Originally published at: https://concordia.confident.faith/roman-confutation/article-xxviii/
1 Although many things are introduced here in the topic of Ecclesiastical Power, with greater bitterness than is just, yet it must be declared that to most reverend bishops and priests, and to the entire clergy, all ecclesiastical power is freely conceded that belongs to them by law or custom. Besides, it is proper to preserve for them all immunities, privileges, preferments and prerogatives granted them by Roman emperors and kings. Nor can those things that have been granted ecclesiastics by imperial munificence or gift be allowed to be infringed by any princes or any other subject of the Roman Empire. For it is most abundantly proved that ecclesiastical power in spiritual things has been founded upon divine right, of which St. Paul indeed says: “For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction,” 2 Cor. 10:8, and afterwards: “Therefore I write these things being absent, lest being present I should use sharpness, according to the power which the Lord hath given me to edification, and not to destruction, 2 Cor. 13:10. Paul also displays his coercitive disposition when he says: “What will ye? Shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love and in the spirit of meekness?” 1 Cor. 4:21. And of judicial matters he writes to Timothy: “Against an elder receive not an accusation but before two or three witnesses,” 1 Tim. 5:19. From these passages it is very clearly discerned that bishops have the power not only of the ministry of the Word of God, but also of ruling and coercitive correction in order to direct subjects to the goal of eternal blessedness. But for the power of ruling there is required the power to judge, to define, to discriminate and to decide what is expedient or conducive to the aforesaid goal.
2 In vain, therefore, and futile is all that is inserted in the present article in opposition to the immunity of churches and schools. Accordingly, all subjects of the Roman Empire must be forbidden from bringing the clergy before a civil tribunal, contrary to imperial privileges that have been conceded: for Pope Clement the Martyr says: “If any of the presbyters have trouble with one another, let whatever it be adjusted before the presbyters of the Church.” Hence Constantine the Great, the most Christian Emperor, was unwilling in the holy Council of Nice to give judgement even in secular cases. “Ye are gods,” he says, “appointed by the true God. Go, settle the case among yourselves, because it is not proper that we judge gods.” As to what is further repeated concerning Church regulations has been sufficiently replied to above. Nor does Christian liberty, which they bring forth as an argument, avail them, since this is not liberty, but prodigious license, which, inculcated on the people, excites them to fatal and most dangerous sedition. For Christian liberty is not opposed to ecclesiastical usages since they promote what is good, but it is opposed to the servitude of the Mosaic law and the servitude of sin. “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin,” says Christ, John 8:34. Hence their breaking fasts, their free partaking of meats, their neglect of canonical hours, their omission of confession – viz. at Easter – and their commission and omission of similar things, are not a use of liberty, but an abuse thereof, contrary to the warnings of St. Paul, who earnestly warned them, saying: “Brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.” Gal. 5:13. Hence no one ought to conceal his crimes under the pretext of Gospel liberty, which St. Peter also forbade: “As free, and not using your liberty for an cloak of maliciousness, but as the servant of God,” 1 Pet. 2:16. As to what they have added concerning abuses, all the princes and estates of the Empire undoubtedly know that not even the least is approved either by His Imperial Majesty or by any princes or any Christian man, but that both the princes and the estates of the Empire desire to strive with a common purpose and agreement, in order that, the abuses being removed and reformed, the excesses of both estates may be either utterly abolished or reformed for the better, and that the ecclesiastical estate, which has been weakened in many ways, and the Christian religion, which has grown cold and relaxed in some, may be restored and renewed to its pristine glory and distinction. To this, as is evident to all, His Imperial Majesty has thus far devoted the greatest care and labor, and kindly promises in the future to employ for this cause all his means and zeal.