The Great Schism; Jan Hus

Extracts from Father Terry’s Verbal Conscience website (http://www.frterry.org), Handouts 133, 134, 139

1. Catherine of Siena asks Gregory XI to return to Rome

[Editor’s note: Caterina di Benincasa (1347-1380 A.D.), twenty-third in a family of twenty-five children, had extraordinary mystical experiences from a very early age. Though she had chosen to be dedicated to the religious life, she played an active part in the struggles that were going on in Siena, where she had been born and also in Tuscany, Avignon and Rome, where she died. Three concerns dominated her life: the conversion of sinners, the relaunching of the crusades and the return of the pope to Rome.]

Be the true successor to St Gregory; love God, have no attachments either to kinsfolk, or friends, or temporal necessity. Do not fear the present storm, nor the spoilt members who have rebelled against your authority. God’s help is near. Attach yourself only to the good shepherds, for it is the bad ones who have provoked the rebellion. Bring a remedy for these evils and act in Jesus Christ. Go forward! Finish what you have begun. Do not delay, for delay has caused numerous ills, and the devil is at work devising hindrances for you. Raise the standard of the true cross, for by it you will have peace. You will console the poor of Jesus who await you with longing. Come, and you will see the wolves become sheep. Peace, that war may cease. No longer resist the will of God, for the starving sheep wait for you to return to the see of St. Peter. You are the Vicar of Jesus; you must resume your proper seat. Come without fear, for God will be with you. Do not wait, for time does not wait. Respond to the Holy Spirit. Come like the lamb who, unarmed, lays low his enemies, making use of the arms of love. Be bold, save the church from division and iniquity; the wolves will come into your fold and you will cry pity … Come as a bold man without fear; but above all, for the love of life, do not come with a military escort, but come with the cross in your hand like a gentle lamb.

2. “The complaint of Lady Church,” by the theologian Jean Petit in 1393 A.D., during the Great Schism

Alas, what shall I do in the midst of my sufferings, when for more than fifteen years a sickness has tormented me, so severely that all my limbs are broken. My head and body are divided, split into several parts. For the love of God, Christians, see how I could be soon cured…

For this reason those who have made this storm around me are the servants of the Anti-Christ. It seems that they want to make me wife of two husbands and a widow at the same time; Many people are afflicted by this… I am wife of Robert of Geneva. The others cry, ‘No, no, It is not true, by Saint Genevieve, but she is the true wife of the successor of Bartholomew of Bari. The third say, ‘No, by God, in justice neither the one nor the other is the Holy Father. And so they say that I am a widow…

This affair must be settled first by the greatest who are not doing their duty. Neither Pope Clement nor Boniface. The two of them leave me here to rot; they do not care if I trespass…

So without delay take steps for me to be cured and pray God with a sincere heart that this shall be so and that he will grant it. Amen.

3. John Hus (1369-1415 A.D.)

Reply to the synod of Prague in 1413 A.D.

[Editor’s note: To understand this text it is necessary to recall that from 1409 A.D. there had been three popes in the church. Here John Hus has particularly in mind John XXIII, the pope, of Pisa.]

Ah, if only the disciples of Antichrist could declare themselves in accord on the true Holy Roman Church, that is to say all the faithful Christians and saints militant in the faith of Christ, obedient to the teaching of Peter, the Bishop of Rome, and even more to those of Christ! If it came about that Rome were destroyed like Sodom, with its pope and its cardinals and that is not impossible the holy church would still exist.

This is what I wish to hold to: I hold the pope to be the vicar of Christ in the Roman Church. But I do not consider this to be a matter of faith … I also hold the following: if the pope is predestined, and exercises his pastoral office in imitation of Jesus Christ, then he is the head of the portion of the church militant that he governs. And if he governs in this way as head of all the church militant according to the law of Jesus Christ then he is its true head under the arch-head, Our Savior Jesus Christ. But if his life is contrary to Christ, then he is a thief, a robber, who introduces himself surreptitiously, a ravening wolf, a hypocrite and of all mortals the chief Antichrist. The Lord has warned us sufficiently to guard against false Christs and their miracles. And I also hold this: I am ready to accept with respect and reverence, as befits a faithful Christian, all that the Roman Church or the pope and his cardinals define and command to believe and to practice according to the law of Christ, but not all that the pope and his cardinals define and command in general. For nothing is more certain than that the pope and all the Curia can be deceived as to the truth as in their customs.

The last words of John Hus on the stake at Constance

God is my witness that I have never taught nor preached what is attributed to me on the testimony of false witnesses. My prime intention in my preaching and all my actions has been to extricate men from sin. l am ready to die with joy in the truth of the gospel, which I have written, taught and preached in accordance with the tradition of the holy doctors.