See the introduction and links to all installments at the top of my John Calvin, Calvinism, and General Protestantism web page; also the online version of the Institutes. Calvin's words will be in blue throughout. All biblical citations (in my portions) will be from RSV unless otherwise noted.
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THE ANCIENT FORM OF GOVERNMENT UTTERLY CORRUPTED BY THE TYRANNY OF THE PAPACY.
1. Who and what kind of persons are uniformly appointed bishops in the Papacy. 1. No inquiry into doctrine. 2. In regard to character, the unlearned and dissolute, boys, or men of wicked lives, chosen.
It may now be proper to bring under the eye of the reader the order of church government observed by the Roman See and all its satellites, and the whole of that hierarchy, which they have perpetually in their mouths, and compare it with the description we have given of the primitive and early Church, that the contrast may make it manifest what kind of church those have who plume themselves on the very title, as sufficient to outweigh, or rather overwhelm us.
What makes Calvin think in the first place that the Church of the 16th century ought to look exactly like that of the first? He obviously overlooks the development that occurs in all organic entities. That said, the Catholic Church of the first, 16th, and 21st centuries is far closer to the biblical model than anything Calvin will propose as an alternative, as I will continue to demonstrate throughout my replies. The Catholic Church is far closer in all respects to the early (Catholic) Church: of which it is the direct continuation, than Calvin's "church" is (then or now). The Catholic Church developed with consistency, whereas Calvin's notions (like all heresies) are novelties and corruptions of what came before.
It will be best to begin with the call, that we may see who are called to the ministry, with what character, and on what grounds. Thereafter we will consider how far they faithfully fulfil their office. We shall give the first place to the bishops; would that they could claim the honour of holding the first rank in this discussion! But the subject does not allow me even to touch it lightly, without exposing their disgrace. Still, let me remember in what kind of writing I am engaged, and not allow my discourse, which ought to be framed for simple teaching, to wander beyond its proper limits. But let any of them, who have not laid aside all modesty, tell me what kind of bishops are uniformly elected in the present day.
Calvin saw some bad bishops (assuming for the sake of argument that they were all as bad as he makes out); therefore, he gets rid of bishops altogether in his "church." Baby and bathwater . . .
Any examination of doctrine is too old fashioned, but if any respect is had to doctrine, they make choice of some lawyer who knows better how to plead in the forum than to preach in the church. This much is certain, that for a hundred years, scarcely one in a hundred has been elected who had any acquaintance with sacred doctrine.
Let's see what Calvin's solution is, to this perceived entire corruption . . .
I do not spare former ages because they were much better, but because the question now relates only to the present Church. If morals be inquired into, we shall find few or almost none whom the ancient canons would not have judged unworthy. If one was not a drunkard, he was a fornicator; if one was free from this vice, he was either a gambler or sportsman, or a loose liver in some respect. For there are lighter faults which, according to the ancient canons, exclude from the episcopal office. But the most absurd thing of all is, that even boys scarcely ten years of age are, by the permission of the Pope, made bishops. Such is the effrontery and stupidity to which they have arrived, that they have no dread even of that last and monstrous iniquity, which is altogether abhorrent even from natural feeling. Hence it appears what kind of elections these must have been, when such supine negligence existed.
Catholics agree that there was widespread corruption in personal conduct, in this age. But the solutions proposed by Protestants and faithful Catholics differ very widely. Since Calvin wishes to make boy bishops an issue, however, readers may be interested to know that Calvin dedicated his Commentary on Isaiah, in the year 1550 (on Christmas day), to King Edward VI of England, who was then all of 13 years old.
Not just the dedication itself, but the ludicrous flowery, flattering, fawning language in it, is enough to turn Calvin's criticism back onto him, full force, since he had written: "the most absurd thing of all is, that even boys scarcely ten years of age are, by the permission of the Pope, made bishops" and described this as "effrontery and stupidity." It is relevant to examine, then, what Calvin expressed about a 13-year-old being the head of the "Church of England" (often compared by hopeful Protestants -- including Calvin -- to King Josiah of ancient Israel, who ascended to the throne at age eight):
. . . it may justly be regarded as no ordinary consolation amidst the present distresses of the Church, that God has raised you up and endowed you with such excellent abilities and dispositions for defending the cause of godliness, and that you so diligently render that obedience to God in this matter which you know that he accepts and approves. For although the affairs of the kingdom are hitherto conducted by your counsellors, and although your Majesty’s most illustrious uncle, the Duke of Sommerset, and many others, have religion so much at heart, that they labor diligently, as they ought to do, in establishing it; yet in your own exceptions you go so far beyond them all as to make it very manifest that they receive no small excitement from the zeal which they observe in you. Not only are you celebrated for possessing a noble disposition, and some seeds of virtues, (which at so early an age is usually thought to be remarkable,) but for a maturity of those virtues far beyond your years, which would be singularly admired, as well as praised, at a very advanced age. Your piety especially is so highly applauded, that the Prophet Isaiah, I am fully convinced, will have one that will regard him with as much reverence, now that he is dead, as Hezekiah did when he was alive. . . .Less than a month later, on 24 January 1551, Calvin dedicated his Commentary on the General Epistles to the boy-king, with the following absurd sentiments:
And here I expressly call upon you, most excellent King, or rather, God himself addresses you by the mouth of his servant Isaiah, charging you to proceed, to the utmost of your ability and power, in carrying forward the restoration of the Church, which has been so successfully begun in your kingdom. . . .
It is of high importance, most noble King, that you should be stimulated to activity by the consideration of the duty enjoined on you; for Isaiah exhorts all kings and magistrates, in the person of Cyrus, to stretch forth their hand to the Church, when in distress, to restore her to her former condition. Yet there is this difference between your condition and that of Cyrus, that he who was a stranger to the Lord’s flock never was expressly taught freely and willingly to come forward and undertake to be a defender of the Church; but to you, to whom the Lord has not only given adoption, but has likewise assigned a distinguished place among his sons, the Prophet may be said to stretch out his hand and call you to this office. So much the more boldly and resolutely ought you, noble King, to proceed in this course.
And as interpreters of Scripture, according to their opportunity, are to supply weapons to fight against Antichrist, so also you must bear in mind that it is a duty which belongs to your Majesty, to vindicate from unworthy calumnies the true and genuine interpretation of Scripture, so that pure religion may flourish. . . . the heroic greatness of your mind far surpasses the measure of your age, . . .
2. The right of the people taken away, though maintained by Leo, Cyprian, and Councils. It follows that there is no Canonical election in the Papacy. Two objections answered. Papal elections, what. Kind of persons elected.
Then in election, the whole right has been taken from the people. Vows, assents, subscriptions, and all things of this sort, have disappeared; the whole power has been given to the canons alone. First, they confer the episcopal office on whomsoever they please; by-and-by they bring him forth into the view of the people, but it is to be adored, not examined. But Leo protests that no reason permits this, and declares it to be a violent imposition (Leo, Ep. 90, cap. 2). Cyprian, after declaring it to be of divine authority, that election should not take place without the consent of the people, shows that a different procedure is at variance with the word of God. Numerous decrees of councils most strictly forbid it to be otherwise done, and if done, order it to be null. If this is true, there is not throughout the whole Papacy in the present day any canonical election in accordance either with divine or ecclesiastical law. Now, were there no other evil in this, what excuse can they give for having robbed the Church of her right? But the corruption of the times required (they say), that since hatred and party-spirit prevailed with the people and magistrates in the election of bishops more than right and sound judgment, the determination should be confined to a few. Allow that this was the last remedy in desperate circumstances. When the cure was seen to be more hurtful than the disease, why was not a remedy provided for this new evil? But it is said that the course which the Canons must follow is strictly prescribed. But can we doubt, that even in old times the people, on meeting to elect a bishop, were aware that they were bound by the most sacred laws, when they saw a rule prescribed by the word of God? That one sentence in which God describes the true character of a bishop ought justly to be of more weight than ten thousand canons. Nevertheless, carried away by the worst of feelings, they had no regard to law or equity. So in the present day, though most excellent laws have been made, they remain buried in writing. Meanwhile, the general and approved practice is (and it is carried on as it were systematically), that drunkards, fornicators, gamblers, are everywhere promoted to this honour; nay, this is little: bishoprics are the rewards of adulterers and panders: for when they are given to hunters and hawkers, things may be considered at the best. To excuse such unworthy procedure in any way, were to be wicked over much. The people had a most excellent canon prescribed to them by the word of God—viz. that a bishop must be blameless, apt to teach, not a brawler, &c. (1 Tim. 3:2). Why, then, was the province of electing transferred from the people to these men? Just because among the tumults and factions of the people the word of God was not heard. And, on the other hand, why is it not in the present day transferred from these men, who not only violate all laws, but having cast off shame, libidinously, avariciously, and ambitiously, mix and confound things human and divine?
Again, my purpose is not to dispute the presence of corruption that was unfortunately widespread in the Catholicism of that period, but to examine Calvin's reasoning in his solutions, that contradict received Catholic teaching. All sides agree that it was an era of atrocious corruption and lack of true piety. I hasten to add that Protestantism as a whole was not exactly known for its extraordinary righteousness, either (a fact far less known). Even Luther and his successor Philip Melanchthon freely admitted as much, and wanted to ultimately discuss and debate doctrine.
3. A fuller explanation of the answer to the second objection, unfolding the errors of people, bishops, and princes.
But it is not true to say that the thing was devised as a remedy. We read, that in old times tumults often arose in cities at the election of bishops; yet no one ever ventured to think of depriving the citizens of their right: for they had other methods by which they could either prevent the fault, or correct it when committed.
What is worse: taking away the "right" of the people to elect bishops, or taking away the bishops? So Calvin's eventual solution really is none at all. If the bishop is like a heart, Calvin hasn't operated on it to repair it, but rather, has removed it altogether.
I will state the matter as it truly is. When the people began to be negligent in making their choice, and left the business, as less suited to them, to the presbyters, these abused the opportunity to usurp a domination, which they afterwards established by putting forth new canons. Ordination is now nothing else than a mere mockery. For the kind of examination of which they make a display is so empty and trifling, that it even entirely wants the semblance. Therefore, when sovereigns, by paction with the Roman Pontiffs, obtained for themselves the right of nominating bishops, the Church sustained no new injury, because the canons were merely deprived of an election which they had seized without any right, or acquired by stealth. Nothing, indeed, can be more disgraceful, than that bishops should be sent from courts to take possession of churches, and pious princes would do well to desist from such corruption.
Yet the theft of churches and prohibition of the Mass, usually against the opinion of the wide majority of the populace, which occurred all over the place, committed by the early Protestants, is somehow an improvement?
For there is an impious spoliation of the Church whenever any people have a bishop intruded whom they have not asked, or at least freely approved. But that disorderly practice, which long existed in churches, gave occasion to sovereigns to assume to themselves the presentation of bishops. They wished the benefice to belong to themselves, rather than to those who had no better right to it, and who equally abused it.
How about laws prohibiting the mass and forbidding the practice of the Catholic religion and forcing people to attend Protestant services? Is that not far worse? Thus, we have an entirely different perspective when we consider not just the corruption of the time, but the Calvinist and Lutheran "solutions" to the problems: often worse (frequently far worse) in the end than what was before.
4. No election of presbyters and deacons in the Papacy. 1. Because they are ordained for a different end. 2. Contrary to the command of Scripture and the Council of Chalcedon, no station is assigned them. 3. Both the name and thing adulterated by a thousand frauds.
Such is the famous call, on account of which bishops boast that they are the successors of the apostles. They say, moreover, that they alone can competently appoint presbyters. But herein they most shamefully corrupt the ancient institution, that they by their ordination appoint not presbyters to guide and feed the people, but priests to sacrifice.
Who said that the sacrifice of the mass was a corruption in the first place? That was certainly not the consensus of the Church fathers, as we have seen in past installments (e.g., IV,2:4-9).
In like manner, when they consecrate deacons, they pay no regard to their true and proper office, but only ordain to certain ceremonies concerning the cup and patent. But in the Council of Chalcedon it was, on the contrary, decreed that there should be no absolute ordinations, that is, ordinations without assigning to the ordained a place where they were to exercise their office. This decree is most useful for two reasons—first, That churches may not be burdened with superfluous expense, nor idle men receive what ought to be distributed to the poor; and, secondly, That those who are ordained may consider that they are not promoted merely to an honorary office, but intrusted with a duty which they are solemnly bound to discharge. But the Roman authorities (who think that nothing is to be cared for in religion but their belly)
If that indeed were true, one could counter that many (if not most) of the early Protestant leaders cared for little but their pocketbooks (widespread theft of churches and monasteries, as was discussed in IV,4:5-8) and political power (currying the favor of political princes). Which is worse? I'd much rather have a gluttonous pagan and dolt than a conniving, thieving, avaricious, power-hungry, self-appointed zealot leading others in the matters of Christ (if we must choose between two lousy options). Stealing and arrogance and prideful presumption of spiritual superiority are no less sins than gluttony and fornication and religious nominalism. So it is a "goose and gander" scenario: the pot calling the kettle black.
consider the first title to be a revenue adequate to their support, whether it be from their own patrimony or from the priesthood. Accordingly, when they ordain presbyters or deacons, without any anxiety as to where they ought to minister, they confer the order, provided those ordained are sufficiently rich to support themselves. But what man can admit that the title which the decree of the council requires is an annual revenue for sustenance? Again, when more recent canons made bishops liable in the support of those whom they had ordained without a fit title, that they might thus repress too great facility, a method was devised of eluding the penalty. For he who is ordained promises that whatever be the title named he will be contented with it. In this way he is precluded from an action for aliment. I say nothing of the thousand frauds which are here committed, as when some falsely claim the empty titles of benefices, from which they cannot obtain a sixpence of revenue, and others by secret stipulation obtain a temporary appointment, which they promise that they will immediately restore, but sometimes do not. There are still more mysteries of the same kind.
More corruptions that I freely concede . . . my purpose is not to dispute that these abuses scandalously occurred.
5. Refutation of those corruptions. Proper end of ordination. Of trial, and other necessary things. For these, wicked and sanguinary men have substituted vain show and deplorable blindness.
But although these grosser abuses were removed, is it not at all times absurd to appoint a presbyter without assigning him a locality? For when they ordain it is only to sacrifice. But the legitimate ordination of a presbyter is to the government of the Church, while deacons are called to the charge of alms. It is true, many pompous ceremonies are used to disguise the act, that mere show may excite veneration in the simple; but what effect can these semblances have upon men of sound minds, when beneath them there is nothing solid or true? They used ceremonies either borrowed from Judaism or devised by themselves; from these it were better if they would abstain. Of the trial (for it is unnecessary to say anything of the shadow which they retain), of the consent of the people, of other necessary things, there is no mention. By shadow, I mean those ridiculous gesticulations framed in inept and frigid imitation of antiquity. The bishops have their vicars, who, previous to ordination, inquire into doctrine. But what is the inquiry? Is it whether they are able to read their Missals, or whether they can decline some common noun which occurs in the lesson, or conjugate a verb, or give the meaning of some one word? For it is not necessary to give the sense of a single sentence. And yet even those who are deficient in these puerile elements are not repelled, provided they bring the recommendation of money or influence. Of the same nature is the question which is thrice put in an unintelligible voice, when the persons who are to be ordained are brought to the altar—viz. Are they worthy of the honour? One (who never saw them, but has his part in the play, that no form may be wanting) answers, They are worthy. What can you accuse in these venerable fathers save that, by indulging in such sacrilegious sport, they shamelessly laugh at God and man? But as they have long been in possession of the thing, they think they have now a legal title to it. For any one who ventures to open his lips against these palpable and flagrant iniquities is hurried off to a capital trial, like one who had in old time divulged the mysteries of Ceres. Would they act thus if they had any belief in a God?
I await some biblical or historical arguments that can be disagreed with, based on a difference of interpretation of some objectively determined fact or set of facts.
6. Second corruption relating to the assignation of benefices which they call collation. Manifold abuses here exposed. Why the offices of priests are in the Papacy called benefices.
Then in the collation of benefices (which was formerly conjoined with ordination, but is now altogether separate), how much better do they conduct themselves? But they have many reasons to give, for it is not bishops alone who confer the office of priests (and even in their case, where they are called Collators, they have not always the full right), but others have the presentation, while they only retain the honorary title of collations. To these are added nominations from schools, resignations, either simple or by way of exchange, commendatory rescripts, preventions, and the like. But they all conduct themselves in such a way that one cannot upbraid another. I maintain that, in the Papacy in the present day, scarcely one benefice in a hundred is conferred without simony, as the ancients have defined it (Calv. in Art. 8:21). I say not that all purchase for a certain sum; but show me one in twenty who does not attain to the priesthood by some sinister method.
I have no idea if things were actually this bad. That would properly require seeking the opinion of scholars who specialize in this period, but that is beyond our immediate purview.
Some owe their promotion to kindred or affinity, others to the influence of their parents, while others procure favour by obsequiousness.
But we should also pause to ask how Calvin attained his own assumed position of authority? And how is it tied to the previous history of the Catholic Church? If it is an entirely new thing, then how can Calvin claim to be merely repeating past precedent? If it is not new, then why was there friction between Calvin and the Catholic Church, which he rails against as the seat of Antichrist, etc.?
In short, the end for which the offices are conferred is, that provision may be made not for churches, but for those who receive them. Accordingly, they call them benefices, by which name they sufficiently declare, that they look on them in no other light than as the largesses by which princes either court the favour or reward the services of their soldiers. I say nothing of the fact, that these rewards are conferred on barbers, cooks, grooms, and dross of that sort. At present, indeed, there are no cases in law courts which make a greater noise than those concerning sacerdotal offices, so that you may regard them as nothing else than game set before dogs to be hunted. Is it tolerable even to hear the name of pastors given to those who have forced their way into the possession of a church as into an enemy’s country?
Which the Protestants did in many thousands of local Catholic churches . . .
who have evicted it by forensic brawls? who have bought it for a price? who have laboured for it by sordid sycophancy? who, while scarcely lisping boys, have obtained it like heritage from uncles and relatives? Sometimes even bastards obtain it from their fathers.
And sometimes (in fact, many many times in the beginning of the Protestant revolution) Protestants steal what isn't theirs, and shamelessly justify it with facile "spiritual" rationalizations. At the famous Diet of Augsburg in 1530 the Protestants flatly refused to return stolen Church properties:
Early in July the bishops presented their complaints to the Diet [of Augsburg: 1530] of the plundering and destruction of churches, seizure of monasteries and hospitals, prohibition of Masses, and attacks on religious processions by the Protestants. When Charles called upon the Protestants to restore the property they had seized, they said that to do so would be against their consciences. Charles responded crushingly: 'The Word of God, the Gospel, and every law civil and canonical, forbid a man to appropriate to himself the property of another.' He said that as Emperor he had the duty of guarding the rights of all, especially those Catholics unwilling to accept Protestantism or go into exile, who should at least be allowed to remain in their homes and practice their ancestral faith, specifically the Mass; the Protestants replied that they would not tolerate the Mass . . .
(Warren Carroll, The Cleaving of Christendom; from the series, A History of Christendom, Volume 4, Front Royal, VA: Christendom Press, 2000, 103-107)
7. One individual appointed over five or six churches. This most shameful corruption severely condemned by many Councils.
Was the licentiousness of the people, however corrupt and lawless, ever carried to such a height?
Yes; we would see far worse as Protestants took over churches and areas and governments, forcing the people to worship against their will.
But a more monstrous thing still is, that one man (I say not what kind of man, but certainly one who cannot govern himself) is appointed to the charge of five or six churches.
St. Paul had oversight of many churches; so what? St. Clement of Rome (being a pope) shows this consciousness at the end of the first century. The Church at Jerusalem (Acts 15) was setting policy for churches outside of its own region. None of this is at all new or unbiblical in and of itself.
In the courts of princes in the present day, you may see youths who are thrice abbots, twice bishops, once archbishops. Everywhere are Canons loaded with five, six, or seven cures, of not one of which they take the least charge, except to draw the income. I will not object that the word of God cries aloud against this: it has long ceased to have the least weight with them. I will not object that many councils denounce the severest punishment against this dishonest practice; these, too, when it suits them, they boldly contemn. But I say that it is monstrous wickedness, altogether opposed to God, to nature, and to ecclesiastical government, that one thief should lie brooding over several churches, that the name of pastor should be given to one who, even if he were willing, could not be present among his flock, and yet (such is their impudence) they cloak these abominations with the name of church, that they may exempt them from all blame. Nay, if you please, in these iniquities is contained that sacred succession to which, as they boast, it is owing that the Church does not perish.
Apostolic succession is not overthrown because there is corruption. The Catholic Church had a legitimate reformation in the last half of the 16th century. Granted, people like Luther and Calvin may have seen the need for this before many Catholics did, but the solutions were radically different, and that is what is under dispute, not the corruption itself. Moreover, Calvin often mixes in legitimate elements with what he sees a a corruption to be swept away, so that they are ditched as well.
8. Second part of the chapter—viz. how the office is discharged. Monks who have no place among Presbyters. Objection answered.
Let us now see, as the second mark for estimating a legitimate pastor, how faithfully they discharge their office. Of the priests who are there elected, some are called monks, others seculars. The former herd was unknown to the early Church; even to hold such a place in the Church is so repugnant to the monastic profession, that in old times, when persons were elected out of monasteries to clerical offices, they ceased to be monks.
Monasticism is said to have derived from St. Anthony of Egypt, who around 285 A.D. retired to the desert, and it started becoming widespread in the west in the 4th century. That may seem late, but many doctrines and practices took centuries to develop. The doctrine of the Trinity itself was still being actively developed for a few hundred years after this time, so this poses no difficulty whatever. The doctrine of purgatory was spoken of more often in the early fathers than the notion of original sin (and the latter doesn't even appear in the Nicene Creed). The practice of self-denial for the sake of others is firmly grounded in Holy Scripture: in St. Paul himself, in the prophets, and in men such as John the Baptist.
And, accordingly, Gregory, though in his time there were many abuses, did not suffer the offices to be thus confounded (Gregor. Lib. 3 Ep. 11). For he insists that those who have been appointed abbots shall resign the clerical office, because no one can be properly at the same time a monk and a clerk, the one being an obstacle to the other. Now, were I to ask how he can well fulfil his office who is declared by the canons to be unfit, what answer, pray, will they give? They will quote those abortive decrees of Innocent and Boniface, by which monks are admitted to the honour and power of the priesthood, though they remain in their monasteries. But is it at all reasonable that any unlearned ass, as soon as he has seized upon the Roman See, may by one little word overturn all antiquity?
No, which is why that didn't happen in any major doctrinal way. Overturning all antiquity had to wait for the Protestant revolutionaries: who were masters at doing just that.
But of this matter afterwards. Let it now suffice, that in the purer times of the Church it was regarded as a great absurdity for a monk to hold the office of priest. For Jerome declares that he does not the office of priest while he is living among monks, and ranks himself as one of the people to be governed by the priests. But to concede this to them, what duty do they perform? Some of the mendicants preach, while all the other monks chant or mutter masses in their cells; as if either our Saviour had wished, or the nature of the office permits, presbyters to be made for such a purpose. When Scripture plainly testifies that it is the duty of a presbyter to rule his own church (Acts 20:28), is it not impious profanation to transfer it to another purpose, nay, altogether to change the sacred institution of God? For when they are ordained, they are expressly forbidden to do what God enjoins on all presbyters. For this is their cant, Let a monk, contented with his cell, neither presume to administer the sacraments, nor hold any other public office. Let them deny, if they can, that it is open mockery of God when any one is appointed a presbyter in order to abstain from his proper and genuine office, and when he who has the name is not able to have the thing.
Calvin, like most of the Protestant "reformers" has a pronounced antipathy to monasticism. For a thorough, biblically-soaked defense of it, see:
The Catholic Encyclopedia:
"Rule of St. Benedict"
Lenten Meditation: The New Testament on Suffering With Christ
Biblical Evidence For Fasting and Abstinence (Lent)
Clerical Celibacy and the Principle of Asceticism in Catholicism (Louis Bouyer)
The Irrational Antipathy of Luther, Calvin, and Other Protestants to Clerical Celibacy
9. Presbyters divided into beneficiaries and mercenaries. The beneficiaries are bishops, parsons, canons, chaplains, abbots, priors. The mercenaries condemned by the word of God.
I come to the seculars, some of whom are (as they speak) beneficiaries; that is, have offices by which they are maintained, while others let out their services, day by day, to chant or say masses, and live in a manner on a stipend thus collected. Benefices either have a cure of souls, as bishoprics and parochial charges, or they are the stipends of delicate men, who gain a livelihood by chanting; as prebends, canonries, parsonships, deaneries, chaplainships, and the like; although, things being now turned upside down, the offices of abbot and prior are not only conferred on secular presbyters, but on boys also by privilege, that is, by common and usual custom. In regard to the mercenaries who seek their food from day to day, what else could they do than they actually do, in other words, prostitute themselves in an illiberal and disgraceful manner for gain, especially from the vast multitude of them with which the world now teems? Hence, as they dare not beg openly, or think that in this way they would gain little, they go about like hungry dogs, and by a kind of barking importunity extort from the unwilling what they may deposit in their hungry stomachs. Were I here to attempt to describe how disgraceful it is to the Church, that the honour and office of a presbyter should come to this, I should never have done. My readers, therefore, must not expect from me a discourse which can fully represent this flagitious indignity. I briefly say, that if it is the office of a presbyter (and this both the word of God prescribes (1 Cor. 4:1) and the ancient canons enjoin) to feed the Church, and administer the spiritual kingdom of Christ, all those priests who have no work or stipend, save in the traffic of masses, not only fail in their office, but have no lawful office to discharge. No place is given them to teach, they have no people to govern. In short, nothing is left them but an altar on which to sacrifice Christ; this is to sacrifice not to God but to demons, as we shall afterwards show (see chap.18 sec. 3, 9, 14).
More decrying of corruption (which I agree with, where real corruption is involved), and a dig against the sacrifice of the mass, which has previously been dealt with; comparing it to a sacrifice to demons . . . If anything is of hell and of the domain of demons, it is a lie; bearing of false witness (which violates one of the Ten Commandments). Since Calvin commits that sin here in describing the sacrifice of the mass in such an outrageous fashion, he is guilty of the very thing he falsely accuses Catholics of: participation with the "doctrine of demons"; as all lies are firmly part of demonic territory.
10. The name of beneficiaries given to idle priests who perform no office in the church. Objection answered. What kind of persons the canons should be. Another objection answered. The beneficiaries not true presbyters.
I am not here touching on extraneous faults, but only on the intestine evil which lies at the root of the very institution.
This sort of language justifies Calvin in his own mind, to get rid of much of traditional Catholicism. It is evil through and through, according to him: even to the roots.
I will add a sentence which will sound strange in their ears, but which, as it is true, it is right to express, that canons, deans, chaplains, provosts, and all who are maintained in idle offices of priesthood, are to be viewed in the same light. For what service can they perform to the Church? The preaching of the word, the care of discipline, and the administration of the Sacraments, they have shaken off as burdens too grievous to be borne. What then remains on which they can plume themselves as being true presbyters? Merely chanting and pompous ceremonies.
I suppose there are Christians today who would deride prayer as "merely chanting" but I have rarely encountered them.
But what is this to the point? If they allege custom, use, or the long prescription, I, on the contrary, appeal to the definition by which our Saviour has described true presbyters, and shown the qualities of those who are to be regarded as presbyters.
There is plenty of biblical rationale for what monks and religious do, as seen in the above articles.
But if they cannot endure the hard law of submitting to the rule of Christ, let them at least allow the cause to be decided by the authority of the primitive Church. Their condition will not be one whit improved when decided according to the ancient canons. Those who have degenerated into Canons ought to be presbyters, as they formerly were, to rule the Church in common with the bishop, and be, as it were, his colleagues in the pastoral office.
In one fell swoop, Calvin sweeps aside the practice of some 1200 years. By what authority, though? Did he expect the Church as a whole to lie down and die in the face of his relentless, unanswerable wisdom? While ranting and railing against popes and bishops and priests and monks alike, he takes upon himself (by his own declaration, based on nothing) the authority to act as a Super-Pope and to declare null and void whatever it is he deems to be so. Such preposterous, groundless presumption is its own self-evident refutation.
What they call deaneries of the chapter have no concern with the true government of the Church, much less chaplainships and other similar worthless names. In what light then are they all to be regarded? Assuredly, both the word of Christ and the practice of the primitive Church exclude them from the honour of presbyters. They maintain, however, that they are presbyters; but we must unmask them, and we shall find that their whole profession is most alien from the office of presbyters, as that office is described to us by the apostles, and was discharged in the primitive Church. All such offices, therefore, by whatever titles they are distinguished, as they are novelties,
Calvin talking about novelties being undesirable, is a bit like a fish arguing that water is altogether undesirable. As soon as the fish gets his wish, he dies, because his own environment (and Protestant distinctives are nothing if not novelties) was swept away, too.
and certainly not supported either by the institution of God or the ancient practice of the Church, ought to have no place in a description of that spiritual government which the Church received, and was consecrated by the mouth of the Lord himself. Or (if they would have me express it in ruder and coarser terms), since chaplains, canons, deans, provosts, and such like lazy-bellies, do not even, with one finger, touch a particle of the office, which is necessarily required in presbyters, they must not be permitted falsely to usurp the honour, and thereby violate the holy institution of Christ.
Calvin has spoken! Entire institutions must die at his recommendation. Sorry, folks; the Church doesn't operate that way. Calvin and Luther obviously feel this "ability" (arbitrarily granted to themselves by themselves for their own purposes) and act accordingly, but the Catholic Church: the one true Church, established by Jesus Christ, develops through centuries, by virtue of the wisdom of thousands of holy men and women, who discern the Mind of the Church and how best to serve God. It's not a rule of one; it is a communitarian enterprise. Even the pope cannot overturn previous entrenched doctrine and tradition, the way that Super-Popes Calvin and Luther and Henry VIII can in their domains. Wishing something to be the case is not sufficient to make it come true: at least not in the matters of God and the Church.