Those Were The Days

Makes you wonder why some want more religion in politics or why others object to Luther’s meager efforts at reform:

On Sunday May 9, 1527, an army descending from Lombardy reached the Janiculum. The Emperor, Charles V, enraged at Pope Clement VII’s political alliance with his adversary, the King of France, Francis I, had moved an army against the capital of Christendom. That evening the sun set for the last time on the dazzling beauties of Renaissance Rome. About 20,000 men, Italians, Spaniards and Germans, among whom were the Landsknecht mercenaries, of the Lutheran faith, were preparing to launch an attack on the Eternal City. Their commander had given them license to sack the city. All night long the warning bell of Campidoglio rang out calling the Romans to arms, but it was already too late to improvise an effective defense. At dawn on the 6th of May, favoured by a thick fog, the Landsknechts launched an assault on the walls, between St. Onofrio and Santo Spirito.

The Swiss Guards lined up around the Vatican Obelisk, resolute in their vow to remain faithful unto death. The last of them sacrificed their lives at the high altar in St. Peter’s Basilica. Their resistance allowed the Pope along with some cardinals the chance of escape. Across the Passetto di Borgo, the connecting road between the Vatican and Castel Sant’Angelo, Clement VII reached the fortress, the only bastion left against the enemy. From the height of the terraces, the Pope witnessed the terrible slaughter which initiated with the massacre of those who were crowding around the gates of the Castle looking for refuge, while the sick of Santo Spirito Hospital in Sassia were massacred, pierced by spears and swords.

This unlimited license to steal and kill lasted eight days and the occupation of the city nine months. We read in a Veneto account of May 10, 1527, reported by Ludwig von Pastor “Hell is nothing in comparison with the appearance Rome currently presents” (The History of Popes, Desclée, Rome 1942m, vol. IV, 2, p.261). The religious were the main victims of the Landsknechts’ fury. Cardinals’ palaces were plundered, churches profaned, priests and monks killed or made slaves, nuns raped and sold at markets. Obscene parodies of religious ceremonies were seen, chalices for Mass were used to get drunk amidst blasphemies, Sacred Hosts were roasted in a pan and fed to animals, the tombs of saints were violated, heads of the Apostles, such as St. Andrew, were used for playing football on the streets. A donkey was dressed up in ecclesiastical robes and led to the altar of a church. The priest who refused to give it Communion was hacked to pieces. The City was outraged in its religious symbols and in its most sacred memories”. (see also André Chastel, The Sack of Rome, Einaudi, Turin, 1983; Umberto Roberto, Roma capta. The Sack of the City from the Gauls to the Landsknechts, Laterza, Bari 2012).

Clement VII, of the Medici family, had paid no attention to his predecessor, Hadrian VI’s appeal for a radical reform of the Church. Martin Luther had been spreading his heresies for ten years, but the Roman Papal States continued to be immersed in relativism and hedonism. Not all Romans though were corrupt and effeminate, as the historian Gregorovius seems to believe. Not corrupt, were the nobles Giulio Vallati, Giambattista Savelli and Pierpaolo Tebaldi who hoisted a flag with the insignia “Pro Fide et Patria” and held the last heroic stance at Ponte Sisto. and neither were the students at Capranica College, who hastened to Santo Spirito and died defending the Pope in danger.

It is to that mass slaughter, the Roman ecclesiastical Institute owes its name “Almo”. Clement VII survived and governed the Church until 1534, confronting the Anglican schism following the Lutheran one, but witnessing the sack of the City and being powerless to do anything, was for him, much harder than death itself.

On October 17, 1528, the imperial troops abandoned a city in ruins. A Spanish eyewitness gives us a terrifying picture of the City a month after the Sack: “In Rome, the capital of Christendom, not one bell is ringing, the churches are not open, Mass is not being said and there are no Sundays nor feast days. The rich merchant shops are used as horse stables, the most splendid palaces are devastated, many houses burnt, in others the doors and windows broken up and taken away, the streets transformed into dung-heaps. The stench of cadavers is horrible: men and beasts have the same burials; in churches I saw bodies gnawed at by dogs. I don’t know how else to compare this, other than to the destruction of Jerusalem. Now I recognize the justice of God, who doesn’t forget even if He arrives late. In Rome all sins were committed quite openly: sodomy, simony, idolatry, hypocrisy and deceit; thus we cannot believe that this all happened by chance; but for Divine justice”. (L. von Pastor, History of Popes, cit. p. 278).

Pope Clement VII commissioned Michelangelo to paint the Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel, conceivably to immortalize the dramas the Church had undergone during those years. Everyone understood that it was a chastisement from Heaven. There were no lack of premonitory warnings: lightening striking the Vatican and the appearance of a hermit, Brandano da Petroio, venerated by the crowds as “Christ’s Madman”, who, on Holy Thursday 1527, while Clement VII was blessing the crowds in St. Peter’s shouted: “sodomite bastard, for your sins Rome will be destroyed. Confess and convert, for in 14 days the wrath of God will fall upon you and the City.”

The year before, at the end of August, the Christian army had been defeated by the Ottomans on the field of Mohacs. The Hungarian King, Louis II Jagiellon died in battle and Suleiman the Magnificent’s army occupied Buda. The Islamic wave in Europe seemed unstoppable.

Yet, the hour of chastisement was, as always, the hour of mercy. The men of the Church understood how foolishly they had followed the allurements of pleasures and power. After the terrible Sack, life changed profoundly. The pleasure-seeking Rome of the Renaissance turned into the austere and penitent Rome of the Counter-Reformation.

Shrugs only go so far.


4 thoughts on “Those Were The Days

  1. Great and interesting post, terribly sad, perturbing. It proves nothing, being suggestive at best.

    Was there judgment? Certainly, but not as great as Christ prophesies comes at the end. Was Rome’s destruction Christ refining/judging Roman Catholics and the institution they hold dear?

    Can’t prove it by reading men’s histories. The RCC exists still, and must be judged by Scripture properly interpreted.

    Therefore, today’s Roman Catholics can’t justly assume their ancient institution is the result of Christ’s blessing.

    None but God rightly explains His Providence in history, “for who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” Besides, He delights to hide Himself from men’s interpretation of history: “Truly, Thou art a God who hides Himself, O God of Israel, Savior!”

    It appears that all the Christians in the church in Sardis, as well as the Christians in the others churches believed the church in Sardis to be alive with the Holy Spirit. But Christ said, “I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.”

    Even in the first century the Christians couldn’t rightly judge churches, and an apostle was still writing Scripture.

    How much more presumptuous is the person who claims to know which churches are alive and which are dead based on his or her reading of Providence. And he or she always judges his or her own alive. Always.

    But reading Providence is the way of presumption, and forcing Scripture to fit our reading of Providence is sin.

    The answer to reading churches with our provisional knowledge (never absolute, for we are finite) is receiving Revelation 2-3 and Rev. 22:11-19, where we learn that the exalted Christ in heaven is not a Deist but is, in all churches, their present Judge.

    As institutions that bear the holy name of Christ, churches are allowed length of existence in order to give a preview of eternity: “Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy.”


  2. These are the days:

    These visible signs of the Church, expressed by Cardinals Mueller, Sarah and Bagnasco, are supported by the “Hidden Vatican,” that is the individuals who work behind the scenes in this pontificate, shape it on the basis of continuity with an already planned reform process, while they also project a wide-ranging vision: that is, a Church – supported by the Roman Curia – which does not have as its goal to accept and respond to the signs of the times, but one that is able to forecast the signs of the times and to provide prophetic responses to them.

    Pope Francis is left alone at the very moment that he needs prophetic views. Let’s be clear. Pope Francis personally made this decision. He is a decision-maker. He listens to everyone, but then he acts on his own. His project is not that of reforming the Roman Curia, but that of reforming the profile of bishops. He has in mind a Church whose guidelines are “pastoral”, not doctrinal. Prophecy, according to the Pope, is not found in issuing a long-term project. Prophecy, for Pope Francis, the Church as a “field hospital,” that heals wounds as soon as they appear.

    These guidelines can be glimpsed at through the choice of new bishops and cardinals. Pope Francis always prefers those who have impressed him in personal meetings, or those who are presented as bishops with a major pastoral touch and only a minor impact on the cultural-political environment. According to Pope Francis, getting directly into the political and cultural fray could harm dialogue, and build walls instead of bridges.

    Obviously, Pope Francis’ choices are supported by a number of advisers (not so many, in fact). But how much do these advisers care for the Catholic Church in the long term? Or do they instead exploit the Pope’s wish to be both Pope and parish priest at the same time in order to propose, as bishops and cardinals, those candidates who fit the papal profile, but who, at the same time, could water down doctrine?

    It is paradoxical that the Catholic Church is seemingly less prophetic now. The Church is 200 years behind; it is not able to look forward, to further developments of the Second Vatican Council, to a new way of being in the world while fostering a dialogue on the basis of a strong identity without forfeiting a single Catholic principle.

    The Church today has forfeited its distinctive language, and it did so at the very moment that it gained enormous popularity, thanks to Pope Francis. But such a change can raise suspicions that this popularity is backed by those who want to take advantage of Pope Francis in order to dismantle the Church.

    That there is a long-term campaign against the Church seems evident. Under Benedict XVI, there was a very long period of attacks against the Church because of priestly pedophilia, followed by a period of attacks aimed at Vatican finances. This long period of attacks against Vatican finances resulted in a new season of Vatileaks. Of them all, this latest episode constitutes the weakest Vatileaks, since the Vatican financial system actually works and bears fruit. However, this latest Vatileaks chapter allows us to understand the final goal of the individuals behind it: if the mission and the prophecy of the Church are impervious to attack, it becomes important to put the Church’s financial support at risk, so that it does not have the means to carry forward its mission.

    The final goal of the last two books of leaks are the “8 per mille” campaign (that is, the public financing of the Catholic Church in Italy), and Peter’s Pence, that is, the contributions sent to Rome by the faithful since the time that anti-clerical Italian troops conquered Rome in the 19th century and Blessed Pope Pius IX found himself exiled in Castel Sant’Angelo.

    This anti-Catholic campaign takes advantage of the isolation of the Pope and of the internal divisions within the Catholic Church. The gang war within the Vatican, in fact, helps the external campaigns against the Church. And many of these campaigns find strength and impetus in the personal attacks that take place within the Catholic Church.


  3. These are more of the days. Jubilee year of mercy will produce light shows and support for climate change policy:

    The opening of Holy Doors in all the world’s cathedrals, a daily Rosary in St. Peter’s Square, and a light show projecting images of mercy and climate change on St. Peter’s basilica, are just some of the plans for the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy that begins on Dec. 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

    Below is a list of the most important initiatives, announced this morning by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization. . . .

    1. The Holy Door in St. Peter’s Basilica
    The opening of the Holy Door will be celebrated in St. Peter’s Square beginning at 9:30 a.m., Dec. 8, and mark the 50th anniversary of the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council. Various readings from the four Conciliar Constitutions will be read aloud and a Book of Gospels, specially prepared for the Jubilee, will be carried in the procession for the Eucharistic celebration. The simple open ceremony will be broadcast on television worldwide.

    2. Daily Rosary in St. Peter’s Square
    Beginning on Dec. 8 and continuing throughout the entire Jubilee, the Rosary will be recited daily in St. Peter’s Square in front of the statue of Saint Peter.

    3. LED Light Show
    At 7p.m. on Dec. 8, an LED light show will take place entitled “Fiat lux: Illuminating Our Common Home”, during which photographs will be projected onto the façade and cupola of Saint Peter’s, taken from a repertoire of some of the world’s great photographers. “These illuminations will present images inspired of Mercy, of humanity, of the natural world, and of climate changes,” the Vatican said, adding that it’s sponsored by the World Bank Group (Connect4Climate) and a group of businesses. The event, “inspired by the most recent encyclical of Pope Francis, Laudato si’,” is intended to coincide with the COP21 UN Climate Change Conference which runs until Dec. 11.

    4. Holy Doors to Open in Cathedrals Worldwide
    On Sunday, Dec. 13, for the first time in the history of the Jubilee Years, Holy Doors will be opened in all the cathedrals of the world, according to Pope Francis’ wishes that the Jubilee take place in the local churches. Pope Francis will open the Holy Door of his own church as Bishop of Rome, the basilica of St. John Lateran, at 9.30 a.m.

    5. Caritas Rome Door of Mercy to Open
    On Friday Dec. 18, the Holy Father will open the Door of Mercy at the Hostel “Don Luigi Di Liegro”, run by Caritas of Rome, located on Via Marsala. For 25 years, the hostel has helped those in grave need. This will be the first of a series of concrete expressions of the works of mercy that the Holy Father will carry out on one Friday of the month, each of them private visits. The Pope intends to highlight the “major forms of need, marginalization, and poverty” that are present in society while being united in “strong solidarity” with those caring for them, the Vatican said.

    6. Healthcare Services for Pilgrims
    Near to each of the four Papal Basilicas will be First Aid Stations (It. Pronto Soccorso). Multiple means of communication for the deaf and blind will also be provided, and audio files that can be downloaded from the Jubilee website (equipped with navigation aids) that describe the paths, pilgrimages to the Holy Door, and much else – including specially arrayed confessionals in Saint Peter’s Basilica and in other churches.

    7. Pilgrimage Information Center
    Located at Via della Conciliazione 7 and open daily, 7.30 a.m.-6.30 p.m. including Saturdays and Sundays, the center is a place to find information about Jubilee events; to register for a reserved walkway to the Holy Door at the basilica; to pick up requested free access tickets for the various celebrations which are required for pilgrims; and to pick up the testimonium of participation in the Jubilee. Archbishop Fisichella stressed the Pontifical Council, through the Information Center, is responsible for certifying a pilgrim’s presence at the Jubilee, as well as the journey made on foot and that “any other attestation issued by other organizations should not be considered authentic.”

    When will the Vatican organize a group shrug for the church catholic?


  4. More of these days:

    Francis had the same message for a mostly Christian crowd of 3,700 in a refugee camp at a CAR Catholic parish, saying, “We want peace. There is no peace without forgiveness, without tolerance. Regardless of ethnicity, social status, we are all brothers.”


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