The Protestant Reformation in Sixteenth-Century Italy

By Salvatore Caponetto; Anne C. Tedeschi et al. | Go to book overview

7
THE END OF AN ILLUSION

THE COLLOQUY OF RATISBON (1541)

THE RELIGIOUS COLLOQUY of Ratisbon ( 4 April-29 July 1541), which had been sought by Charles V in the hope of reestablishing the political unity of Germany in the face of the looming Turkish threat, failed to achieve a reconciliation between Catholics and Protestants, sealing the tragic reality of the schism within the Christian church: As Hubert Jedin has observed:

It was precisely the negotiations for reunion at Augsburg and Ratisbon that made it perfectly clear that the ultimate and quite irreconcilable opposition between the Protestant ecclesiastical communities and Catholicism was due to a wholly different conception of the sacramental system and the juridical structure of the Church. The sacrificial character of the Mass, transubstantiation, the seven sacraments on the one hand, and the hierarchical structure of the Church and the Pope's primacy of jurisdiction on the other, constituted a chasm between the two parties which no amount of good-will and no political advantage could bridge over. When they discussed the Eucharist, the sacrifice of the Mass and the papal primacy more often and more fully than any other controversial question, Catholic apologists gave evident proof that they did not fasten on mere externals but were fully aware of the depth of the divergences.1

This lucid analysis of the "chasm" embraces all the components of the Catholic reform movement, the current of the "spirituali," comprising Cardinals Giberti, Cortese, Fregoso, Pole, and Contarini, as well as the current of the conservatives and intransigents. In 1532 the Benedictine Gregorio Cortese, replying to a Protestant polemicist, had already affirmed that without papal authority, the church would be like a headless body.2 Twenty years later, even though he had become an enthusiastic

____________________
1
H. Jedin, A History of the Council of Trent. Trans. Dom Ernest Graf ( St. Louis: Herder, 1957), 1:409.
2
Cf. G. Fragnito, "Il cardinal Gregorio Cortese nella crisi religiosa del Cinquecento," Benedictina 30 ( 1983): 38-39.

-95-

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