CHAPTER VI. HENRY VIII (ii), 1509-32 - BIRTH OF THE REFORMATION
The Lutherans proper had emphatically dissociated themselves from the zealots who stirred up the "peasants' war," which did not alter the general attitude of the Germans on the religious question. But in England, these things had a serious effect. The Lutheran heresies were condemned as heresies in this country before the outbreak, and a considerable number of heretically inclined Englishmen took refuge in the German States, where they looked to find countenance. Being for the most part men of extreme tendencies, those tendencies were quickened; whence it resulted that in importing the new religious doctrines from Germany they combined them more or less with the doctrines of social revolution. Thus the distinction between the two movements was lost sight of, and the profession of the new doctrines was regarded as not merely heretical but in itself anarchical - a thing which must be suppressed in the interests of public order. Hence we find the curious paradox of Thomas More, the one-time advocate of a toleration which was obviously in accord with his instincts, becoming in course of time the advocate and agent of a rigorous intolerance and a relentless persecution.
[Sidenote 1: 1525 The Empire and the papacy] [Sidenote 2: 1527 The sack of Rome]
The Peasants' Revolt was crushed in the summer of 1525. Before this end was accomplished, the Good Elector passed away - a wise, kindly, tolerant man who had exercised an immense moderating influence by simple benignity, shrewdness, and force of character. A little earlier, the ambitious schemes of Francis I. had been shattered by the disaster of Pavia. In effect, the whole European situation was changed completely since the death of Leo X. in 1521. His successor Adrian was a man of good intentions but limited purview; the great issues at stake were beyond his grasp, and his attempts at disciplinary reforms were made nugatory by the stolid immobility of the hierarchy. After a brief reign he was succeeded by Clement VII., a man of considerable talent and inconsiderable ability: a man shifty and fearful, not fitted to cope with the stubborn wills of the reigning princes and their ministers, or with the moral and intellectual forces which were threatening the supremacy of the historic Church. The collapse of the French in Italy gave Charles a power which filled Clement with alarm, since his friendliness was no longer of political moment to the Emperor, while sentimental considerations would certainly not suffice to retain the active support of Wolsey and England. In 1526 the insecurity of his position was emphasised by the attitude of the Imperial Diet held at Spires, where Charles through his brother Ferdinand withdrew from the position of anti-Lutheranism to adopt that of impartial toleration, and it was decreed in effect that each Prince might sanction what religion he would, within his own territories; thus cancelling the Decree of Worms. The capture and occupation of Rome by troops mainly Spanish in the same year, despite the Emperor's repudiation, was another alarming symptom; which received a terrifying confirmation in 1527, when the Imperial troops, Spanish and German, headed by the "Lutheran" Frundsberg and the Constable of Bourbon, turned their arms upon the Holy City, stormed it, sacked it with a savage thoroughness unparalleled since the days of Alaric, and held the Pope himself a prisoner.
[1530 Diet of Augsburg]
Thus the Pope himself was now not merely dominated by the Emperor but actually in his hands. The successes of Charles however urged Francis - who had been liberated in 1526 - to renewed activity, and for a time it seemed not unlikely that he would recover his ascendency in Italy, a consummation as little to Clement's taste as the Imperial dominance. But the French King misused his opportunities and his armies met with fresh disasters. In 1529, the Pope and the Emperor were reconciled, with the result that at another Diet of Spires the Worms edict was revived and the last Spires edict revoked, in face of the protest of the Lutheran Princes which earned for them the title of Protestants. That party however was sufficiently strong to prevent its opponents from enforcing the decree over the Empire. At the Diet of Augsburg next year (1530) the decree was confirmed: the Protestants replying by drawing up the Confession of Augsburg, formulating their doctrines, a document which became the definite expression of Protestantism in the least general sense of the term - while they bound themselves for mutual support in the League of Schmalkald. The two parties seemed to be on the verge of war; but the sentiment of nationality in face of the threatening of a Turkish advance and of the non-German leanings of Charles - a sentiment most zealously preached by Luther who was a typical German patriot as well as a religious reformer - deferred the rupture till after Luther's death.
[The Swiss Reformers, 1520-1530]