This is the first of what I will endeavor to make regular posts highlighting bits from my summer reading project, the Examen Concilii Tridentini (The Examination of the Council of Trent) by Martin Chemnitz. While I wish I were reading it in the original Latin, alas, my limited skill and time do not permit me to do so at this time: the Foreword to the English edition (Fred Kramer, trans.; published by CPH and available here) reports that the former totals “1,840 Latin columns of about 450 words each.” So, no, not this summer. If ever I become the Latinist I wish to be, perhaps someday I will.
We, however, ask that permission be granted us, even though our adversaries are unwilling, to use the liberty granted to us by the divine Word, not to believe any and every spirit, but to test all things. They in turn are free to look into our teachings, not as they are accustomed to do, with arguments procured from the workshops of hangmen, as Jerome says, but with arguments and testimonies from Scriptures. If this were done, I would hope that in this way many mysteries in connection with the deliberations of the Synod of Trent would be brought into the light by our adversaries, unless perchance they should judge that, after the manner of mysteries, they had to be hidden and covered over with silence, saying according to the saying: “He who does evil hates the light.”
But let us come to the matter under discussion. We have indicated above in what manner we wish to handle the matter. Therefore we shall skip other preliminaries and hasten to other matters of doctrine. Only I would remind the reader in passing to consider how the Synod of Trent was begun.
Pope Paul III, in the bull in which he announced the council, offered a sale of indulgences described as a full remission of sins, free by his liberality, to those who would be present at the procession, would give an alms to some pauper, or would recite the Lord’s prayer together with the angelic greeting five times. Afterward, when the council itself was opened, in the litany, where no mention was made of the intercession of Christ, not even by so much as one little word, they substituted all the angels and saints as mediators, patrons, and intercessors in place of the only mediator, Christ. This was followed by Ambrosius Catharinus, who, in his prayer at the opening of the council, addressed the mother of Christ as His associate, who, as it were, sat next to His throne to secure grace for us by her pleading. A certain other man, in his prayer criminally distorting the words of the Gospel which befit only the Son of God, applied them to the pope and exclaimed: “The pope came into the world, a light,” so that there was no doubt that at the very beginning of the Synod of Trent that was fulfilled which Paul prophesied 2 Thess. 2:3-4, that “the man of sin and the son of perdition, who opposed and exalts himself above all that is called God…, sits in the temple of God, proclaiming himself as if he were God.” From these beginnings one can judge what progress and outcome may be expected. It is impossible, according to the proverbial saying, that what has been badly begun should have a good ending.
Now let the decrees of the Fourth Session of the Council of Trent be recited.