Libellus ad Leonem 1513 Part VI

Blessed Paolo Giustiniani and Pietro Quirini

Hermits of Camaldoli

libellus ad Leo X

Supreme Pontiff


Translated by Stephen M. Beall

Final section of letter dealing with reform of the Catholic Church of Europe (Part VI):[1]

ALL that we have written, Holy Father, concerning the three conditions of men who are not plainly contained in the bosom of the Church, has perhaps been less prudent and more prolix than it should have been. Now, however, we ask Your Holiness’ kind permission to conclude with a few words about those who are obedient sons in the lap of Mother Church. This you will grant all the more readily, because you understand that what we have said so far pertains to those who are subject to you in the manner of citizens to the rulers of states; for you are the great father and conserver of the Commonwealth. What we have to say now, however, concerns the household over which you have been placed as the great paterfamilias. Your Holiness recalls what the Apostle said, that anyone who does not know how to rule his own house cannot have the necessary care and solicitude for God’s Church (cf. 1 Tim. 3:4). Just as any man is more diligent manager of his own household than of the state, so it behooves you, Holy Father, to be more diligent and careful concerning the things that we are about to say, as if they pertained to your own children and to the members of your household, as you well know. For just as the whole world and the entire human race are the Commonwealth over which you have been appointed ruler, so too the Christian peoples who faithfully adhere to the Roman Church and are subject to her are the household of which you have been made the head, and you must undertake the greatest care of those who are in it. This was made sufficiently clear by the One who warned, “But if any man has not care of his own, and especially of those of his house, he has denied the Faith, and is worse than an infidel” (1 Tim. 5:8).

Since you are indebted to all, as we said in the beginning, it behooves you, while you have the time and ability, to perform unfailing good works for all men, but especially for the householders of the Faith. Those are surely to be regarded as such who, walking in the footsteps of the true Faith, humbly and faithfully adhere to the Roman Church. Practically all of Europe is one great house

[669], and the entire multitude of Christians amounts to many householders; but you, whom the Lord has established as the head of this house, with your great virtue and abundant wisdom, are much greater than these. You seem to have been born for the task of ruling this Christian family, so that surely no one other than you could have been asked to undertake this office. Who could better have comprehended all the varieties of this household, or more wisely diagnosed the infirmities of its individual members, or more diligently sought, more easily found, and more tenderly applied the remedies proper to each?

We believe that when you first ascended the apostolic throne, you could perceive with one glance of the mind’s eye, as if from a lofty vantage point, the entire Christian household. Indeed, if a bishop (episcopus) is really an Overseer, then you, as the Bishop of bishops, being established on a lofty vantage point as the most diligent overseer over all overseers, can already perceive with the clearest sight this household of yours, which contains such a great diversity of people. In it there are some who, because they cannot transcend this world and the life we live here, and do not know how to place celestial and eternal things before those that are earthly and corruptible, are called men of the world (saeculares). There are others who often withdraw from God through the weakness and fragility of human nature, but endeavor to reunite and reconnect (relegare) with him by assisting in divine worship and observing the commandments, by contempt for earthly things and self-denial; these are called “religious.” In both classes, however, there is a considerable variety. For among men of the world, some are noble—those who excel the rest in social position–while others are inferior, the common crowd. Among religious, by a similar reckoning, there are some who hold a higher place and a more elevated station with the power to govern, while others are placed in an inferior position, and who, if they rightly observe the rules of their state, consider it the greatest dignity to be without dignity. These are, as it were, the greater members of the whole Church, but they contain many varieties within themselves. For just as we divide the whole body into many larger members, which themselves possess other, smaller members, so too the members of the Church that we have just listed contain

[670] many individual parts. This Your Holiness knows quite well, and it would, perhaps, be tedious to list them, and unnecessary for their proper care. If one applies appropriate and salutary remedies to the greater and stronger members of a sick body, and these get better, all those smaller parts, since they belong to the larger, will also become healthy. And so, Holy Father, as you cast a wise glance upon the diversity of your household, like the members of a great body, and consider the infirmities of each one–for none is completely healthy–we are counting on the great abundance of your kindness to prepare healthful remedies for all and to administer and attend to them according to the special requirements of each. Otherwise, you will not show your willingness to imitate the One who said he had come not to be served, but to serve (Mt. 20:28), nor will you earn the noble name by which we call those are invested with the office of Chief Priest. For if all the members of Christ are languishing and you fail to attend to the needs of each, you may be called “Servant of the Servants of God,” but you will not be so in fact.

Since, however, they are not all gripped by the same disease, nor suffer from the same kind of weakness, but are oppressed by many and various infirmities, Your Holiness has no doubt carefully considered and most clearly perceived that some grave infirmities afflict the whole Christian people, allowing it to enjoy this present life less quietly and peacefully, while others are much more serious, since they bar access to the joy of eternal life. Moreover, just as there are these two sorts of infirmities, there are likewise two sources, as you know well, from which Christians derive them. You observe, Holy Father, that all the things that prevent the Christian people from making this life-long pilgrimage more quietly and peacefully derive from the ambition and lust for power of a few kings, princes, and rulers, while those that bar access to the true peace of our blessed homeland spread among the people

[671] like water from the fountain, or grow like a plant from the root, of ignorance, superstition, and other similar vices of religious. And so, if you apply your wisdom and goodness to constrain the lust for rule and for unjust seizure of those few powerful men and to emend the evil vices of religious, you will surely and easily restore peace, tranquility, and the charity of heartfelt unity to the Christian people in this life, and you will open the way to the enjoyment of eternal peace and tranquility in that blessed land of Heaven. By the same token, you will restore health and well-being to this body of the Christian Commonwealth, which the Lord has entrusted in its weakened, diseased, and moribund condition to you as to a skilled physician, and you will display it clothed in its ancient beauty and splendor, so that in these latter days we shall see the original piety, purity, and simplicity of the Christian religion, about which we read, and this will be thanks to your initiative–or rather, to your service. For the sole author of all good things is Almighty God, and all creatures in heaven as well as on earth, if they seem to do any good, must be regarded as the servants and instruments of that supreme goodness and power.

But you, Holy Father, will fulfill your ministry according to the apostle’s exhortation if, above all things, you work to calm and suppress the wretched madness of war among Christian kings, princes, and leaders, by which they deprive themselves as well as the Christian people of peace and tranquility, and if you sincerely persuade and command these Christians–who in recent years, like madmen, have trained arms against themselves as if against their own breasts, and who now hold them ready for the same use–to turn and train those arms against the savage enemies of the Christian faith and Christian liberty. Thus, you will be acting as a skilled physician, if you divert the crude and impure humors of hatred and the ambition for extended rule—humors which cannot easily be extracted, consumed, evacuated, or regulated–from the higher members to some lower part, where they will do less harm, or indeed no harm, to the health of the body. We have confidence in your intention to bring peace to the Christian peoples because you are taking the earthly place of the One who, as the Orient from on high (cf. Luke 1:78), brought peace on earth, and in his life taught the obligation of peace, and when he rose to heaven left us his peace as his peculiar legacy, as it were,

[672] and who willed that his Apostle should often call him “the God of peace.” You know, moreover, that if you give peace to your household, which is the Christian people, you will give them all good things along with it. Without peace, however, even if you try to give them many other things, you will seem to have given them nothing; for without the good of peace, nothing can be considered good. Truly, unless the Lord permits you before all else to reconcile Christian princes to the laws of peace, you cannot hope to do anything in your pontificate that is pleasing to God and useful to men. When peace has been achieved, however, there will clearly be nothing too great or arduous for you to accomplish, and that with ease.

Now, you will be able to bring peace to all Christians if you propose an expedition against the Turkish Empire and persuade them to turn their arms against all the enemies of our Faith. You will accomplish this if you send Roman Cardinals as peacemakers on behalf of yourself and the Holy See to the Spaniards, the French, the Britons, the Swiss, the Hungarians, and the Venetians, and if, before these have reached their embassies, you try to persuade Christian princes through private communications, using both threats and enticing promises, to accept the terms of peace which you in your wisdom will propose to them. For such is the authority of the Pope among all Christian nations that you will surely be able to bring about either a peace treaty or a truce with any terms you propose. While it is true that all Christian princes seem inwardly to desire, or from the persuasion of others to hope for the control of all Italy, nevertheless, if you set before them richer and ampler realms in Europe and Asia, and make clear to them the ease of this holy expedition, no one can doubt that they all will be willing to accept terms of peace and truce and turn their arms against the impious enemies of our Faith. As for you, Holy Father, only fulfill your part at once in proposing the expedition, choosing your ambassadors, and rightly disposing the minds of Christian princes, by planning everything first and never despairing of the help of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Since true peace cannot exist, however, where justice and fairness are absent, we hope that you will take care to combine justice with peace, so that we can say that in your days, “Justice sprang up and an abundance of peace” (cf. Ps. 71:7). Since the obligations of justice are many, however,

[673] we suppose that you will wish to fulfill those which particularly relate to the liberty of the Church and Christian peoples. You will preserve the liberty of the Church, which is the greatest requirement of justice, if you forbid Christian princes and all leaders to burden ecclesiastical persons with tithes and other exactions; if you refuse to allow men of any rank or associations of men or indeed entire states to become involved in the awarding of ecclesiastical honors; if you use your authority to break the perverse custom, which obtains in many places, whereby armed men take possession of churches; if you boldly uncover many other opportune remedies, which the interests of Christianity evidently require and which you know better than anyone.You will seem to have attended to the needs of Christians very well indeed, if you are willing to free the Christian people from the oppression of powerful men, and to use your authority either to remove or control violent exactions of every sort and unfair and unjust taxes in all Christian states; to erase the wicked crime of usury, by which the powerful soak up the blood of the poor, to prohibit Jews from lending at interest and to deter Christians from making interest-bearing loans under any pretense, on penalty of death; to eliminate the huge waste of court cases and lawsuits, and to resolve every dispute not by examining legal briefs, but by a summary statement of fairness; to temper with your moderation the avarice of judges and other officers of the law, and to recall the appeal process, which has certainly strayed from the path on which it was established, to its proper use; to prevent the endowments of hospitals from being usurped, as they currently are, by powerful individuals, and to exercise your authority so that they revert to the uses for which they have been left; to command that a third part of the goods of churches, in accordance with the Holy Canons, be spent on the poor; to stipulate, on pain of excommunication, that neither harborage nor any supplies or equipment be given to pirates or thieves; and boldly to undertake many other such measures, which, as Your Holiness knows quite well, are necessary for the Christian people.

These measures, Holy Father, should be all the more aggressively pursued, since

[674] you know that by endeavoring to bring the tranquility of peace and the standard of fairness along with the good things of life to the poor and common Christian peoples, you are opening the way of eternal beatitude to the rich and powerful, as well. Indeed, it is certain that when you restrain the powerful from injustice and depredation and attend to the tranquility and comfort of their subjects, you are also looking after the salvation of the powerful, who deprive no one so much as themselves of the joys of eternal felicity when they rob their people of the enjoyment of life. When, however, you restore the tranquility of peace and the standard of justice to the Christian people, you will certainly eliminate all the miseries and disturbances of this earthly life.

These two are the main things, indeed the only things, without which the human race, driven like a ship without a helmsman by contrary winds on violent waves, is tossed about by troubles, suffering and misery on the great and spacious sea of this life. When these two are present, however, they fill the entire course of human life with tranquility and joy, and make this earthly life of our sojourning like that blessed life of heaven. And so, if you give these two gifts, peace and justice, to Christians, you will seem to have given them everything that pertains to this life, and there will remain nothing for you to do but to establish, or rather to repair and restore the perfect observance of the Christian religion, through which we can acquire the life to come. When you put down the ignorance, superstition, avarice, and other vices contrary to religious profession that one finds in religious, and which block for them and for all Christians the way to eternal blessedness, and when you restore the perfect observance of religious life and eliminate all error, you will have shown the way to eternal beatitude and will have opened for all Christians the door to the blessed life of heaven. Indeed, the vices that disturb the true and pure observance of the Christian religion, which corrupt the practices of Christian simplicity and perfection, and which block the way to eternal blessedness, all arise from the religious. It is well known, moreover, that some of them flow from the religious into the common people and, like ferocious vipers, first kill the religious from which they originate, and then infect the entire Christian people

[675] with their venom, and like a common plague show mercy to no one. Other vices, however, which originate and daily grow among people in religious life, are like foul worms and hungry maggots, which consume the entire Christian body and corrupt the purity, seemliness, and beauty of the Christian Faith. These ills, which we may call the plagues and enemies of the Christian Commonwealth, are many, varied, and almost beyond reckoning; but the greatest and most harmful of them are, in our opinion, ignorance, superstition, dissension, ambition, avarice, abundant wealth, and the inadequate observance of one’s own rules and profession. Of these, the first two originate among religious, but are the common ills of all people, while the rest are peculiar to those among whom they arise, if you consider the goal of acquiring eternal life. They do not prevent the Christian people from reaching eternity, but they frequently and seriously disturb the tranquility of the present life. You, Holy Father, are the only one who, like a skilled physician summoned by the Lord to treat his household, can remove these diseases from the Commonwealth entrusted to your care, and the only one who, when faced with these enemies of the Christian Faith, which the enemy has sent like savage wolves into the sheepfold that the Lord has entrusted to you, will not flee like a hired hand, but can overcome and annihilate them–if indeed you wish to play the part of a true and authentic shepherd in fact, and not merely in name, and to obtain your reward in our eternal home.

Now, that greatest and chief of the evils that I have listed and the cause of them all is ignorance, no one can doubt. This infirmity is all the graver and more dangerous when it flourishes among those who not only should possess knowledge themselves, but have been appointed to teach and inform others. For there is obviously no hope left when physicians, who have the job of caring for others in their sickness, are seriously afflicted with the same illness themselves. Now, the magnitude and quality of the ignorance that can be found among religious in God’s Church is as difficult to explain as it is obvious to all. You will find many thousands who can neither read nor write even passably well. Moreover, in this vast multitude of religious, you can find scarcely two out of ten or ten

[676] out of a thousand who have learned enough Latin to understand clearly the texts that they read in church. Of these, you will find fewer still who have made any progress in the knowledge of the arts and sciences, and among the very few who seem to have given any study to letters, rare indeed is the man who has embraced Christian piety rather than the lies of poets and the impiety of philosophers. Finally, among that rare breed of men who devote themselves to the one true philosophy and to Christian learning, you will find scarcely one or two who do not pursue the empty arguments of modern writers and their disturbing quarrels and disagreements, in preference to the teaching of the Holy Scriptures and the ancient fathers; who are not occupied with empty and utterly useless questions, rather than the reading of the Holy Gospels; who, finally, do not pursue the art of disputation, which elates men’s souls and puffs them up, rather than the holy, pure, and chaste teaching of the Holy Scriptures, which kindles their souls and makes them humble. And even if you can find one or two such men, you will never find anyone in the entire Church of God in this age who has progressed to the point that he can be compared to the ancient fathers, of whom the Church, both Greek and Latin, once had a surplus. Now, if such is the ignorance of religious, one can readily calculate that of other men. Thus, one has more cause to grieve than to wonder that many errors and countless false and extraneous opinions and other obstacles to religious life and Christian piety are taking hold of religious and the entire Christian people, and, sadly, are leading them through blind ignorance to the misery of eternal darkness. For when the blind crowd follows the blind order of religious, the Lord’s saying in the Gospel is fulfilled (cf. Mt. 15:14): both slip and fall into the pit of eternal perdition and wretchedness.

Nevertheless, your wisdom has no doubt come up with many efficacious remedies for this great evil, which is the origin of all, or at least of most evils, so that the study of letters, which is now debased, will be rightly established, and that those who neglect their studies will be brought back to them, and that advantages will be given to those who wish to study and prizes offered to those who make progress.

[677] No one but you, Holy Father, can repair and restore the studies that have been thoroughly corrupted, debased, and contaminated. They can be repaired, however, and can produce a better instructed household, if, apart from the study of pagan literature, you abolish the dialectical quibbles and the perversion of intelligence that we call the “sophistical” art, in which young men uselessly squander their time and intelligence, and you see to it that no one dares to teach it publicly; if all those modern commentaries, which are nothing other than inferior explanations of the careful investigations of the ancients, are abolished, especially in subjects organized around controversial topics; if the place of honor is given instead to ancient authors who correctly treat the matter at hand; if no one is allowed to publish–I will not say, to write–anything that has not been approved and judged worthy of publication by more learned men, whom you have appointed; if, in all one’s studies, one reads not the expounders of authors, but the authors themselves. Indeed, it is amazing and regrettable how much time we spend going through all the commentators, while we learn nothing that we might have gained more easily by pouring over the original authors.

If you take these steps and others that you will have discovered in your superior wisdom, you will do much for the study of the classical authors, as well. Nevertheless, if studying the classics does not lead to divine subjects and sacred literature, there can be nothing more trivial, empty, fruitless, and inappropriate for Christians than the study of pagan orators and poets. Accordingly, we believe that you will put education on the best footing when you order that, in the place of pagan orators and fables, children should be taught Christian truth and Christian writers. Christians have their own historians and orators in both languages, Greek and Latin, which we do not blush to compare with the pagans. If you give the command, Christians will no longer spend their whole lives learning languages with no further benefit, but will acquire Greek and Latin and Christian learning at the same time.

[678] To this end, you may also endeavor to restore the decrees of the Holy Fathers and the Sacred Canon, so that, where learning flourishes, there will always be men who will teach Christian Theology and the pure doctrine of the Holy Scriptures and Canons rather than the over-subtle learning of Parisian dons, and who will elucidate the obscure parts of the ancient law and the prophets and will not be ashamed to proclaim the Holy Gospel and Apostolic writings.

Now, there are two parts to Christian education: one, in which we learn what we should believe, hope for, and love, and another, in which we are taught what to do and what to avoid. The first is customarily called Theology, and the latter, Canon Law, and we do not believe that Your Holiness will be satisfied until you have rectified both. It surely befits the Supreme Pontiff to adorn and illuminate true Christian Theology, which has been too much neglected, by expelling the subtle and useless controversies of modern writers and introducing the ancient Greek and Latin authorities. It also befits him to repair and reform the other part of Christian learning, which relates to ecclesiastical law. Now, some believe that you will have done enough to reform this second part if both canon and civil laws and statutes are read and taught in public schools without any commentary or interpreter and are understood and interpreted straightforwardly and integrally, just as they are written. If any obscure and dubious points are found in them, they may be referred to the Pope’s judgment without any further argument. But since you, Holy Father, desire the perfect reformation of your people, you may not consider this sufficient. In that case, you will take care to reform and restore the books that contain the Decrees and Decretals, the Book of Sextus and the Clementine Constitutions. For they seem to contain things that are contradictory or at variance with each other, or which are needlessly repeated and superfluous or frequently altered by the conditions of the times. After removing all unnecessary headings, you may appoint wise and learned men to collect all the laws in a single volume, which will be as clear and as brief as possible. Thus, having dispensed with the many and complex points that we currently have, along with all their expositors, we may teach the Christian people from a single volume what they should do and what they should avoid.

[679] Moreover, let no one be allowed to write, publish, or keep explanations, interpretations, or glosses of any kind on this volume, except with your permission.

To cure the great and widely diffused disease of ignorance, of which I have been speaking, it will also help if you allow no one to assume a monk’s habit or holy orders unless he has learned enough Latin to understand what is read in church, and has read the Holy Scriptures—that is, the Old and New Testaments–at least once. For it is neither seemly nor appropriate that many religious in God’s Church and many priests have never read the narrative of the Gospel, which is quite brief, though they have read many fables and empty treatises. Further, let no one, either in the religious habit or in the secular, receive the sacred character of the priesthood unless he is at least somewhat versed in the teaching of the Holy Doctors—that is, in the writings of Gregory, Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome, and others. Nor let anyone be promoted to the care of souls or to the rank of bishop unless he is found to be not a doctor, but a man truly learned (doctus) in Sacred Scripture and the Holy Canons of the Church. Indeed, it is unseemly and shameful to call someone to the care of languishing souls who is ignorant of the very art by which they may be cured. These principles will be implemented more easily, if those who take the habit or receive holy orders are allowed to spend no more time reading pagan authors than is necessary to become proficient in the languages; if priests entrusted with the care of souls are required on Sundays to preach and to teach their people the Ten Commandments, the articles of faith, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and other things from the Gospels and Epistles that relate to salvation; if no one presumes to hear confessions or preach the word of God unless he has studied the Holy Canons and Sacred Theology, and has been tested in them; if no one is allowed to hear confessions or preach without your approval, Holy Father, after a diligent inquiry into the man’s qualifications; and if all preachers are forbidden to proclaim their own views or the various opinions of learned men–which they defend too obstinately, not for love of the truth, but from a desire to win arguments—

[680] and are commanded to preach instead the Old and New Testaments and the Holy Doctors of the Church—in short, the things that clearly relate to the salvation of souls—and to put away, once and for all, the subtleties of pagan philosophers the logic-chopping of modern writers. If you take these and other such measures, Holy Father, against the evil of ignorance, one can hardly imagine how easily religious will come to know and be able to teach the things that relate to Christian piety.

An equally helpful means of eliminating the wretched ignorance of Christians will be to condemn those vain and impious techniques of divination by stars, dreams, signs, and other such things, in which many people waste their time, ruin their talents, and create obstacles to the way of salvation both for themselves and many others, and to burn all the books of their impious and vain arts, which are now everywhere in great supply. Moreover, a vast number of ecclesiastical books are read without any distinction between the good ones and the bad; of these, you should approve those which are worthy of being read in church, and condemn those which are not—especially those which contain inaccuracies about the lives of the saints and the ancient Fathers. For when many false statements are taken as true and crooked things are accepted as straight, when teachings at variance with the Faith are taken as orthodox, and when these are read in Christian churches and the houses of religious orders, many people are harmed not only by ignorance, but also by a perverse stubbornness toward Christian truth. Moreover, you would do well to publish the books of the four Ecumenical Councils–Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus, and Chalcedon–which contain the beginnings and foundations of our faith, and which Blessed Gregory more than once professed to take up and venerate in the same way as the four Gospels; for upon these Councils, as upon four steady columns, rests the entire edifice of Christian teaching. Accordingly, as we said, let editions of these and the other councils be made from your library, which surely contains them, and let them be put into the hands of the faithful. If a man of such authority regarded these documents as comparable to the four Gospels, Your Holiness can surely estimate the damage that the Christian people suffer when they are deprived of them.

There are many—indeed, there are virtually countless such remedies that can be devised against the

[681] power of ignorance. Nevertheless, there is one that we earnestly beg Your Holiness to consider, even though it may seem contrary to those previously mentioned. Since we regard this remedy as the most efficacious both for religious and for all other men, we wish to speak of it last. We have often thought that nothing can better instruct men concerning divine and human things than the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. The ancient Fathers established the custom of reading these in church, so that the majority of Christians, who could not read them at home because of life’s occupations or their inability to read or the lack of books–since Christians did not have as many books then as they do now–could come to church and listen to the word of God, and thus make progress in their understanding and the amendment of their lives. In that first era of the Faith, the Scriptures were read in church, we believe, in Greek or Hebrew–in Hebrew among the Hebrews, as is fitting, and in Greek among the Greeks. Indeed, it could not have been otherwise, since the entire Old Testament was written in Hebrew, and the New Testament, except for Matthew and one letter of Paul, was written in Greek. But as the number of faithful among the Romans and Latin-speaking peoples increased, and since most of these were ignorant of Greek and Hebrew, the Fathers realized that there was no profit in reading the Scriptures in church if the people did not understand them. And so, as the times required, the Scriptures were translated into Latin, and one began to read them in Latin in the churches. Now, however, when very few among the many thousands of laymen and the vast multitude of priests and religious can understand Latin, what prevents us, indeed, from imitating the custom of the ancient Fathers and translating the Holy Scriptures from a less intelligible language to a more familiar one? Just as they translated the Scriptures from the Hebrew and Greek in which they were written into Latin, so that the Christian people who used Latin might understand the divine precepts as they were read in Church, we too might read Scriptures that have been translated from Latin into the common tongue for the edification of the people. Otherwise, what is the point of chanting portions of the Holy Gospels, Apostolic Letters and Psalms in churches every day,

[682] if they are understood neither by those who read nor by those who listen? No sane person should recoil from this change, as do some who fancy that they alone are learned. If we look at the matter itself and the force of reason, rather than our own empty opinions, we find that the same wisdom and the same doctrine are contained in the Gospel and other writings, whether they are written in Latin, in Greek, or in the common language. If one wishes, on the other hand, to consider the diversity of languages and to regard one of them as more worthy than the others, it will be clear that Christians should have been far more reluctant to translate the Scriptures from Hebrew and Greek, in which they were first written, into Latin, a language in which none of the canonical texts had been transmitted.

If, then, the Holy Fathers who came before us, considering the utility of the people rather than empty opinion, did not hesitate to translate the Holy Scriptures from their original languages into an alien tongue, we should be even less reluctant to translate them from one alien tongue into another. If we boldly insist that the common language is alien to the word of God, we must surely suppose that Latin is foreign to it, as well. Thus, if you command that what we read and sing in Church should be read and sung in the common language, if not everywhere, at least in some regions, we believe that you will have done much to help the people understand the commandments of God and amend their ways. Let Your Holiness ponder how the many thousands of holy nuns there are–not to mention the countless multitude of religious men—who daily read Psalms and lessons from Scripture with no comprehension, and who would benefit if they understood what they read! All Scripture, as the Apostle testifies (2 Tim. 3:16), is profitable to teach and instruct—but only to those who understand it, not to those who do not. Consider how many more people will come to church than currently do, and how much profit they will bring home after assisting in divine services, if they understand the godly words that are read there. If only we might converse with Your Holiness about this matter alone! Now, however, since we fear that we are offending Your Holiness with an abundance of uncultivated speech, we will omit many clear proofs

[683] that nothing is more necessary and nothing will be more useful, fitting, and in accordance with the discipline of the Holy Fathers, than the translation of the Holy Scriptures which are read in church from Latin into the common tongue; let what we have said suffice. Perhaps we shall say more, if it pleases Your Holiness, at another time.

What we have said about the Scriptures, however, should also be taken as relating to all other agreements, sales, and purchases among Christians. For we think it would be conducive to the knowledge of one’s own affairs […] if notaries and clerks were required to write their questions and stipulations clearly and openly in their mother tongue, so that those who make contracts and give testimony may understand everything fully. We are confident that Your Holiness will lend a kindly ear to all these suggestions, which disturb many who glory in their knowledge of Latin. For you understand, from what we have said, how fitting it would be for God, who is praised throughout the world by such a diversity of languages, to be praised in our own language as well. You also know that all the Christian peoples named previously who dwell in Asia and Africa, and some who are contained within Europe, use their own language in the Holy Mass and divine offices. Nor do we believe that your predecessors in the See of Peter acted in vain when they fixed the custom of reading the annual announcement on Holy Thursday not only in Latin, but also in the common tongue for the edification of the people. For if a small thing produces such a harvest of instruction, it is obvious how much can be gathered from a great one.

Now, from ignorance, which is the mother of all evils, rises superstition; thus from a wicked mother comes a daughter who is worse. And just as nothing in human life is better and more sacred than true religion, nothing is worse, or more impious and wicked, than superstition, which learned men have defined as the vice contrary to religion. Indeed, so many great and perverse superstitions now thrive among Christians that no one can justly describe or adequately deplore the situation, and all the vain superstitions that ever existed in the world now seem to have infiltrated Christian nations. Fortune-telling by the motions of the stars,

[684] the reckoning of days, the interpretation of dreams, and vain prognostications of all kinds, chiromancy, hydromancy, pyromancy, geomancy, and so many other similar, foolish practices have arisen that it is difficult to list individual types. Who indeed can keep track of the virtually countless execrable superstitions that exist, contrary to the Christian religion, for predicting the future or repelling and curing illnesses? Who can count the many impious, savage, and nefarious things that are done under the cover of devotion and religion? If we touch on them singly, however, every superstition can be classified under one of these three arts: divination, healing, and the abuse of religious ceremonies. There is no city—taking into account the Christian peoples–no house, and practically no human mind that does not suffer from one of these three kinds of superstition. More regrettable still is the fact that many of the wickedest things are done openly, and that these things diverge from true Christianity to the point of being completely opposed to it. Yet not one of our many bishops objects to it, with the result–which we weep to set on paper–that scarcely any shape of religion, Christian truth, and purity remains among the Christian peoples, while no public, private, profane or sacred action appears free from the taint of superstition. We have decided, however, to deplore and attack these things in a longer work. For the moment, we simply wish to implore you, for the love of Christ, since you alone can rectify this perverse situation, and since you are obliged to do so by your office–if indeed you are as zealous for Christian faith and Christian purity as the Vicar of Christ ought to be, which we do not doubt–willingly and eagerly to amend and correct these faults. Stir your righteous indignation, kindly Father, against these impious and foul superstitions, which have brought the Christian people, who have been committed to your care, to the point of open paganism and slavery to idols. Be a second Phineas and burn all the astrological books that relate to divination, which have already been condemned by the Church, the Holy Councils, and the Holy Fathers. As for the astrologers themselves, and all who dare to predict the future by gazing at the stars or by any other kind of observation, and who often find favor with other princes, pursue them, out of zeal for God and kindness for your people,

[685] even to death, unless they repent of their impiety, using not only your spiritual sword, but the temporal as well. If Your Holiness allows so many books of dream-interpretation–which, to deceive an unwary public more easily, are printed in great volumes under the names of Daniel and Solomon–and books of other vain and impious arts to be sold and read by Christians, we do not see to whom Christian piety can flee, or from whom it may seek refuge. If Your Holiness should seek out the printed books of the illicit arts, you would find them more numerous, varied, empty and impious than you could have believed or even imagined. These are nothing other than the poison of many souls and the inescapable snares with which the Devil keeps the Christian peoples in wretched captivity. He does so with the greater ease and freedom, as Christians, seeing that their bishops allow these practices and sometimes even take them up, become accustomed not to avoiding these things, but to pursuing them.

If Your Holiness should also zealously inquire into the second category of empty and wicked superstition, which speciously relates to healing, and should consider how many of these superstitions are observed by Christians, you would find that there is no infirmity or misfortune that they do not believe can be cured or avoided by means of execrable superstitious practices. Indeed, what infirmity is not thought to be curable by phylacteries, briefs, characters, amulets, charms, curses, empty words, and those other techniques that do not come under medical science? There are some who dare to maintain public shops for these arts. There are others who do not fear to sell these accursed objects to the people in the streets of cities. But when we see that you, to whom nothing is more important than to encourage Christian piety in every way, have been raised to the Holy See, we are hopeful that these impious practices, which are the enemy of Christian faith, will finally come to an end. Indeed, we cannot believe that you will permit these bindings, briefs, amulets, charms, and countless other such things, which have been condemned by the Sacred Canons, any longer to corrupt the Christian people and destroy the Christian religion; nor will you permit one to consume, bind, or suspend anything for the cure of infirmities except that which is approved by the physicians’ art. For it is certain that whatever does not induce health according to its own nature is superstitious, and is therefore impious and criminal.

[686] Beyond these, there is a third class of impious superstitions, equally harmful, which you will not hesitate to destroy; for your correct rule of faith and practice will not tolerate the many things that are done under the false pretense of devotion and religion.

For indeed, Holy Father, when you see the observance of so many vain and foolish ceremonies which have not have been instituted by the Church, and such scruples in every kind of behavior; and when you observe that all prayers have become curses, since they are recited with a pointless regard for place, time, rhythm, and pronunciation, and that one supposes that if this prayer is said while standing, and that prayer while lying down, one will obtain the specific favor of health, consolation, or freedom from some misfortune, and that one prayer frees a person from fire, and another from the sword, and another from one’s enemies, each with its own power; you will surely not tolerate these wicked practices, which are opposed to true purity of religion. Nor can you be pleased with this additional invention of human curiosity: prayers are now made to particular saints for particular infirmities, as if each of the Saints in heaven had his own assignment, and particular human limbs were entrusted to the care of particular saints. As a result, the Lord, the Father of all creatures and the only healer of all infirmities, is now less commonly invoked.

These things, and all others, you will correct in your wisdom. Nor will you permit the following vice, which is surely worse, and which is now very widespread among simple people, to continue any longer. Many are now of the opinion, and firmly believe, that one tablet, on which the image of Christ or the Blessed Virgin or certain saints is painted, can cure one kind of infirmity, while another tablet cures another, if one has recourse to it; or that one image will cause rain or avert hail or bring good weather if it is carried through the city, and that another, if it is kept home, will divert lightning, or fecundate the flocks or cattle; thus the people believe that various graces can be obtained from various images and churches. What sort of things these are, we forbear to say, since Your Holiness knows well that they smack of paganism and idolatry, and are altogether foreign to Christian piety. We are confident that you will make great progress in correcting these abuses, if you decree with pious zeal that magicians, quacks, potion-makers, and practitioners of the occult arts, as well as diviners,

[687] palm-readers, charmers, dream-interpreters, and all who devise similar impieties, if they refuse to abjure these superstitions, should be burned alive, and that those who receive them into their homes to practice these impieties or permit these arts to be practiced on themselves should be deprived of all faculties and punished with perpetual exile from their homeland; if you destroy those in particular who, on the authority of St. Paul, practice their deceitful and diabolical arts by going around cities with serpents, and sell not the grace of St. Paul–which they lack altogether, and which cannot be sold–but the devil’s art, and while they promise to cure bodies that have been exposed to the bite of venomous animals, they infect the souls of the people with a truly mortal poison; if you forbid the carrying of incantations, pictures, marks, phylacteries, patches, and briefs, and forbid anyone to heal the sick who is not qualified in medicine, and stipulate that nothing may be applied to any sickness that is not consistent with its own nature, and is considered by physicians to have curative powers, and that no prayer may be carried, written, or spoken, except those which have been composed by the Church and by the holy doctors whom the Church has approved; if you also take care to burn prayers that have been falsely ascribed to the saints–and there are many of these; if, moreover, you manifestly and publicly forbid all prayers that promise in their titles or rubrics a particular grace of health or consolation or freedom from misfortune, and should allow no one to celebrate masses for special intentions–in which a thousand kinds of superstition are practiced–without the permission of a bishop; if you declare that all ceremonies which have not been established by the Church are diabolical rites, and forbid the placement of votive tablets and figurines before this or that image–since these things smack of paganism, and, because they are useless, easily corrupt the minds of religious who are especially prone to avarice–and allow no image to be carried for the sake of removing plague or obtaining rain or fair weather–for you know how far these practices stray from the path of Christian purity, but as long as they are permitted, practically everyone pays greater honor and respect to a picture of some saint

[688] than to the Sacred Body of our Lord Jesus Christ; if you are willing to teach the Christian people that vows are to be made and paid only to the Lord; if those who deceive the people by inventing, proclaiming, and falsely popularizing miracles associated with some image, and who refuse after one or two warnings to desist, are removed at your orders by some harsh form of capital punishment; if you forbid religious to engage in performances, either pagan or Christian, in church or anywhere else; if all these superstitious, empty, and impious practices, which are foreign to the truth of the Christian Faith and opposed to pure Christianity, which are the snares of the devil and the ruin of souls, which are so various and numerous that one can scarcely count them, are condemned by your command along with their authors, their books, and those who practice them or allow them to be practiced; and if bishops who allow these things to take place in their cities are deprived of their office. For otherwise, we do not believe that the disease of superstition, which is so great, so widely diffused, and which continues to spread, can be destroyed.

The two evils of which we have spoken, ignorance and superstition, originate among religious, and from those who ought to have the cure they spread to the people. It should have been the task of religious to heal the ignorance of the people, had they not all been infected with the same infirmity, and it would have been their job to eliminate all superstitious practices, had not perverse custom taught them to establish and foster them instead. Now, however, on account of our sins, these two plagues are corrupting not only religious, but practically the entire Christian people, men and women, nobles and commoners; and each of these plagues, like a lethal cancer, becomes more malignant and less curable, the further it travels from its source. Nevertheless, the matters that we have yet to discuss are considered peculiar to religious–not because religious and non-religious do not suffer from similar infirmities, but because these ailments either do not spread from religious to seculars, or, if they do affect the latter somehow, cause greater harm to religious than to others. Among these,

[689] the foremost are dissension, discord, division, schism, and separation. Indeed, we cannot now say that the multitude of faithful has one mind and one heart, one manner of living, or one opinion about sacred and human affairs. Exterior marks reveal the interior, for there is no single color and form of habit, nor a common rite and norm of sacred offices and ceremonies. We believe that these differences and divisions stem partly from a dissension of minds, but we also think that they create and foster mental discord. We trust that you will easily destroy these divisions, Holy Father–provided that other concerns, which are perhaps less necessary, and certainly less pastoral, do not prevent you from attending to them–if all clerics, monks, nuns, and men of any condition who are bound by profession or who desire out of private devotion to celebrate the divine offices use the same method and form when singing the divine praises, celebrating Mass, and performing other ceremonies; if the entire Church celebrates the memorial of the same saint on the same day with comparable solemnity–excepting the titular feasts of particular churches, in which a disparity of celebration and festivity is allowed; if you abolish, on pain of excommunication, all argument and controversy regarding the superiority of this or that religious order, or about the dignity and glory of the saints who founded them or flourished in them–for in these wretched controversies human audacity has gone so far in exalting, in huge printed volumes, this or that religious founder above all other saints as to compare him, and thus to equate or even prefer him, to Christ the Lord; thus the ones who glory in being champions of the Faith, when they are miserably preoccupied by these and similar vanities, actually corrupt all genuine faith and piety; if religious orders walking in a public procession proceed not according to rank, but according to lots drawn by the bishop on each occasion, and no order or congregation enjoys wider and higher privileges, Apostolic or otherwise, than the other orders, but each of them is assigned an equal share in the task of hearing confessions, preaching, and performing other religious duties, in keeping with their proper institutes; if all

[690] who follow the Rule of St. Benedict are required to wear a habit of the same color and form and are called by the same name (i.e., Monks of St. Benedict), so that we may abolish such differences of habit and so many different names; if those who observe the rule of St. Augustine, or Francis, or the rules of other saints do likewise; if disputes about the Conception of the Blessed Virgin or the Blood of Christ–whether some of it remained on earth–and so forth, which are waged among the religious orders more heatedly than they should be, are thoroughly abolished, so that even to speak, write, or dispute about them is punishable by excommunication; if the Church defines which view must be accepted when Duns Scotus contradicts Blessed Thomas and when other doctors disagree among themselves, at least in those matters which pertain to the Faith, and if she condemns the opposite opinion; if all who belong to the same rule are compelled to keep the same manner and form in diet, clothing, and all other departments of life, and if traveling monks or religious or others who become guests at a monastery are obliged, although they are guests, to live in the same way as the brothers who dwell there and to perform the same tasks; if the libraries of religious in any order are shared in common with all others, so that anyone may enter and, after signing for the books he requires and leaving a deposit commensurate with their value, may take them away and keep them for a set time, in keeping with their size; if the brothers of different orders who are traveling or sailing together or who are lodging at an inn are commanded to share the same table; if a religious of any order who presumes in speech or writing to prefer his own order or monastery to others or to slander or condemn another religious order incurs a sentence of excommunication, or is subject to another heavy penalty–none would seem so appropriate as to compel him to leave the order he dared to prefer, and to join the one that he presumed to condemn, as if he had made a special profession in the latter; if, for some other reason, religious are not permitted to pass from any order to another, or permitted to pass from all orders to all others; and if orders that cannot be reformed and brought to a true observance are destroyed

[691] and yield their place to observant ones. If these and similar measures, which Your Holiness will devise with greater soundness and prudence, or which will be suggested by others with better judgment than ours, are established with the firmest Pontifical pronouncements and the most serious penalties, all the dissensions, discord, and schisms among religious will vanish. Then we shall see not many and countless religious orders and congregations, such as now exist, but one order and one congregation of all, and there will be one heart and one mind, just as there is one faith.

But you, Holy Father, will no doubt satisfy both the expectation of the Lord, who called you to this office, and that of men. Moreover, the unconquerable fortitude of your mind, which has overcome the most arduous and difficult challenges, will not be found wanting in this final task, which we think will be very easy, but will accomplish everything you deem timely and necessary for restoring the various orders of the church to a pure and holy manner of life and a correct observance of their rule. When, like a farmer, you have pulled up and removed the thorns of vice and the brambles of bad habit from the Lord’s field, you will sow the seeds of the virtues and plant the shoots of good habits, and you will water them continually. To these we hope that God will give increase, so that from your labors you shall reap, both in this life and in the blessedness to come, a harvest of a hundred-fold.

Your Holiness knows, however, that no decree or law can improve the moral habits of subjects as much as the godly conduct of a good prince; for the example of princes tends to make a stronger impression than laws. You will begin, then, with yourself, and by leaving the path of bad habits, which has been too much traveled by some previous Popes, you will bring the office back to the straight path of Pontifical dignity. We believe that you cannot do otherwise, for you came to your pastoral office by the route that Saint Gregory, the greatest of pastors, recommended, and you have laudably fulfilled the first part of his pastoral rule. Thus, we are confident that you will also take care to fulfill the others. Nor will you ever be satisfied merely to have assumed your office in the correct and proper manner, but you will desire also to live in it properly, and to teach others–by preaching, example,

[692] or the best arrangements–to live rightly, and finally to examine yourself. These are the four obligations that the Pastoral Rule requires. Having determined to observe these to the letter, you fulfilled the first of them, as practically the whole world bears witness, when you assumed your pastoral office in the correct and legal manner. It remains, then, for you to fulfill the other three parts of your great responsibility: to live properly, to teach others to live well—by your words, example, and good and proper arrangements–and to examine yourself. Thus you will clearly show yourself to be the kind of man the best pastor ought to be. We forbear to list the virtues required of a Pope, since we assume that you have often read them and have not only committed them to memory, but perfectly attained them by the integrity of your life and the purity of your manners.

You will also not be satisfied unless you teach the Roman Curia, the orders of cardinals, bishops, and clergy, the congregations of religious men and women, and the multitudes of Christian people, by your example, advice, preaching, and regulation, to think and act as you do and to live in the same way. Although your great responsibilities prevent you from preaching the word of God in person, your shining conduct and godly decrees will serve as a great and efficacious kind of preaching, and that preaching will rightly be considered yours which others fulfill at your command. Since you are the head of all the faithful and all the branches of the Christian people are but members of this head, whatever you do through others, whoever they may be, you evidently accomplish yourself. And so, Holy Father, it will always be your greatest care that the various branches fulfill their duties and the particular members have their proper and legitimate work to do, and that there is no class of Christians that does not keep to its own rule of life and its own customary norms. Indeed, we know that whatever good is done in the entire Church under your direction is done by you, and that you can expect the reward of that good work; by the same token, any sin of any order belongs to you, for the head cannot be exempt from fault when the members, which are subject to the head’s authority,

[693] do not rightly keep their rule of life. The man who has authority cannot be content if he keeps himself unstained by sin, but fails to guarantee that those who are temporarily placed in his charge preserve their way of life entire. Whoever fails to correct and amend the errors of his subjects is viewed as consenting to them; by consenting he makes them his own errors, and by his indulgence he opens the way to wrongdoing. While it is a sad thing to be deprived of eternal blessedness by one’s own sins, it is surely most regrettable to pay the price of eternal damnation for others’ vices, rather than one’s own.

And so, Holy Father, since you have formed yourself in both the inner and the outer man in such a way as to please God with your interior beauty, and to set a shining example to others with your exterior virtue, it remains for you carefully to examine and diligently to correct their lives. We have no doubt that you know that the word “bishop” means “overseer,” and that St. Bernard warned Eugenius–and every other Pope, by extension– to examine not only himself, but also everything around him and beneath him. We omit to mention the things above, which he counts in the fourth place, since they do not concern us here. Rather, our present object is to extol you with the highest praise, since you are not only showing yourself to be what the Supreme Pontiff, the great Vicar of Christ, and a good shepherd ought to be, but you are prepared to take the greatest care to lead all the Lord’s sheep, no matter where they stray, to the path of holy living and Christian purity, to prepare for the Lord a perfect people, and to present the entire Christian Church, over which you preside, as a chaste bride to Christ. We do not believe you can do this unless you undertake the care of all persons together in such a way that you show equal concern for each and every estate and person within the Church, and set yourself to correct, amend, and instruct individual classes of men and individual persons in such a way as not to diminish the care of all. In our opinion, it behooves the Supreme Pontiff to imitate Almighty God, who so provides for all men collectively and for each person individually that he is recognized as the best father of all and the kindest father of each. Since you desire to fulfill this role, insofar as the human condition allows,

[694] you have placed all the ecclesiastical orders before your mind’s eye, and as you consider the errors of each, in keeping with your customary wisdom and kindness, you will not hesitate to prepare the most salutary remedies for all.

The first to come before you are the cardinals, who, evidently, are not only below you and around you but are, in a sense, within you. You call them “brothers,” and by custom you share with them the burdens of the Pontifical office. And so, if some vice has grown among them, either through the injury of time or the indulgence–not to say carelessness–of Popes; if this class, because of the authority and power it clearly enjoys, which is second only to yours, has lapsed into a certain liberty to sin; if there are some in this number who think that they may do whatever they please; if some have come into this office who do not blush to sin, who offend the Lord, and who cause an occasion for scandal and ruin for other men–for nothing, in our opinion, amounts to a greater rejection and insult of God’s goodness than the sins of those who ought to keep others from sin, and nothing produces a greater occasion for sin in others than the bad example of great men, especially those who have been set upon the lamp-stand of ecclesiastical office, and who, like burning lamps, ought to shine the light of their good works and show the entire family of the Universal Church the shining path of true religion and piety; if not only great crimes, but even the least defilement has stained this worthy and distinguished order–for in such an excellent order there can be no minimum, and even sins regarded as small in a humble and lowly man are considered very great in the more exalted, and to the degree that such men excel others in status, their vices are more ugly and shameful; if the order closest to Your Holiness suffers in this way, but you do not understand what it suffers, there is good reason to fear that the Lord will lay great blame upon you, since you have allowed these precious members of the Lord Jesus, the nobler part of the Church, its more exalted branch and the one closest to you, to suffer even the slightest disgrace. If you, whom they elected as Shepherd and Overseer of their souls, neglect the infirmity and sickness of this order in any part, you will scarcely be able to hold yourself free from blame.

[695] Indeed, if you hesitate out of favor, love, fear, or some scruple to care for those whom you alone must care for and instruct, since they have no other superior on earth but you, who else will care for them? Who will feel your kindly attention or hope for your favor, if even your inward parts, your brothers, whom you see every day, with whom you share all the business of the holy Church of God, and whom you personally appointed or who elected you as Shepherd and Prince, should happen to stray somewhat–for they too are men–and you should fail to watch with all care and to work with all solicitude to bring them back to the holiness that befits their office? How then will those who by virtue of their rank or various duties or distance from Rome are so far removed from you that they can be called strangers–although in fact no Christian and no member of the human race is really a stranger to you–hope to obtain the correction of their errors?

Since, however, we believe that the order of cardinals, if it errs at all, errs through the excessive granting and burden of benefices and the acquisition and abundance of all sorts of goods, we think it would be most conducive to their salvation if you would decree, with firm and unquestionable sanctions, that cardinals may receive no benefice otherwise than from their titular churches. But lest you, the Supreme Pontiff, deprive them of a just recompense in keeping with the high rank of cardinal, we think it would be best for your good and theirs to support them with fixed pensions, without diminishing the public treasury. They would receive these pensions every year from you, Holy Father, after you have taken account of their benefices. In any case, you surely recognize that we have made these suggestions through an excess of that charity which knows no bounds, and not because we suspect that there is anything at all crooked or indecent in that illustrious and eminent order of cardinals. For it is not our part to entertain dark suspicions about this majestic order; rather, we simply wish you, Holy Father, to be a watchful, careful, magnanimous, fearless, and zealous corrector of any error on their part, however small. Since the health of the entire Church depends upon their rectitude of life,

[696] we feel that you could offer nothing more useful, nor do a greater favor to those who chose you as Pope, than to recall them from error when they stray. Since the source of all errors is an infirmity of the mind, and not of the body, we should be more grateful to those who free us from such errors than from some corporal infirmity. Nor do we see how you can otherwise obey the Lord, who warned Peter once, and who always warns you, if you willingly keep the ears of your heart open to him, to turn and strengthen the brethren, over whom, indeed, you should watch with still greater pastoral care and solicitude. If these are not always disposed to you as they should be, we foresee, not without good reason, that none of the inferior orders will keep its own rules. If however, they are such men as the supreme dignity of their office requires them to be, Your Holiness is left with no reason to worry about the other classes, for the cardinals will undertake for you the care of the lower orders, and no one will dare or be able to stray in the least from the path of their rule.

Indeed, let the order of archbishops and bishops be subject, at your command, to the cardinals, so that every year, or every three years at least, all bishops are obliged to give an account of their stewardship. If it turns out that, in the cardinals’ judgment, they have lived otherwise than a bishop should, or that they have not fulfilled their ministry by visiting the people entrusted to them and teaching them by word and example how to live rightly, let them be punished with removal from office and life imprisonment, to eat the bread of sorrow. In this way those who enjoy the splendid office of bishop will also be eager to possess habits worthy of a bishop, and those who enjoy the privilege of ministry will not refuse to bear its burdens. And so, if Your Holiness is ready and willing, you can replace ignorance, superstition, ambition, avarice and other such vices, from which many men of this class are known to suffer, with the opposite virtues, so that all churches may have the kind of bishops required by the word of God (cf. 1 Timothy 3:1ff), namely men without guilt, pride and anger, who are not given to wine or lawsuits, who are not violent or eager for gain, who are blameless, sober, self-controlled, respected, prudent, modest, hospitable,

[ 697] able to teach, kindly, just, holy, and eager to embrace the precepts of God and the discipline of Scripture, and who can encourage the faithful in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict it. To accomplish this, however, we believe that Your Holiness must take special care, as you govern the Church, not to allow anyone to assume this office through ambitious conduct, through the patronage of princes, by importuning you or by some other illegitimate means; rather, he should obtain it only by the integrity of his life, the holiness of his conduct, and his learning in the Holy Scriptures. One man has said that all persons should be received into a monastery, with the hope that they will make progress and improve themselves there; only those should be admitted to the episcopacy, however, who are already worthy of the office. For unless a new bishop brings with him the virtues that a bishop ought to have, we do not see what good we may expect from him, since those who are already bad tend not to be corrected, but rather become corrupted, when they enter high office.

Next, you will see to it that bishops are frequently visited by cardinals or by the worthiest and most honest of your friends. Let these seek out the bishops’ faults by diligently questioning and gladly listening to the clergy and the people committed to them, to see if they have failed in any respect or fulfilled their duties too carelessly; let them be corrected on the spot and, if necessary, deprived of the office that they have failed to hold properly; and let them be punished even more severely if more grievous crimes appear. When bishops are more frequently visited and corrected by you or by your delegates, they will quickly learn to visit, examine, and correct the clergy, priests, and all who are below them, and to inquire more diligently into the character of the men on whom they must lay their hands in ordination. In this matter, we anticipate a great benefit, Holy Father, if you command all bishops to ordain to the minor orders only those who are well-born and properly brought up, of good character and good conduct, and reasonably well educated for their age; and let them receive into the order of the priesthood only those who are men of proven virtue and learning, and for whom due provision has been made regarding the office or benefice on which they will depend for food and clothing, as is the custom in German lands. Indeed we see many priests who, because of their wretched poverty and urgent need, take on work that is inappropriate for a priest, practice illicit arts of all sorts, or enter shameful occupations.

[698] Others, because they are ignorant or distracted by other business, cannot or will not fulfill their duty to care for the people committed to them, or worse still, corrupt with their own depravity those whom they ought to correct and attract to better pursuits. These things would not happen if their shepherds and bishops were carefully watching over them, and if worthless and lazy men befouled by every vice were not admitted to the priesthood, and if the bishop visited his clergy once a year, or even more often, and admonished, reproved, scolded, and corrected them. We read that formerly no one was admitted to the priesthood unless, among other things, he knew all the Psalms by heart; and if a candidate had failed to memorize any of them, the Pope was most reluctant to accept him for the priesthood. Now, however, one thinks it miraculous to have found a priest who has memorized all or even some of the Psalms, since there are many who cannot even read them properly. In former times, one was called to the priestly dignity, which is a higher state of perfection, after training in a monastery and a lengthy probation. Now, however, anyone who turns from the priesthood to a monastery is thought to have made great progress–not because the current discipline of monasteries is greater than it once was, but because the priesthood, which was once considered the most perfect order in the church, has gradually declined to become virtually the most imperfect of all, and many in this class seem to live more disgracefully than laymen. All of the infirmities that exist in particular members, however, originate from the head, namely from the Supreme Pontiff, as anyone can see. For these members are all joined to their head and subject to him in such a way that the kind of health, strength, and beauty that the superior members bring to those in the middle will be passed on by these in turn to the lower members, while the superior members will provide what they receive from the head. In the same way, the care that the Pope has for the life and discipline of the cardinals is the same that the latter will have for the conduct of bishops, and the care that the bishops receive from their superiors is the same that they will devote to the clergy and priests who are below them. This is how the Church’s hierarchy operates, so that when the man who occupies the highest place languishes, all the inferior orders must do likewise; but when he recovers his strength, the various members,

[699] even those that are in lower positions or the lowest of all, tend to get better.

And so, Holy Father, as you are aware that the health or infirmity of the entire Church Militant of God must be attributed to you, you must show great vigilance, so that all the inferior orders will receive from you and from your household, toward which they all will be looking, an example of proper conduct and holy living. As for your household, which we had almost forgotten to mention, we said that all the orders of the church—lower, middle, and higher—will be looking toward it, since it is not possible for everyone to see you in person; for those who dwell in your house are not considered different from you, and those who see them will think that they see you. Indeed, the shadow does not more faithfully express the shape of the body, nor wax the image of the ring, than the members of a prince’s household express the life of the prince. From the prince’s house, whether it has been rightly or crookedly managed, his life and discipline spread to the whole city, and from the city it is diffused upon his entire realm. Thus, seeing that you are adorned with the holiest conduct and with the inestimable beauty of every virtue, we believe that your household will be adorned likewise, and we hope to see the superior order of Cardinals and the middle order of bishops and the lower order of clergy and priests follow suit. When you diligently keep the rule of your pastoral office and maintain a deep concern for all, the remaining classes will certainly keep their rules–especially the class of religious men and women, to which you, Holy Father, are joined by a greater bond of affection through a special prerogative of your innate charity. While you were involved in lesser ministries, you always sought to support, adorn, and lavishly benefit all religious orders; thus, you have raised the spirits of good religious men and women to the greatest hope, as they see that you have risen to the highest office. They are confident that you have not forgotten your former love of the religious life, and expect that you will immediately give the nod to a general reform of religious orders. No less than the rest, and perhaps even more, various orders of brothers and nuns have strayed from the observance of their rule and from the institutes of their founders; and while some have wandered further than others from the right path, there can be no doubt that all have strayed somewhat, and become practically useless.

Therefore, it is up to you,

[700] Holy Father, to take special care to lead every religious order to the perfect observance of its rule and to its ancient and holy manner of living. If you decide to do this, you will have no trouble or difficulty; for while you may find that the monastic orders have departed from their ancient ways for a longer period of time, you will see that they can be corrected and amended more easily. Indeed, they will not dare to oppose your will, spurn your mandates, or refuse correction from your kindly hands; rather, they will present themselves like soft wax to your precepts, and will easily and gladly assume any form to which you care to bring them. It is your task, Holy Father, if we have a right estimate of things, to inspect all the religious orders and to examine the rules, customs, and way of life of all religious men and women. For there are many diverse plans of the religious life, and it seems that every day some new form arises, and that virtually every city has, in addition to the common forms, its own peculiar religious order; nor is there a single rule of the Holy Fathers that does not have many diverse congregations of religious men and women living under it. To take one case as illustrative of all: under the single rule of St. Benedict live numerous orders of monks, and in each of these there is a division between greater and lesser observance. When you have surveyed these considerable and complex differences in rule and custom and have considered their relative merits with the keen insight of your mind, you will first confirm the rules that seem to merit the approval of the Apostolic See, if they have already been approved before your Pontificate; otherwise, you will not hesitate to approve them yourself. For there are some religious rules that are considered properly established, but, since they have not yet been approved by the Apostolic See, simpler minds are reluctant to assent to them. Those, however, which have not been rightly established and consequently are less worthy of confirmation by the Apostolic See, Your Holiness will promptly denounce and manifestly condemn, destroy, and annihilate. For just as there is nothing more sacred in the Church than the establishment of correct religious life, there is found among Christians nothing more detestable

[701] than a twisted practice that goes by the name of religious living.

If, however, there are some rules that have one or a few perverse features mixed in with many good customs, we are confident that you, the kindly Father of all Religious, will not refuse to correct and amend these rules, and will afterwards approve them rather than abolish and condemn them; and this applies not only to rules that have already been approved by the Apostolic See, but also to others that have been rightly formulated. Some, however, will no doubt have to be rejected, for Your Holiness will not permit the twisted practices of some religious to contaminate God’s Holy Church. We hope, as well, that some rules will be corrected and improved by your wise judgment. We dare not say, however, which ones are worthy of approval, condemnation, or reform, lest we seem too bold and to wish to reap in another’s field. There is one thing, however, that we dare not pass over in silence. There are certain organizations that the Sacred Canons condemn, and which the Church anathematizes every year on Holy Thursday, such as the order of Beguines, which flourishes in France, and the so-called fraticelli dell’ opinione, who sadly corrupt the region of Sabaudia and the Piedmont. We believe that there are many other modes of life which people take up not to serve God, but to trick men more easily through a thousand means of deception–such as the life of those who wander through the homes of laymen with bare feet and uncovered heads, dressed in sackcloth, and with no fixed rule of life, and whom that wise old man Jerome, having observed their many deceptions and perverse manners, which he enumerates, calls “Apostles of Satan.” If there are any such institutes which have a heretical flavor or are fouled with superstition, and which appear to serve not God but the Devil, you will view it as your solemn duty to condemn and destroy them. If you pull these weeds from Lord’s field, you will leave more fertile ground for a good sowing–that is, for religious orders with a proper rule of life–and you will free the Christian people from many errors and deceptions.

Next, your eyes would meet with the fact that there are some who serve under the banner of the most correct and tested rules and usages, and who, because they endeavor to keep these rules and usages, are called “observant,” while there are others who, beyond the bare fact that they live together,

[702] observe none of their holy rules and customs, or else they omit the more important ones; these have the name “conventual.” Since you, however, will tolerate neither the division of individual rules nor the abuse and depravation involved in a second, deformed way of living, you will carefully endeavor to bring those who are called conventual to the more exact observance of their rule, so that the name itself is abolished. You will accomplish this more easily if you declare that no one may take vows in conventual monasteries; thus, all congregations of religious men and women will deservedly be called observant. Indeed, it would be pointless to glory or boast in the name “observant,” unless the name should be equal to the facts, through a truly exact and perfect observance of the holy rule and customs. This is more likely to happen, Holy Father, if you command, on pain of excommunication, that no monk who has made any kind of religious profession may live beyond the cloister and monastery apart from his congregation, and that whoever dares to leave his monastery and congregation shall be compelled to give up the monastic or religious habit and will be considered irregular, excommunicate, and subject to the secular authorities; if you command that all nuns be restricted to their monasteries, not only that they may not leave, but also that they may not see anyone or be seen by anyone, and that excessive freedom to speak with men may be taken away from them; if you invite all religious orders, just as you invited our own order of Camaldoli, to reform themselves, and if you confirm with the fullness of Apostolic authority the measures which the superiors of the various orders, in conference with their advisors, will have decreed for the good of their way of life–for one must suppose that individual orders are more aware of their own infirmities and better understand which remedies are appropriate; if you command that all monks, nuns, and religious of every kind be subject, as they were not long ago, to the authority of bishops–not so that bishops may interfere in the election of prelates or the administration of temporal affairs, but that they, whenever it seems appropriate, may visit monasteries in person, and not through vicars, and may be able to correct those which are in error

[703] and to bring them back to the true observance of their rule. The monks themselves, whose proper role is to be subjects, rather than superiors, will accept this more patiently and willingly, if they first perceive that their bishops are the kind of men they should be, showing by example and teaching how one ought to live.

Indeed, we think that the exemption of abbots, monks, and religious orders from the power of bishops–about which many complained at the time to Pope Eugenius, who first granted this privilege to St. Bernard, saying that it was neither fitting, licit, nor expedient, although it has now proved to be very good and useful–came about because those who were subject to bishops did not believe that they really had shepherds. Now the times and indeed all things have declined to the point that, sadly, they feel that they have not shepherds, but ravenous wolves, instead. And so, when we say that monks and other religious should be subject to bishops, so that the latter will bring them back to the perfect observance of their rule, we understand that bishops must first be the kind that have learned to observe their own rule as pastors and bishops. Otherwise, they will not help, but greatly hinder religious orders, since it is better to commit the flock to no one at all than to entrust it to wolves. If you undertake these and similar measures for the removal of ignorance, superstition, dissension, ambition, and avarice from the souls of religious–which we have stated in part and deliberately omitted in part, since it is not proper to discuss at length matters which are already well known to you–all religious orders will easily return to a holy way of living and the perfect observance of their rule and customs, purged from all stain of vice, and we shall see such orders of monks and religious men and women in these latter days under the Supreme Pontiff, Leo X, as there were in the days of their founding.

Thus, when you have cleaned up all the vices of religious and renewed the holy observance of each particular rule, virtues derived from the best religious shall well up and flourish among the people, just as vices, all trickling from their own sources, currently gush up among them. Indeed, we see that the people are always like the religious who minister to them, so that if you eradicate the vices of the religious,

[704] you will seem to have eliminated those of lay people in the same contest. If, however, you free the Christian people not only from the greater and more obvious sins, which have been condemned and prohibited by both ecclesiastical and civil law and by divine commandment, but also from other faults that are not so much sins as the occasions of sin, you will have perfected not merely the various religious orders, but the Christian people as well. What are these things that cause an occasion of sin to the people? The list is practically endless, but we will sketch just a few and begin by saying that oaths provide the greatest occasion for sinning. For when we swear oaths too frequently, it sometimes happens that we swear falsely. Thus, we think it would be beneficial to the Christian people if no one is invited to take an oath either in court or outside it without the express permission of the bishop, who, for his part, will not permit anyone to swear an oath until he has carefully investigated the persons involved, their life and character, and the facts of the case in which the oath is to be taken; and if you banish oaths from all associations, councils, and congregations of laymen, so that there is no rule which must be kept under penalty of perjury, and that laymen cannot be bound to anything by means of an oath. For there are many councils and many associations that require observance of their rules under the form of an oath that is hardly ever respected, and what would have been a venial sin is rendered mortal by the obligation of an oath.

Next, cards, dice and other games present great occasions for sinning, since they give rise to greed, various forms of cheating, anger, blasphemy, and hostility, and–what is just as bad–they increase the temptation to steal. For when someone has lost his own money through gaming, he is tempted to steal or seize another’s. Thus, if you would prohibit all gaming among the Christian people, many occasions of sin would be eliminated. Some think that we should guard against the agents of eternal perdition with a lesser form of corporal and temporal punishment—for example, by punishing anyone who dares to play with cards or dice with the amputation of his right hand. Those, however, who make the instruments of these games should be executed if they refuse to stop. As for us, we agree that things that provide an occasion of sin should be prohibited; what the penalty for deliberate transgressors should be, we would not presume to say.

There are also some precepts of the Church that provide many occasions of sin,

[705] not because there is anything wrong with the precepts, but because they bind those who do not observe them to sin, and through a perverse and growing habit, many people fail to keep them. Since they are not divine precepts, which cannot be changed–for the law of God does not depend on the judgment of men–the Church counts them as positive law, rather than unmediated commands of God; thus, they are subject to change for the good of the people. You would eliminate many sins among the people if you were to state clearly that some or all of the precepts observed in churches, like many customs in religious houses, do not incur fault, but only a penalty. Among these, the Lenten fast and abstinence are clear examples. For when abstinence and fasting are commanded under pain of mortal sin, there are many who do not abstain from meat, and more who do not fast, and almost the entire Christian people is caught in the net of sin. Accordingly, some think that the precept of fasting should be modified; they would impose the fast in Lent and on vigils, but not on pain of mortal sin, and would encourage voluntary observance with a plenary indulgence; for those who only abstain from eating meat, an indulgence applied to half of their sins might be offered. Precisely how these and other precepts should be moderated, so that an excessive laxity does not seem to grant license to sin, and that obligations under pain of mortal sin, which were created for the sake of salvation, do not appear to be the cause of damnation, we leave to your wisdom to decide.

There appears to be another snare prepared by the Devil, which captures the souls of many laymen. A bad custom, in our opinion, has arisen in many places, whereby laymen making contracts stipulate that they may be excommunicated for a debt, if they fail to pay it on time. This, if we are not mistaken, is the same as to be obligated in forma Camerae, and when they are unable to pay the debt as promised and incur a penalty of excommunication, they lose not their temporal business but their eternal salvation. We are certain that Your Holiness will not tolerate this, but will declare that no one who is not a member of the clergy

[706] may obligate himself in forma Camerae or be excommunicated for a debt.

Another occasion of sin is provided by lascivious women. For when they paint their faces with makeup and lipstick and go about in some places with heads uncovered, and when men and women come to celebrate Mass and hear the word of God all mixed together, great and practically unavoidable fires are kindled in their souls. Thus, if women are forbidden to use any kind of makeup and are required to go about with their heads veiled, and if men and women are kept separate in church–which was the rule in the old law, observed even now by the Hebrews, so that the exterior part of churches is reserved for women, and the interior for men–many a stimulus and incitement to sin will be eliminated.

Here appears yet one more abomination: formerly one place was allowed to prostitutes in a rather obscure district of a city, but now they are permitted to live anywhere in all the streets and wards, especially in that City where you reside. This impious indulgence ruins many thousands of souls, since women are accordingly less inhibited by shame, and men are more often tempted to sin by the opportunities that are constantly presented to them, and young girls are seduced to the foulest behavior by the example the of the bad women they can see everywhere. You will want to abolish this great evil, Holy Father, since it falls to you to care not only for the greatest things but also for the least; thus, you will see to it that the worst women are relegated to some corner of every city and will decree that those who give them a home elsewhere in the city should be punished most severely. We think that these remedies will ordinarily be sufficient to combat this deadly vice in Christian cities. In Rome, however, which has suffered more seriously from this foul and disgusting deformity, better and more efficacious remedies must be devised. The perverse habits and license to sin that have prevailed in the City will not easily be removed, since there is no street so populous that a number of prostitutes do not live there. One shudders to think that your palace is surrounded by such women, so that you cannot set foot outside, nor can anyone approach your throne, without encountering the spectacle of a thousand prostitutes. Who indeed lives on that very street where you are accustomed to carry the Holy Body of Christ,

[707] but meretricious women? It has gotten to the point that members of the Curia are not ashamed to convey prostitutes in broad daylight through the busiest parts of the City. We had heard this once, and would not have believed it had we not seen it with our own eyes, along with sights even more shameful, which modesty prevents us from relating. Rome, once a royal and priestly city, has now become a foul and disgusting brothel, so that among priests and those who enjoy high office there is no shame in having not one, but several concubines, and to provide them with delicacies and fine clothing from ecclesiastical revenues. If you do not see these things, which are in plain sight, we do not know how you can fulfill the role of bishop; if you see them and look the other way, we should fear, if Your Holiness will pardon us for saying so, that you will incur the punishment of Eli the priest. Stir up, Good Father, your righteous zeal, and expel this filth, which arouses the indignation of practically the entire world, or at least banish it far from your palace. While these things are permitted, it is not surprising that the Roman Curia does not receive due respect from Christian nations; for what man who hears of this disgrace can respect those who do these things or allow them to be done? But to return to the point of our discourse, Holy Father, we believe that there are many similar occasions of sin for the Christian people, which we both wish and hope that Your Holiness will correct. We will not list any more of them, since we know that they are all well known to you, and we have mentioned these few only to give examples, rather than because we thought they had escaped your attention.

When all the members of the Christian Commonwealth are languishing, we cannot doubt that you, Holy Father, will devise and prepare remedies for the infirmities of each; but in addition to the medicines proper for each of the members, Your Holiness has no doubt sought and discovered others, which are applicable to all the members of this body and will help them all a great deal. The first of these is something without which no religious community, no order, no congregation, and no church

[708] can long preserve its rule of life and holy observance, and without which no part of the Christian Commonwealth or the whole gathering of faithful can long maintain its strength and splendor: the frequent meeting of councils. And so, if you desire to help and foster all the members of our Holy Church, you will see fit to declare that every religious order and congregation should frequently convoke a council–what they call a “chapter”–of the fathers who belong to it; that every bishop should more frequently convene a synod of the clergy, elders and priests who are below him, in which every member may attend with the fear of God to the reformation of his own order and the proper formation of the people; that the metropolitan bishop should assemble all the other bishops established under him, along with their senior and more important priests, at a metropolitan synod on a certain day every year, and that the diocesan and metropolitan synods should often or always be attended and presided over by a cardinal or a trusted associate of yours, acting in your name; that the custom, which we regard as superior because it affects the whole Church, should be established of convening a council of the entire Church not merely every decade, but every five years; for without such councils, as we have learned from experience, the Church of God cannot stand, nor has anything reduced God’s Church from an excellent and perfect condition to its present wretched state so much as the omission of these councils.

If a general council should take up the issue of the reformation of particular churches, we do not see why those who are called Christians and who particularly need reform, especially the Greeks and the six other Christian nations, should not be invited. From what we have read, when general councils were convened in the early days of the Church, the fathers were summoned not only from Italy and Europe but from all over the world, and for this reason these councils were called “ecumenical.” If those who occupied the Apostolic See had endeavored to preserve this custom, the Roman Church, which is the head of all churches, would not be deprived of her noblest members, nor would the other illustrious churches of Africa and Asia be divided from the Roman Church, the mother of them all, so that they are not even known to those who live in Rome.

This is your task, Holy Father, whom the Lord has called to care for all churches

[709] and who has placed you at the head of them all. Just as these noble churches have been divided from the Church of Rome through the carelessness and idleness of some who occupied the Roman See, so that scarcely any memory of them remains, let them be joined and united through your wisdom and solicitude to the Church, their head, and to the Roman Pontiff, and let them be better known by those who live in Europe. If, however, you cannot bring them all at once to the unity and authority of the Roman Church, especially without first destroying the race of Infidels and Mohammedans, which, like a wall constructed by the Devil between you and them, keeps them far away, we think it will be sufficient if first one, and then another church returns in the course of time to unity, just as this division occurred gradually over many years. Nor will it be a small thing, if you decide to normalize the custom of holding councils, which was abolished for so many years before, but has recently been brought back to light; if you establish that the Lateran Council, which Pope Julius began and which you have continued and will bring to conclusion, has no other object than the unity and reform of the Church; if you invite to the Council men who, with zeal for the Faith, prefer nothing to the truth, rather than those who like to please and flatter their superiors; if complete freedom of speech is allowed in the Council, and the truth is accepted, so that there seems to be no place for deception and flattery; if, in contrast to the old proverb, “truth breeds enmity, but flattery breeds friendship,” you see to it that flattery breeds indignation, and truth, favor. If you decide to hold such a council, Holy Father, you will find salutary remedies for each of the members of the Christian Commonwealth, thanks to the Lord’s goodness and your administration and willingness to accept better counsels, so that the Spouse of Christ, who has been ill for too long and soiled by many vices, may be restored to true health and perfect beauty; and that, just as we find her described in the Canticle of Solomon, we may see her before our eyes, all beautiful and fair, without wrinkle or spot (cf. Cant. 1:15, Eph. 5:27).

In this Council, then, nothing may be more important for Your Holiness than to heal, as you have begun to do, the schism that occurred under the pontificate of Julius and to bring back the separated members to the bond of charity.

[710] Indeed, we do not see what good there can be in the Church if it lacks the perfect union of charity. Thus, we are confident that Your Holiness–in imitation of our Lord, who kindly summons all who desert him and joyfully takes them back–will be certain above all to recall without ceasing and with the greatest charity those who have left the Church for whatever reason, to treat those who return no differently than sons, and to receive with joy and serenity all who want to return hereafter, not considering how much they have strayed, but how much you must care for their well-being and that of the Church. When the prodigal son returned, the kindly father of the Gospel did not scold him because he had squandered all his goods, but rather received him with great joy because he was his son, and he prepared a great feast of celebration. Whoever troubles to examine a bygone fault appears not sparing and merciful, but rather intent on revenge, since one who generously spares another prefers that the latter should not even seem to have erred. This matter of schism, which is very important and which caused Julius, who occupied the See of St. Peter before you, no little concern, will be no trouble for you. For God, who is wonderfully arranging everything in your pontificate, so that those who await the redemption to Israel can truly say, “The Lord has done great things for us” (Ps. 126:3), has placed the very authors of this schism in your power these last few days, to the surprise of all, without any thought or effort on your part, as if you were sleeping, and has moved their souls to revere you and to love the Church, so that they have tried to show by various arguments that they dissented from Julius rather than from the Pope as such, and from that one man, rather than from the whole Church. You, in turn, with the affections of a kindly parent toward all, have restored these schismatics, without prejudice to the authority of the Pope, to their former dignity. This is a splendid accomplishment and worthy of a great Pope. For in a single day you generously spared the penitent and restored those noble members, once divided from the Church, to unity with all due respect; you found sheep that had strayed and carried them back to the flock of the Lord, and thus perfectly fulfilled the role of a kindly parent, a Pope, and a good shepherd. Since, however, the very providence of God seems to have brought the two leaders of the schism to you, and since they have given themselves not only in body, but also in mind and will,

[711] upon which no force of yours is applied, to the unity of charity and respectful subjection, should we not hope that all the other schismatics, following their example, have already been subject to your will? In this matter, if the Lord provides an opportunity to reconcile the rest, you will in no way spurn it; thus, when true peace and unity have been restored to the Church and you have been freed from the great burden of these concerns, you will be able to devote yourself with greater attention and a less distracted mind to the reform of the Church. Therefore, Holy Father, when the other schismatics–whom, in keeping with your innate kindness and pastoral care for all, you should call back and love even when they pull away and oppose you–spontaneously offer themselves and say that they are prepared to obey you rather than oppose you, do not hesitate to receive them. Otherwise, you may be accused of not caring for the well-being of your brothers, the unity of the Church, and the good things that come with unity.

When you have restored true and perfect unity to the Roman Church, you will be obliged to devote all of your mind’s energy to the reformation of the Roman Curia. To accomplish this perfectly, we believe three things, apart from what has been said already, are necessary. The first is not to allow your eyes to be distracted or blinded by the greatness of your affairs or by any custom—or should we say, abuse. Rather, looking straight at the present state of the Church, not to say its ruin and desolation, and investigating the depth of its wound, you must determine that the Church of God herself is in great need of reformation, and that she has been entrusted to you not to be possessed as she is, but to be reformed. You should make this judgment without hesitation and happily reckon that you must work harder for her reformation than for any other thing. For unless you accept that the Church is in trouble, and unless you believe that she has been entrusted to you for healing as to a physician, the Christian Commonwealth can hope for nothing great from you, and there is nothing worthwhile you can provide.

Once you have determined and undertaken the tasks we have mentioned, however, the second thing, which we believe is no less necessary, is not only to consider what sort of people currently govern the Church under you, but also to ponder with holy discernment and strength of mind what sort of men should be chosen for these duties in the future.

[712] This vineyard of the Lord, which instead of the sweetness of the grape furnishes the bitterness of gall and the incurable venom of asps, does not so much need to be improved by care for the old vines, as it needs to be completely renewed by planting new and better shoots. Indeed, it will be less work to feed new and tender vines, that they may bear sweet fruit, than to change the bitterness of the old vines into sweetness. This holds true for you especially, who have been called at this hour of the day, in the very flowering of your life, to cultivate the Lord’s vineyard, that you may see the humble shoots you have planted become towering vines and may gather the long-desired and abundant fruits of your labors. If, then, when all the old things gradually fail, you have decided to establish new and different things in their place, the new will soon grow in place of the old, and a totally new form of the Church will appear, and you will see exactly the kind of Church that you have decided to make her. We know that you have inquired with the keenest interest throughout all parts of Italy and all Christian lands, and we gather that you are noting in the secret catalog of your mind, as it were, any men you find endowed with character and learning, so that when one of the current governors of the Church should die you will always have someone to put in his place. In this way you will gradually commit God’s Holy Church to those you have chosen from the whole Christian Commonwealth; the old will very soon pass a way, and all will be new.

In making this choice and in promoting those you have chosen, and indeed in every task of your pontificate, we are confident that you will not listen to those who want to flatter, praise, pretend, and dissimulate. Such are all who want to obtain from you some rank, benefice, or personal favor; for being overcome by their own passions, they become slaves to these and rarely place the truth before their own convenience and desires. Rather, you should listen carefully to those who, instead of their own interest, seek that of the Lord Jesus Christ, who will ask for and are prepared to receive from you nothing but the common good of all, and who, finally, do not love themselves more than the integrity of our Holy Church and would not refuse even to die, if necessary, for the common good of Christians. If you will listen to men who desire with sincerity and from no personal motives

[713] to cultivate the truth above all things, no flattery will bind your understanding. Instead, when you ponder everything wisely and the words that come to your ears do not corrupt, but rather confirm the counsels of your mind, and when you take your own advice rather than others’ and avoid the proverbial situation in which rulers are sold and deceived by their courtiers, surely we shall all witness that which no one thought possible, and a new Church will appear as if coming from heaven, like a bride all adorned for her husband. We assume that you want to give the most careful thought to the men chosen and promoted in the beginning of your Pontificate; for without a doubt the kind of Church we will have under your leadership and during your pontificate will appear in these beginnings, as in a mirror. All people, both those who seek their own advantage and those who desire the common good, both the bad and the good, are watching to see what kind of men you will first choose and promote, so that they may get an idea of the good things, either for themselves or in common, that they may hope for. This is very important—indeed, it is the whole matter, for in whatever direction the balance first seems to incline, the entire Church is surely bound to follow.

After these, the third thing that we consider especially necessary for the reform of the whole Church is that the decrees of civil and ecclesiastical law, or those which you have established in the Lateran Council or in any other way, be inviolably kept and observed, and that no one be allowed to break these holy ordinances with impunity. For it would be better to make no laws than to allow them not to be observed, and surely nothing good comes from the wisdom that thinks aright without the justice that causes those thoughts to be respected.

The three items that we have mentioned, and which we suppose are in your thoughts every day, will be sufficient for the reform of the entire church, even if other things, which are surely less important, are lacking. If you give this reform all your attention and determine to keep a close watch on it, you will not be lacking in good advice for handling it. And if you consider which are the diligent men whose advice you will heed and whom you will choose to rule the Church with you,

[714] you will not lack the support needed to accomplish your plans. Finally, if you see to it that the decrees of the Holy Fathers and those which you yourself shall make are observed, you will add strength to perfection, such that no perversity will ever again trouble our Holy Church, and through the intercession of Saints Peter and Paul, who have always had the greatest care for the Church of Rome, our Lord and God Jesus Christ will answer your prayers and those of all good men, so that just as there is one Church of all the blest under his rule in heaven, we shall see on earth one Church of all creatures serving Jesus Christ under your direction, in the likeness of that heavenly Jerusalem, full of peace and justice, in which no vice, but rather the fullness of virtues will dwell, and over which you, Holy Father, who are Christ’s vicar on earth, will be the one leader, prince, shepherd, guardian, and governor.

This, Holy Father, is what it means to have the care of the God’s Church and to safeguard her rights; for to rule the Church is nothing other than to accept the governance of all human creation. It is to repair and erect the House of Peter, which you have received destroyed and desolate and practically leveled to the ground, that it may rise to heaven as a holy edifice of living stones. These are works requiring magnanimity, great prudence, and sanctity, and which befit a great and magnanimous Pope, and which can raise him with true praise and enduring glory to heaven and make him a sharer in eternal and heavenly bliss. Those, however, who think that the mark of a magnanimous Pope is to neglect the care of souls, which are precious in the sight of God, and to guard or increase the worldly power of the Church and to put all one’s care and solicitude into this alone, surely misunderstand the nature of things and fail to use right judgment. Rather, they are blinded by perverse custom and deceived by an excessive love of visible and present things, since they are unable to prefer lasting and true goods to empty and transitory ones, and they think that the holy Church of God is not a congregation of faithful, but a kind of worldly empire, and they suppose that the administration of worldly things, rather than salvation of souls, has been entrusted to the care and good faith of the Pope, and they make the worthy vicar of Christ, who ought to be intent upon divine and eternal things alone,

[715] a vile merchant of riches. But even if there is someone so hard of heart and blinded in mind as to think that the Church of God is nothing but cities, worldly kingdoms, and empires, and whose idea of a worthy and magnanimous Pope is one who takes care and works hard to preserve these goods or to wrest them from the hands of tyrants, wouldn’t it be next to madness and insanity to consider one a great and powerful Pope and to give him common acclaim, if he should permit great kingdoms and empires of the Church to be unjustly possessed by impious tyrants, and should fail to direct not only his troops, but even his attention to consider–not to say, avenge–these matters, and if he should be entirely occupied and exercise all the power and authority of the Pontifical office to collect sacks of money, and should somehow fail to see that it is unbecoming and unworthy of a Pope, especially one who wishes to be considered great, to be diligent about some small and insignificant portions of his trust, when the entire world has been placed in his power? If you look to increasing the temporal power of the Church, do you feel inferior in virtue and courage to Alexander, for whom one world was not enough? Do you think that any Roman emperor was greater than yourself? And yet the whole world once served the Roman Pontiff. Shall we hesitate to compare you to Urban, and your brother Julian to Balduin or Gottfried, who besieged the Infidels and added Jerusalem and its surrounding areas to the Christian empire? Do you think that these things were accomplished by the virtue of those men, or done with the help of the Lord? If we suppose that they were accomplished by human strength, why can we not hope for such things, and greater still, from your virtue, which is beyond all calculation? If they proceed from divine help, why should we think that divine assistance will be lacking to Your Holiness, when you are endowed with character beyond all other men and adorned with the most illustrious virtues, when you are aflame with religious zeal and fervent piety and filled with the greatest love for God and men? Can the gift of divine mercy ever be lacking to one who is so affected?

Begin, Holy Father! Begin the work to which God has called you, and consider the things that we have been discussing, which seem great to us, in the knowledge of our own strength, by no means too much for you; and with confidence in God’s help,

[716] esteem them not only less than they seem to us, but small and light and easy to accomplish. Begin the work now, which you will never regret having begun unless you are slow to begin it; for once you begin, you will finish everything more easily than one could have hoped or wished. We are inclined to believe this by the great things that the Lord has already accomplished in you. Could anyone have hoped that you would easily return from captivity to freedom and from exile to your own country, as we have seen? Is anyone so fond of you that he dared hope or wish that you would rise to the Apostolic Office at the age of thirty-seven, much younger than is customary, in the very prime of life? Nevertheless, even though you are younger than practically all your brother cardinals, your brethren knelt before you like a second Joseph, and like David, who was smaller than all his brothers, you were chosen by the Lord, so that he could truly say to you, “I have laid help upon one that is mighty, and have exalted one chosen out of my people; I have found Leo my servant, with my holy oil I have anointed him” (cf. Psalm 88:20). Read what follows, Holy Father, and see whether the one who has accomplished these wonders in you promises yet more wonderful things: “My hand shall help him, and my arm shall strengthen him” (ibid., 22). That you might undertake, among other tasks, the conquest of the Infidels with great confidence, he promised you victory in no uncertain terms, saying, “I will cut down his enemies before his face, and them that hate him I will put to flight” (ibid., 24). See then, whether God desired to grant you more than anyone could have wished. For who is so bound by affection to you that that he could ever have hoped or wished that, in the very beginnings of your pontificate, the authors of schism would come into your power, and that the kings and princes of all Christian nations would await your good pleasure? These are all great evidences of God’s favor toward you. There is no reason why you should not regard these tasks, which at first glance seemed so great and difficult, as small, trifling, and easy. Having sufficient confidence in your own virtue–unless you have learned to hold a lower opinion of yourself than everyone else–and having already experienced the constant presence of God’s help in the most difficult matters, there is no reason not to hope that he will always be at your side.

And so, boldly undertake the conversion of Jews and idolaters; bring the Mohammedans to the Faith, or to destruction;

[717] subject all Christians the power of the Roman Church, and join them as members to their head; eradicate the vices of the faithful sons and daughters of the Church and plant virtues instead; increase the Church of Christ in the number and virtue of the faithful and in spiritual power. But if God, the great ruler of all things, permits that some contradictions and difficulties should arise in the accomplishment of these tasks to test your fortitude, you, Holy Father, who have learned by experience not to yield to evils, will go more boldly to face everything that seems to oppose your plans, knowing that works done from a motive of piety tend to carry the burden of contradiction. All men who wish to live devoutly in Christ endure persecutions, and the life of man is that of a soldier on this earth. We have no doubt that this happens by God’s kindly dispensation; for since he desires to crown us with glory and honor, he permits contradictions and difficulties–not, indeed, to overwhelm us, but to develop our strength, because only one who has legitimately entered the contest deserves to be crowned the victor. Since you, Holy Father, clearly understand this and recognize that any attacks which arise are permitted not to overwhelm, but to exercise your virtue, you will face them joyfully, like a sturdy soldier. Magnanimous individuals, in order to show their outstanding virtue in this spiritual and earthly campaign, prefer a brave and earnest adversary to a foolish and lazy one, since a greater battle and a more difficult victory are more obvious demonstrations of virtue; and those who do not withdraw from the contest are promised greater joy in victory and a more ample reward.

When you have accomplished all this and have succeeded in still other and greater commissions from the Lord, which we cannot even imagine and which, perhaps, you dare not hope for, there remains one thing, which is surely the most perfect of all, for you to do as the final act of your comedy. This is the final task of the pastoral office and duty, as St. Gregory affirms. After accomplishing all these things, while living well and teaching others to do so, you must attend to yourself, lest the greatness of your virtue present an occasion for being lost; after conquering the whole world, you must strive to conquer yourself with true humility, which is the more complete victory and the more illustrious triumph.

[718] You must not seek glory from the things you have done, but should fear to give an accounting for what you have omitted; indeed, you should not consider yourself the author of your deeds, but rather the minister and instrument of the Lord, who in the immensity of his wisdom and power likes to work wonders through lowly and less suitable instruments. Remember the ministry that the Lord has entrusted to you, and say with Paul: “For if I preach the Gospel, if I have accomplished all these things, it is no glory to me, for a necessity lies upon me” (cf. I Cor. 9:16); and, according to the precept of Jesus Christ, when you have done these and [719] all the other things that the Lord has commanded, say, “We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which we ought to do” (Luke 17:10). Nor will you dare to require a reward or favor from the Lord, because you have done what he commanded; rather, trusting in his mercy, you will commit yourself entirely to his goodness; for since we all have sinned, we all require his mercy.

These, Holy Father, are the things we had to say. Devoutly kissing your footsteps, we beseech you to impart your Apostolic blessing.

  1. This translation is by Stephen M. Beall (2013). The translation begins with a note on the Text and Translation where he notes that the project was initiated by his colleague, Dr John Schmitt. As of 21.12.2018 the full text is available at: They have since published the Latin and translated English texts, with Introduction and Notes as Libellus. ISBN 9780874627152.