"And whereas in your last letters you wrote, that the princes complain, how this see hath been, and is, prejudicial to their ordinances and agreements, hereunto you shall thus answer: that such excesses, which have been done before our time, ought not to be imputed to us, who always have misliked these derogations; and therefore bid them so assure themselves, that though they had required no such matter, we of our own accord would have refrained the same; partly for that it is good, right, and reason, that every one have that which is due unto him; and partly also that the said noble nation of Germany shall have by us no hinderance, but furtherance rather, so much as in us shall lie to do for them. 
"And as touching the processes which they desired to have removed away a rota, and to be referred down to the parties, you shall signify unto them, that we will gratify them herein as much as honestly we may. But because our auditors are now presently absent from the city, by reason of the plague, we cannot be informed as yet touching the quality of those processes. As soon as they shall return, (which we hope will be shortly,) we shall do in the princes' favour what reasonably we may. 
"Further: whereas we understand, that there be many fresh, flourishing wits in Germany, and many well-learned men, which are not seen unto, but be rejected and unlooked to, while in the mean time, through the apostolical provisions, dignities and promotions are bestowed upon tapsters and dancers, and unfit persons; we will, therefore, that you inquire out what those learned men are, and what be their names, to the intent that when any such vacation of benefices in Germany doth fall, we, of our voluntary motion, may provide for them accordingly. 
For why? we consider how much it is against God's glory, and against the health and the edification of souls, that benefices and dignities of the church have now so long time been bestowed upon unworthy and unable persons."

Unfortunately Adrian`s pontificate drew to a close shortly thereafter and he was succeeded by Clement VII, cousin of Leo X, much to the relief and happiness of many in the Roman Court. 

It required more effort to reform but reform the Church did

The historian, Pastor also thought that the failure of Chieregati was in large measure owing to the timidity and selfishness of the great German prelates who were by no means ready to repeat the humble confession of the Pope

Further, the reaction of the German magnates was not favourable and adverse. They simply wanted a Council and repeated earlier demands more to do with political self interest than a general reformation of morals

It was also used by non-Catholic Christians as a stick to beat the Catholic church in their apologetics for their views.

The precedent was not followed again until Pope Paul VI addressed  the opening of the second session of the Second Vatican Council, and  asked “pardon of God…and of the separated brethren” of the East who may have felt offended “by us” (the Catholic Church), and declared himself ready for his part to pardon offences received. 

In the view of Paul VI, both the request for and offer of pardon concerned solely the sin of the division between Christians and presupposed reciprocity.

In the Second Vatican Council, the Council asked “ pardon of God and of the separated brethren, as we forgive those who trespass against us. It also “deplores certain attitudes that sometimes are found among Christians” and which led people to think that faith and science are mutually opposed. 

It also reflected that in “the genesis of atheism,” Christians may have had “some responsibility” insofar as through their negligence they “conceal rather than reveal the authentic face of God and religion.” 

Most importantly the Council “deplored” the persecutions and manifestations of anti-Semitism “in every time and on whoever’s part"

Saint John Paul II reflected and admitted fault on a good number of occasions: to Moravians in his Homily for the Canonization of Jan Sarkander in the Czech Republic, May 21, 1995; Discourse to the participants in the International Symposium of study on the Inquisition, sponsored by the Historical-Theological Commission of the Central Committee of the Jubilee; the Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente and many other times

As Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI commissioned and published a Report by the International Theological Commission entitled The Church and the Faults of the Past (1999) which recommended the public confession for errors and omissions

To date there has been no greater confession of errors and failings on the part of the Church than Pope Benedict XVI`s Letter to the Catholics of Ireland