Pope Leo X and his successor Pope Adrian VI had both died in a short space of time. Pope Leo X’s cousin, Giulio de Medici was elected to be the next pope. He reigned as Pope Clement VII.
The Pope Sends His Representative to Germany
One of the first things Pope Clement VII did was to send his representative, Cardinal Campeggio to the Council of Nuremberg where the princes of the empire were meeting. He was greeted with honours at each of the Italian cities he passed through, but as he entered Germany he noticed a change in attitude toward him. When he arrived at Augsburg to give his blessing to the people, he was laughed at. He made the rest of the trip quietly without any fanfare so as not to draw attention to himself.
Elector Frederick Flees
A group representing the cities of the empire that had sworn allegiance to the pope was at Nuremberg. These loyal supporters of the Roman Church called itself the Swabian League. They were determined to destroy the Reformation. The Swabian League had accused old Frederick the Wise of siding with heretics. Threatened by both the emperor and the pope, unwelcome at Nuremberg, Frederick left the council and returned to his own states.
But Frederick was not the only ruler who sided with the Reformation. Several princes of Germany were among them. The Queen of Denmark, Emperor Charles’ sister, was a reformer and made the fact known publicly. Her brother, Archduke Frederick, told her he wished she was not his sister. She answered, “I will sacrifice everything to please you, except the Word of God.”[i]
Cardinal Campeggio knew that many rulers sided with the reformers. Nevertheless, he reminded the council at Nuremberg that the Diet of Worms had condemned Luther and his followers. He told the rulers that they must put down the Reformation by force.
But the councillors reminded Campeggio of the list of grievances they had sent to Rome requesting that abuses in the church be dealt with. Campeggio said he’d seen three copies but pretended the lists he’d seen had been faked. “Neither the pope nor the college of cardinals could believe that such a paper could have emanated from your lordships,” he said and told them he had no instructions regarding the list.
The council was outraged over Campeggio’s brush-off. They also said that since the people were thirsting for the Word of God, to act on the orders of the Diet of Worms and take the Bible from the people would result in riots, war and bloodshed. More than that, the diet demanded a general council be held in Germany to deal with religious questions.
When the pope heard that the German rulers had scheduled a general council to decide on religious matters, he was furious. How dare the German people leave church officials out of such a meeting! – for a general council would be made up of rulers, not church officials.
The Ratisbon Reformation
Before a general assembly could meet, Campeggio gathered the German rulers who were loyal to Rome for his own council meeting at Ratisbon. The princes and bishops swore to enforce the orders made at Worms against the Reformation. They would not allow any changes in worship, would accept no married priests in their states, and would call all of the students from their states who were studying at Wittenberg to return home.
At the same time, they agreed to do what they could to correct abuses within the church. They made laws forbidding priests from being in business, going to bars, and dances. They ruled that priest were not allowed to discuss church matters over liquour. The people mocked this “Ratisbon Reformation.” They thought it was a joke.
Emperor Charles, on the other hand, found none of this business in Germany to be a laughing matter. He sent a letter to the German councillors telling them that only the pope or the emperor had the right to call a general council and that no meeting of a general council should be allowed to take place in Germany without their orders.
[i] As quoted in History of the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century, 558.