Friday, January 3, 2014

January 3 - Decet Romanum Pontificem


Many protestants look back upon the reformation gladly and view it as some type of ideological victory. With the passage of many years, those painful times have become a hallowed ground where countless people revel in independence and the power of self-determination. The Pope and the leaders of the Roman Catholic church were slandered and scandalized even beyond what they deserved and lines were drawn in the sand that could not easily be crossed over. Wounds were inflicted that would only be healed by love over time.Some even go so far as to celebrate days in the Church calendar specifically designed to remember the separation and disconnect. Yet, why should the Church celebrate the self-mutilation of the Body of Christ?

Many Roman Catholics look back upon the time and decry the protestant reformation as a time of vile heresy and overreaction. In an attempt to vilify those who vilified them, some insist that the exodus of protestants from the Roman Catholic church was a purifying and good thing that finally allowed for real and earnest reformation to begin. Martin Luther and the leaders of the reformation were slandered and scandalized even beyond what they deserved and lines were drawn in the sand that could not easily be crossed over.Wounds were inflicted that would only be healed by love over time. Some would celebrate the excommunication of protesting parties--after all, if one removes the protestants then surely those who remain all agree? Yet, why should the Church celebrate the self-mutilation of the Body of Christ?
In 1521, on January 3, Pope Leo X excommunicated Martin Luther in the papal bull Decet Romanum Pontificem. Specifically, it was only one excommunication and only barred one man--a priest of the Church--from the Eucharist because he had refused to fall in line with people he was protesting. Those in power insisted that theological and practical unity were of primary importance to the Church and those who protested should submit themselves to the guidance of the Church. Those who protested insisted that individual faith and commitment to discipleship were of primary importance to the Church and those in power should submit themselves to the guidance of the Church. Through much of it, there was hope to be held out that the Church might come together and show unity even though it was made up of people quick to take and give offense. January 3 was only one day but it was an important day--perhaps it was past the point of no return but hopefully, there is yet still hope for unity among people united by a common bond in the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

This is not a day to be celebrated. This is a day to be remembered and regretted for all parties involved in the pain that was the reformation. May every protestant only protest so far as it works for the unity of the Church. May every Roman Catholic remember that the Church cannot be whole until we all are gathered in. Both parties were and are at fault. How can we celebrate the self-mutilation of the Body of Christ?

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