The Confessionalization of Humanism in Reformation Germany

By Erika Rummel | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR
Humanists and Confessionalization

Fear, Equivocation, and Withdrawal

The confessionalization of humanism was not an abstract process. It involved the indoctrination of individuals and their compliance with the new norms. Once the reformers had established their doctrinal positions, they urged followers to make a clear commitment and break with the practices of the established church. Catholic authorities in turn demanded clear proof of loyalty from those who lived in their jurisdiction. Many, however, were unable to make such a commitment. Peer pressure and threats by the authorities prevented some people from exercising a choice that went against the prevailing orthodoxy; an inability to decide on the merits of the religious parties vying for their loyalty kept others at the crossroads. Georg Witzel, who changed religious affiliations twice, commented on the general mood of uncertainty. People were "consumed by nagging doubts," he wrote. "They do not know whom to obey, whom to believe, whom to follow. I pity such men, I cannot blame them. "1 Confessed Lutherans listened with approval to Catholic preachers, "but were afraid to praise them openly out of fear of their neighbours"; conversely, there were Catholics "so timid that they are ashamed to profess their faith in public." Like the biblical Nicodemus, Witzel said, "they attend church at night, they sing at night, they come into their own at night; in the light of day they hide, speak under their breath, and dissimulate." Many monks and priests belonged to this class, he said. "They favor the Lutherans over the papists. In their outer garb they are papists, but in their hearts they carry Luther and always will." There were, moreover, many who chose to remain neutral or were eclectic in their beliefs. Some who attended Lutheran services declared nevertheless that they

followed neither Luther nor Melanchthon nor any other sectarian leader, but were followers of the gospel. They would not reject any good counsel offered, but it was clear that the recent leaders of the evangelical party could err just as much as the pope and the cardinals. They admitted openly that they did not approve of everything in the sectarian party, nor on the other hand were they displeased with everything in the Catholic party. For there was much on both sides that might be adopted or rejected.

Similarly, there were people on the Catholic side who did not observe rites superstitiously and who were prepared to abandon customs that had no precedent in the

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