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§ 34. Rome’s Interposition. Luther and Prierias. 1518.


R. P. Silvestri Prieratis ordinis praedicatorum et s. theol. professoris celeberrimi, s. palatii apostolici magistri, in praesumptuosas Martini Lutheri conclusiones de potestate papae dialogus. In Löscher, II. 13–39. Knaake (Werke, I. 644) assigns the first edition to the second half of June, 1518, which is more likely than the earlier date of December, 1517, given by Löscher (II. 12) and the Erlangen ed. He mentions five separate editions, two of which were published by Luther without notes; afterwards he published an edition with his refutation.

Ad Dialogum Silvestri Prierati de potestate papae responsio. In Löscher, II. 3; Weim. ed. I., 647–686, II. 48–56. German translation in Walch, XVIII. l20–200.


Pope Leo X. was disposed to ignore the Wittenberg movement as a contemptible monkish quarrel; but when it threatened to become dangerous, he tried to make the German monk harmless by the exercise of his power. He is reported to have said first, "Brother Martin is a man of fine genius, and this outbreak is a mere squabble of envious monks;" but afterwards, "It is a drunken German who wrote the Theses; when sober he will change his mind."

Three months after the appearance of the Theses, he directed the vicar-general of the Augustinian Order to quiet down the restless monk. In March, 1518, he found it necessary to appoint a commission of inquiry under the direction of the learned Dominican Silvester Mazzolini, called from his birthplace Prierio or Prierias (also Prieras), who was master of the sacred palace and professor of theology.

Prierias came to the conclusion that Luther was an ignorant and blasphemous arch-heretic, and hastily wrote a Latin dialogue against his Theses, hoping to crush him by subtile scholastic distinctions, and the weight of papal authority (June, 1518). He identified the Pope with the Church of Rome, and the Church of Rome with the Church universal, and denounced every departure from it as a heresy. He said of Luther’s Theses, that they bite like a cur.

Luther republished the Dialogue with a reply, in which he called it "sufficiently supercilious, and thoroughly Italian and Thomistic "(August, 1518).

Prierias answered with a Replica (November, 1518). Luther republished it likewise, with a brief preface, and sent it to Prierias with the advice not to make himself any more ridiculous by writing books.

The effect of this controversy was to widen the breach.

In the mean time Luther’s fate had already been decided. The Roman hierarchy could no more tolerate such a dangerous man than the Jewish hierarchy could tolerate Christ and the apostles. On the 7th of August, 1518, he was cited to appear in Rome within sixty days to recant his heresies. On the 23d of the same month, the Pope demanded of the Elector Frederick the Wise, that he should deliver up this "child of the Devil" to the papal legate.

But the Elector, who was one of the most powerful and esteemed princes of Germany, felt unwilling to sacrifice the shining light of his beloved university, and arranged a peaceful interview with the papal legate at the Diet of Augsburg on promise of kind treatment and safe return.


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