APPENDIX C
Erasmus' Dispensations

A dispensation in Roman Catholic canon law is a relaxation of a law in a particular case. Such a relaxation can be made only by the competent authority, and it involves an act of jurisdiction (CIC c. 80). Erasmus must have received four dispensations: the first for his ordination; the second in 1506; the third in 1517; and a fourth much later. These will be discussed individually. 1


1. Dispensation for Ordination

Erasmus was ordained on 25 April 1492 (ch. 5), despite his illegitimacy. Normally illegitimacy is a hindrance or impediment for ordination, and Erasmus' illegitimacy (discussed in ch. 2) was such an impediment, or, more technically, an irregularity by defect. Such an irregularity is regarded as perpetual, but it may be dispensed by competent authority. This dispensation presumably was given by the ordaining bishop, David of Utrecht (ch. 5).

This dispensation is glanced at in the letter from Leo X to Ammonius (Ep. 517): Erasmus 'advanced in holy orders even so far as the priesthood under license from his superior' ( CWE 4:190/10-11; Alien II, 434/8-9: 'et presbyteratus ordines promotus de licentia sui superioris').


2. The Dispensation of 1506

Having struggled against the insistence of his prior that he return to the monastery, Erasmus applied to the pope for a dispensation that would permit him to live outside the cloister and to hold ecclesiastical offices outside the monastery. That dispensation was granted in a bull from Julius II to Erasmus, dated 4 January 1506 ( CWE 2:105-6; Allen III, xxix). 2

This dispensation is primarily a freeing of Erasmus from any canonical impediment to his accepting ecclesiastical benefices on account of his illegitimate birth, and at this time the essential concern of Erasmus was for freedom to accept a benefice in England ( CWE 2:103-4; Alien III, xxix); but he did not in fact use the dispensation for this purpose until he was given the rectory of Aldington in 1512 (Ep. 255).

The papal dispensation is for 'a defect of birth being the offspring of an unmarried father and a widow': it is not only possible, it is very likely that in 1505 at the time of applying for the dispensation Erasmus had not been aware of the full circumstances of his birth, although that he knew of his own illegitimacy is of course clear (ch.2 and app. A).

-381-

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Erasmus of Europe: - Vol. 2
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Notes xiv
  • List of Abbreviations xv
  • List of ILlustrations xvii
  • 18 Return from England: the Years in Flanders and Paris, 1501-1502 1
  • 19 the Early Louvain Years, 1502-1504 14
  • Notes 24
  • 20 the Enchiridion: 'Philosophia Christi' 28
  • Notes 40
  • 21 1504, a Threshold Year 41
  • Notes 49
  • 22 Return to England, 1505-1506 51
  • Notes 59
  • 23 Italy, 1506-1509 62
  • Notes 71
  • 24 the Adages 74
  • Notes 82
  • 25 England Again, 1509: the 'Period of Silence' 86
  • Notes 92
  • 25 the Praise of Folly 95
  • Notes 105
  • 27 the Cambridge Years, 1511-1514 109
  • Notes 122
  • 28 the Changing World in 1514 126
  • 29 Vocation and Life-Style 140
  • Notes 147
  • 30 to Basel, Summer 1514 149
  • Notes 161
  • 31 1516, the Annus Mirabilis 165
  • Notes 173
  • 32 the New Testament: A Life Work 175
  • Notes 189
  • Notes 210
  • 34 the Rising Storm of Controversy: Erasmus and His Catholic Critics, 1517-1522 216
  • Notes 231
  • 35 the Colloquies 236
  • Notes 243
  • Erasmus and His Friends: His Audience and His Geography 247
  • Notes 259
  • 37 Reform and Reformation: Ecclesia Semper Reformanda 263
  • Notes 278
  • 38 the Basel Years, 1521-1529: the Reformation Storm Rising 283
  • 39 Erasmus and Luther: on the Freedom of the Will 298
  • Notes 306
  • 40 Language and Style 310
  • Notes 317
  • 41 the Basel Years: Humanism and Religion 320
  • Notes 333
  • 42 the Freiburg Years, 1529-1535 337
  • Notes 346
  • 43 the Final Act at Basel: Summer 1535 to July 1536 350
  • Notes 359
  • 44 the Achievement of Erasmus and His Place in History 362
  • Notes 377
  • Appendix C Erasmus' Dispensations 381
  • Notes 383
  • Appendix D Erasmus' Wills 384
  • Notes 385
  • Appendix E Portraits of Erasmus 387
  • An Erasmian Chronology: LIfe and Writings 390
  • Bibliography 393
  • Index of Names of Persons 408
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