In the meantime Leo X. who had learned from his representative the result of the Augsburg interviews, issued the Bull, Cum postquam (9 Nov., 1518), in which he explained authoritatively the Catholic doctrine on Indulgences, and threatened excommunication against all who refused to accept it. This document was deprived of much of its effect owing to the misrepresentations of Luther and his friends, who announced that it owed its origin to the schemes and intrigues of their Dominican opponents at Rome and in Germany. The occasion called for speedy and decisive action. But the impending imperial election, in which Charles I. of Spain (1516-56) and Francis I. of France (1515- 47) were to be rival candidates, made it necessary for the Pope to proceed cautiously, and above all, to do nothing that might antagonise the Elector of Saxony, whose influence would be of the greatest importance in deciding the votes of the electoral college, if, indeed, it did not secure his own election. Had the appointment of a successor to Maximilian I. rested with Leo X. it can hardly be doubted that, in the hope of preserving the balance of power and of securing the freedom of the Holy See, he would have favoured the claims of the Elector against either or both the rival monarchs.[15]

In these circumstances it was decided to send Karl von Miltitz,[16] who was by birth a Saxon nobleman and at that period a chamberlain at the Papal Court, to present Frederick with the Golden Rose, and to bring about a peaceful settlement of a controversy that had been disturbing the whole Empire. The selection of Miltitz for such a delicate mission was most unfortunate. Proud, obstinate, and ill- informed about the real issues at stake, he was anxious to have the glory of putting an end to the controversy at all costs, and hence he was willing to appear before Luther as a humble suitor for peace rather than as a stern judge. All his severity and reproaches were reserved for Luther's opponents, especially for Tetzel, whom he held primarily responsible for the whole mischief, and towards whom he acted both imprudently and unjustly. The Elector showed himself but little inclined to respond to the advances of Leo X. He consented, however, to arrange an interview between Miltitz and Luther at Altenburg (Jan. 1519). During the course of the interviews that took place between them, Luther pledged himself to remain silent if his opponents were forced to do likewise. He promised, too, that if Miltitz wrote advising the Pope to appoint a German bishop to try the case and to convince him of his error he would be willing to retract his theses, to submit to the Church, and to advise all his supporters to remain loyal to the Holy See. At the same time he prepared a letter for transmission to Rome, in which he addressed the Pope in the most respectful terms, declaring as on oath before God and creatures that it never entered into his mind to attack in any way the authority of the Roman Church or of the Pope, that he confessed willingly that in this Church was vested supreme jurisdiction, and that neither in heaven or on earth was there anything he should put before it except Jesus Christ the Lord of all things.[17] Throughout these proceedings it is clear that Luther meant only to deceive Miltitz and to lull the suspicions of the Roman authorities, until the seed he had planted should have taken root. Only a short time before he had written to a friend, hinting that the Pope was the real Anti-Christ mentioned by St. Paul in the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, and asserting his ability to prove that he who ruled at the Roman Court was worse than the Turk.[18]

Several months passed and no further steps were taken by Rome to meet the crisis. This delay was due in great measure to the death of Maximilian I. (1519), and to the sharp contest that ensued. The two strongest candidates were Charles I., King of Spain, who as son of Philip the Handsome (son of Maximilian), and of Joanna of Castile (daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella), was ruler of Spain, the Netherlands, Austria, and Naples, and Francis I., King of France. For centuries the Pope had striven to prevent the union of Naples and the Empire, and with good reason, for such a union must prove almost of necessity highly detrimental to the safety of the Papal States and the independence of the Holy See. For this reason, if for no other, Leo X. did not favour the candidature of Charles. Nor could he induce himself to display any enthusiasm for the cause of Francis I., whose intervention in Italian affairs the Pope had good grounds to dread. As against the two the Pope endeavoured to induce the princes to elect one of their own number, preferably the Elector of Saxony. But the Elector showed no anxiety to accept such a responsible office, and in the end Charles succeeded in winning over to his side the majority of the princes. He was elected and proclaimed Emperor under the title of Charles V. (1519).