BY the exclusion of that little book from the public schools of Boston, there has been revived considerable notice of the subject of indulgences. We have owned, for a number of years, a copy of the little book that has caused all this stir—Swinton’s “Outlines of the World’s History.” The passage that has shut out the book, and a teacher with it, from the public schools of Boston, is as follows:—
“When Leo X. came to the Papal chair, he found the treasury of the church exhausted by the ambitious projects of his predecessors. He therefore had recourse to every means which ingenuity could devise for recruiting his exhausted finances, and among these he adopted an extensive sale of indulgences, which in former ages had been a source of large profits to the church. The Dominican friars, having obtained a monopoly of the sale in Germany, employed as their agent Tetzel, one of their own order, who carried on the traffic in a manner that was very offensive, and especially so to the Augustinian friars.”
To this paragraph in the book there is added the following note:—
“These indulgences were, in the early ages of the church, remissions of the penances imposed upon persons whose sins had brought scandal on the community. But in process of time they were represented as actual pardons of guilt, and the purchaser of indulgence was said to be delivered from all his sins.”
Now we should like for anybody candidly to state where there is anything said in this that should subject the book to banishment from the public schools. It is simply a statement of facts, and a very mild statement at that. Whether the treasury of the church had been exhausted by the ambitious projects of Leo’s predecessors; or whether it was exhausted by his predecessors at all, is a question upon which it is not necessary to enter, because it is not germane to the subject. The main question is one of simple fact, Was the treasury exhausted? and did that lead to the traffic in indulgences, which stirred up Luther, and led to the Reformation?
Leo’s immediate predecessor, Julius II., had spent the whole time of his pontificate—a little more than nine years—in almost constant wars, in some of which he led the troops himself and acted the part of general.
It was he who began the building of the Church of St. Peter at Rome; and he issued a bull granting indulgences to those who would contribute to the project. Although to sustain his wars and alliances the expenses of Julius were enormous, yet he did leave considerable treasure. But even though the treasury was not exhausted by his predecessors, it was easy enough for Leo X. to exhaust it, for he was almost a matchless spendthrift. Says Von Ranke:—
“‘That the Pope should ever keep a thousand ducats together was a thing as impossible,’ says Francesco Vettori of this pontiff, ‘as that a stone should of its own will take to flying through the air.’ He has been reproached with having spent the revenues of three Popes: that of his predecessor, from whom he inherited a considerable treasure, his own, and that of his successor, to whom he bequeathed a mass of debt.”—History of the Popes, book 4, sec. 2.
“He was the spendthrift son of an opulent parent; he became the wasteful master of the resources of the church.” “It was because Leo was a splendid spendthrift, that we have the Reformation through Luther. The Pope was soon again impoverished and in debt. He never thought of the cost of anything; he was lavish without reflection. His wars, intrigues, his artists and architects, his friends, but above all the miserable Lorenzo [his nephew], exhausted his fine revenues; and his treasury must again be supplied. When he was in want, Leo was never scrupulous as to the means by which he retrieved his affairs; he robbed, he defrauded, he begged, he drew contributions from all Europe for the Turkish war, which all Europe knew had been spent upon Lorenzo; he collected large sums for rebuilding St. Peter’s, which were all expended in the same way; in fine, Leo early exhausted all his spiritual arts as well as his treasury.”—Historical Studies, pp. 66, 77.
The “Encyclopedia Britannica” says that Leo. “bequeathed his successors a religious schism and a bankrupt church;” that “his profusion had impoverished the church, and indirectly occasioned the destruction of her visible unity.”—Art. Leo X. It is a fact, therefore, that the Papal treasury was exhausted.
Now to the second question of fact, Did this lead to the sale of indulgences? Before his coronation as Pope, Leo had entered into an engagement “to issue no brief for collecting money for the repair of St. Peter’s;” but neither that, nor anything else, was allowed to stand in the way when he wanted money. Says D’Aubigne:—
“Leo was greatly in need of money…. His cousin, Cardinal Pucci, as skillful in the art of hoarding as Leo in that of lavishing, advised him to have recourse to indulgence. Accordingly, the Pope published a bull announcing a general indulgence, the proceeds of which were, he said, to be employed in the erection of the Church of St. Peter, that monument of sacerdotal magnificence. In a letter dated at Rome, under the seal of the fisherman, in November, 1517, Leo applies to his commissary of indulgences for one hundred and forty-seven ducats to pay for a manuscript of the thirty-third book of Livy. Can all the uses to which he put the money on the  Germans, this was doubtless the best. Still, it was strange to deliver souls from purgatory, in order purchase a manuscript history of the wars of Roman people.”—History of the Reformation, book 3, chap. 3.
“Leo, wanting to continue the magnificent structure of St. Peter’s Church, begun by his predecessor Julius, but finding his coffers drained, chiefly by his own extravagance, in order to replenish them, granted, by a bull, a plenary indulgence, or remission of all sins, to such as should charitably contribute to that work.”—History of the Popes, under Leo X., A. D. 1517.
“It was to adorn Italy that the traffic in induIgences had been carried to that scandalous excess which had roused the indignation of Luther.”—Essays, Von Ranke.
And a Roman Catholic “History of the Church of God,” written by B. J. Spalding, Roman Catholic priest, with a commendatory preface by Bishop Spalding, of Peoria, Ill., says:—
“The incident which served as an opportunity for the breaking out of Luther’s revolt, was the promulgation by Leo X. (1517) of a plenary [bull] indulgence, the alms attached to the gaining of which were to defray the expenses of a crusade against the Turks and aid in completing magnificent basilica of St. Peter’s at Rome. The Dominican Tetzel was appointed to preach this indulgence in Germany.”—Page 506.
It is a fact, therefore, that the papal treasury was exhausted, and that Leo resorted to the sale of indulgences to replenish it.
Now to the third question of fact. The banished book says: “These indulgences are, in the early ages of the church, remissions of the penances imposed upon persons whose sins had brought scandal on the community.” Notice, this does not say that indulgences were remissions of sins, but that they were remissions of the penances, or penalties, imposed upon persons because of their sins. Nor does it say by whom the penances were imposed. Now read the following definition of indulgence by Archbishop Purcell:—
“An indulgence is nothing more nor less than a remission of the temporal punishment which often remains attached to the sin, after the eternal guilt has been forgiven the sinner, on his sincere repentance…. The doctrine of indulgences is this: When a human being does everything in his power to atone for sin, God has left a power in the church, to remit a part or the entire of the temporal punishment due to it.”—Debate with Campbell, pp. 307, 308.
What Archbishop Purcell means by “temporal punishment,” is precisely what Swinton’s note is by penances imposed; for, to sustain his doctrine, the archbishop quoted 2 Corinthians 2:6, 10, where Paul, speaking of that man who had been disfellowshiped and had repented of his sin, says: “Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted [penance imposed] of many.” “To whom ye forgive anything, I forgive also, for if I forgave anything, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ.” Then the archbishop says:—
“‘In the person of Christ,’ mark those words, that he, in the person of Christ, forgave—what? Not the eternal guilt of the incestuous man—God alone can forgive that—but the temporal punishment; to restore him to the privileges of the church and Christian society.”
Therefore it is demonstrated that Swinton’s note in that book is precisely the same statement of the doctrine of indulgences as that given by an archbishop of the Catholic Church.
The other statement in the note is, that, “in process of time they [indulgences] were represented as actual pardons of guilt, and the purchaser of indulgence was said to be delivered from all his sins.” Notice, this does not say that they were actual pardons of guilt, but only that they were represented as such. He does not say that the representation was true. It is but the statement of the fact that they were represented to be so and so. The note does not say that the purchaser of indulgence was delivered from all his sins; nor does it say that the Catholic Church teaches or taught that it was so; it simply states the fact that the purchaser was said to be delivered from all his sins.
Now is it a fact that they were represented as actual pardons of guilt? Says the “Encyclopedia Britannica:“—
“The doctrine of indulgences is singularly open to misunderstanding; and in its practical applications it has too often been used to sanction the most flagrant immorality.”—Art. Indulgences.
If, therefore, that doctrine has been so used, will the Catholic Church say that indulgences were never represented as actual pardons of guilt? or that the purchaser was never said to be delivered from all sin? Will that church say that no person who ever handled or dispensed indulgences ever gave a wrong impression as to the precise effect of them? This of itself would show that in the words used there is no reproach cast upon the Catholic Church. But read the following. A Jesuit historian, quoted by D’Aubigne, speaking of the associates of Tetzel, the chief indulgence peddler, says:—
“Some of these preachers failed not, as usual, to outrage the subject which they treated, and so to exaggerate the value of indulgences as to make people suppose they were sure of their own salvation, and of the deliverance of souls from purgatory, as soon as the money was paid.”—History of Reformation, book 3, chap. 1.
And the Catholic “History of the Church of God,” before quoted, says:—
“There had been for some time abuses in the form of dispensing and preaching indulgences; pious bishops had pointed them out, and statesmen had protested against them. Tetzel did not altogether avoid the abuses, and later the Papal legate, Miltitz, sharply rebuked him for his indiscretions.”—Id., p. 506.
Now read the following words of Tetzel himself:—
“Think, then, that for each mortal sin you must, after confession and contribution, do penance for seven years, either in this life or in purgatory. Now, how many mortal sins are committed in one day—in one week? How many in a month—a year—a whole life? AhI these sins are almost innumerable, and innumerable sufferings must be endured for them in purgatory. And now, by means of these letters of indulgence, you can at once, for life—in all cases except four which are reserved to the Apostolic See—and afterwards at the hour of death, obtain a full remission of all your pains and all your sins.”
These words make positive the fact stated in Swinton’s note that indulgences were represented to be actual pardons of guilt, and that the purchaser was said to be delivered from all sin. It is not sufficient for Catholics to say that such is not the teaching of the Catholic Church. The banished book does not say that such is or ever was the teaching of the Catholic Church. It simply says that such things “were represented,” and “were said,” and here are the words of Catholics showing that that is the fact.
So the case of the book and the Boston School Board stands just thus:—
1. The book says that at the time of Leo X. the Papal treasury was exhausted: and that is a historical fact.
2. The book says that to recruit his exhausted finances, he adopted an extensive sale of indulgences: and that is a historical fact.
3. The book says that indulgences were remissions of the penances imposed upon persons because of their sins: and that is a doctrinal fact of the Catholic teaching according to the words of a Catholic archbishop.
4. The book says that in process of time indulgences were represented as actual pardons of guilt: and that is a literal historical fact.
5. The book says the purchaser of indulgence was said to be delivered from all his sins: and that is the literal historical fact as to what was said.
All of which conclusively demonstrates that the action of the Boston School Board in banishing that book from the public schools, rests not upon the slightest particle of justice or reason, but is wholly an exhibition of that arbitrary and unreasoning despotism which is characteristic of the Papacy everywhere that it secures enough power to make itself felt. It demonstrates the fact that it is not the statements in the book that the Catholics hate, so much as it is that they hate everything that is not subject to the despotic authority of Rome. For if historical facts in regard to which both Catholic and Protestant authorities agree, cannot be taught in the public schools without the interference of Rome, then what can be taught there without her dictation?
That everyone may see for himself how the matter stood we append a copy of the indulgence that was actually sold by Tetzel. Here it is:—
“May our Lord Jesus Christ have pity on thee, N——N——, and absolve thee by the merit of his most holy passion. And I, in virtue of the apostolic power intrusted to me, absolve thee from all ecclesiastical censures, judgments, and penalties, which thou mayest have deserved; moreover, from all the excesses, sins, and crimes, which thou mayest have committed, how great and enormous soever they may have been, and for whatever cause, even should they have been reserved  to our most holy father the Pope, and to the apostolic See. I efface all the marks of disability, and all the notes of infamy which thou mayest have incurred on this occasion. I remit the pains which thou shouldst have to endure in purgatory. I render thee anew a partaker in the sacraments of the church. I again incorporate thee into the communion of saints, and re-establish thee in the innocence and purity in which thou wert at the hour of thy baptism; so that, at the moment of thy death, the gate of entrance to the place of pains and torments will be shut to thee; and, on the contrary, the gate which leads to the heavenly paradise, will be opened to thee. If thou art not to die soon, this grace will remain unimpaired till thy last hour arrive. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“Friar John Tetzel, commissary, has signed it with his own hand.”—D’Aubigne, History of Reformation, book 3, chap. 1.
A. T. J.