Pope Leo X

Pope Leo X Diary excerpts from:
Confessions of an Infallible Man: The Secret Memoir of Pope Leo X Jan 22, 2010
by Stanley Wallerstein
Published by lulu.com, 2010

The Vatican, July 10, 1519

I contend that the two most powerful weapons in Satan's arsenal are academic theologians and the printing press. If one looks to the origins of virtually every heresy promulgated since the Resurrection, one finds an arrogant professor, with too much time on his hands, who professes to have discovered some new interpretation of Scripture that the Holy See has somehow overlooked. Heresies can now spread with lightning speed thanks to Gutenberg's press. Notwithstanding my Bull prohibiting the printing of any book, tract or pamphlet without prior approval of the Holy See, Luther's heretical works are everywhere. As Christ himself discovered, many men will trade their souls tomorrow for a handful of silver today.

Miltitz and I skillfully negotiated an end to Luther’s agitation, but now another self-regarding professor, Johann Eck of Ingolstadt, may single-handedly have ruined our delicate arrangement. Without consultation with the Vatican, Eck issued a series of theses in opposition to Luther’s and challenged the monk to a debate at the University of Leipzig. This action has of course violated my agreement to keep Luther’s opponents silenced.

Reports of the debate have been pouring into the Curia and the news is not good. Eck demolished Luther's arguments with unassailable logic and references from Scripture and canon law. Luther, his own ego inflamed, now adopts the heresy of Hus and the Bohemians outright, declaring that it is not necessary to salvation to be obedient to the Roman Church and that the pope has no more spiritual authority than any other man.

While Eck carried the day theologically, I fear that Luther, now subject to excommunication and execution by the indisputable words of his own mouth, may embark upon an even greater campaign of slander against the Church. This is not a good time for a theological war, given that a real war may break out at any moment.

The Vatican, January 9, 1520

At consistory today, the subject of Luther arose. It is the consensus of the College that Luther has kindled a fire which may be very difficult to quench. I confess that I am still of mixed opinions regarding this matter. While Luther’s theses are undoubtedly heretical, he was under control until that pompous ass Eck undid all of my good work at Leipzig. If I excommunicate him, he will be viewed as a martyr by many. I still prefer to take a political approach to this problem. Now that Charles is Emperor-Elect, he may be willing to silence Luther to cement his friendship with the Holy See. Only one-quarter German blood courses through his veins.

The Vatican, February 1, 1520

The pressure from the Curia on this Luther matter continues to grow. Today, I appointed a commission of Franciscan Observantines under the direction of Cardinals Carvajal and Accolti to make recommendations regarding Luther. I charged them to also investigate Elector Frederick of Saxony, Luther’s principal sponsor and protector. It must be made clear that princes too have some risk in this matter. Otherwise, Luther will remain emboldened, believing that the secular arm will afford him protection from the religious.

The Vatican, February 11, 1520

Never in history of the Curia has a commission ever acted with such dispatch. The unanimous recommendation is that Luther be declared a heretic and excommunicated. This is not the timing I desire, so I appointed a new commission today to make a more deliberate study of the issues involved. I have appointed ten eminent university theologians to the panel, which should ensure no end of jealous fighting among the wordsmiths. In the meantime, Cardinal Riario has personally appealed to Elector Frederick to bring Luther to heel and the Vicar-General of the Augustinians has ordered Luther’s superior, Staupitz, to muzzle the monk.

The Vatican, March 28, 1520

I listed Luther today in the Maundy Thursday Bull. I am very disappointed with Charles. The Diet has been in session for two months, but the Luther issue is not yet concluded. Charles has bowed to demands by the Electors that Luther be summoned to Worms to explain himself. If the Emperor is able to effect so little against one man who is in his power, what can the Church and Christendom expect of him in a fight against Turks and infidels?

I called in Manuel today and admonished him that his sovereign had been badly advised in summoning Luther to appear at Worms. I told him it was impossible that Luther be received even in Hell, and that he would do well to warn his imperial master, in every letter he wrote, not to take this matter lightly.

The Vatican, April 3, 1520

Raphael has taken a turn for the worse. He is being bled and given purgatives, but is sinking. God cannot be so cruel as to take him from me at the peak of his powers. I pray that if God needs another artist in Heaven, he takes Michelangelo instead.

La Magliana, June 3, 1520

The trial of Gianpaolo Baglioni has been concluded and he has been turned over to the secular authorities for execution of sentence. Tomorrow, the people of Perugia will rejoice that the tyrant has been dispatched to Hell. The College has met four times during my absence to debate and revise the Bull on Luther. It arrived yesterday and, after the day’s hunt, I personally wrote a more dramatic opening paragraph:

Arise, O Lord, and judge your own cause. Remember your reproaches to those who are filled with foolishness all through theday. Listen to our prayers, for foxes have arisen seeking to destroy the vineyard whose winepress you alone have trod. When you were about to ascend to your Father, you committed the care, rule, and administration of the vineyard, an image of the triumphant church, to Peter, as the head and your vicar and his successors. The wild boar from the forest seeks to destroy it and every wild beast feeds upon it.

I shall title the Bull *Exsurge Domine.

*Translator's note: "Arise, O Lord."

The Vatican, July 8, 1520

As a courtesy, I sent a copy of the Bull to Elector Frederick (the official Bull is being carried to Germany by Girolamo Aleandro, whom I have appointed Nuncio-Extraordinary and Ambassador to Charles V and the other Sovereigns of Germany). In my covering letter, I reiterate that the scabby sheep must not infect the flock. I close the letter with a personal plea: “We exhort you to induce him to return to sanity and receive our clemency. If he persists in his madness, take him captive.” I have now done all I can to resolve this matter amicably. It is now up to Frederick and Luther to grasp the hand which I have extended to them.

The Vatican, October 15, 1520

Luther has, by his own hand, sealed his fate. I have received from him a letter, written before Exsurge Domine, which makes reconciliation impossible. While the letter praises me in the most gratifying terms, Luther’s attacks upon the Church cannot be tolerated. He writes (among many other libels):

It is indeed as clear as daylight to all mankind that the Roman church, formerly the most holy of all churches, is become the most licentious den of thieves, the most shameless of all brothels, the kingdom of sin, of death, and of hell; the wickedness of which not Antichrist himself could conceive.

Frederick, his protector, has answered my July letter, refusing to arrest Luther and instead insisting that Luther be given an opportunity to defend his teachings before an impartial panel of University theologians in Germany. Ulrich von Hutten, that most vociferous humanist and enemy of the Church, has now endorsed Luther’s heresy as his own. Only Charles holds the key to quarantining this pestilential outbreak before it infects all of Europe. Aleandro will deliver this message personally to Charles when he attends the coronation on October 23. He will also carry my secret plan for an alliance to drive the French from Lombardy.

Palo, November 14, 1520

A letter from Charles arrived today, written on the day of his coronation and pledging perpetual fealty to the Holy See. I replied after the day’s festivities. My reply begins: "As there are two planets in heaven, the sun and the moon, so are there two great dignitaries on earth, the Pope and the Emperor, to whom all other princes are subject and owe obedience."

Aleandro's latest report arrived with the same messenger. He has nothing but positive things to say about Charles and his desire to serve the Holy See by enforcing the writ against Luther. Immediately after his coronation, Charles issued an imperial edict requiring the burning of Luther’s books. But Aleandro also reports that he was unable to officially serve the Bull Exsurge Domine until just a few days ago. Disobedient German clerics refused to accept it and mobs of armed students and fanatical supporters of Luther prevented him from publicly posting it. It seems all of Germany has gone mad. I must now wait until the end of the year before I can officially excommunicate the heretic.

The Vatican, December 20, 1520

I wish I had never returned from the hunt. Politics and heretics have undone all of its good. Aleandro writes that Luther publicly burned the Bull Exsurge Domine and added other books of canon law to the fire. Luther has published a pamphlet declaring me the Antichrist. Aleandro also reports that nine-tenths of Germans shout for Luther and the balance hold the Roman Court in deadly hatred. Worse, Charles has agreed with Elector Frederick that Luther should be given an opportunity to defend his doctrines within Germany.

I have given instructions to Aleandro to remind Charles that Luther's sixty day period of grace under Exsurge Domine has now expired and it is a mortal sin for any Christian to have contact with him. I also instructed him to request an imperial edict extending the ban on the works of Luther to include those of von Hutten and Luther’s other supporters. I sent a large quantity of ducats with my instructions to assist Aleandro in his dealings with the German rulers.

The Vatican, January 3, 1521

Today, I signed the Bull Decet Romanum Pontificem, which unconditionally excommunicates Luther and his followers. I sent a special brief to the Inquisitor-General of Germany ordering him to proceed with energy and all of the tools at his disposal against all obstinate Lutherans, including those of electoral dignity. I also sent a brief to Charles, requesting that he secure the execution of the Bull.

Return To Pastor Melissa Scott's Site