On Heretics

Twice recently we have had discussions about “heretics” who continue “in good standing” in the Church: once in reference to Fr Küng and once (thanks to PE’s ramblings) in reference to de Lubac and Von Balthasar.

So here is today’s trick question: In what year of his life was Uldrich Zwingli declared a heretic? Why?

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35 Responses to On Heretics

  1. Fr John Fleming says:

    1524. He got married.

    • Past Elder / Terry Maher says:

      Well at least Anna Reinhard was no Adrienne von Speyr. Married three months before their first child was born — sure beats having books dictated to you by someone in a psychotic trance.

      • Peregrinus says:

        [i]Publicly[/i] married 3 months before their child was born. Remember, this was pre-Trent; clandestine marriages without clerical witnesses/celebrants were (a) not uncommon and (b) valid, and it wasn’t uncommon for them to be “ratified” by a later public ceremony of marriage.

        • Past Elder / Terry Maher says:

          Pre-Trent? Judas with a claddagh ring, I served Mass and had as a high school religion teacher during the “Council” a priest who I some forty years later find out was clandestinely married. Later left the priesthood and worked for the Church in Rome. I’m sure he just appointed himself, the RCC had nothing to do with its own staff, as the liberals had the run of everything don’t you know.

          • Peregrinus says:

            My point, Terry, is that prior to Trent the commencement of a valid marriage did not necessarily date from the ceremony. We may criticise Zwingli, a clerk in holy orders, for marrying at all, but the fact that the ceremony was only 3 months before the birth of his first child did not imply, in his time, what it implies in ours.

          • Past Elder / Terry Maher says:

            Great tonsured Judas, I did not mean to imply what it means now, but rather as you say it flaunted the requirement for clerical celibacy even as he had a petition going to drop that requirement, so yes it was about marrying at all, which his bishop instructed the civil authorities, or rather the other civil authorities, to uphold.

            The point about the timing with the birth of the child was rather that it indicates normal married activity, rather than the repressed neuroticism of Von Balthasar and Dr Von Speyr; good for him for rejecting the unnatural ritual eunuch state imposed by the Church of Rome on its woeful clergy.

  2. Past Elder / Terry Maher says:

    It is not a matter of my ramblings but a simple fact that in 1950 de Lubac was forbidden to teach or publish by the damn Jesuits, his order, and this lasted until 1959. The next year John XXIII appointed, oh proposed not imposed, the once-banned theologian to the preparatory Theological Commission for his council, was made a peritus to the council, appointed by Paul VI to its Theological Commission and finally made a cardinal by John Paul II. And that von Balthasar left the damn Jesuits and was banned from teaching by the Congregation for Seminaries and Universities but was made a cardinal by John Paul II How Do You Do and at his funeral then Cardinal Ratzinger said this shows he taught correctly. From banned from teaching to advising councils to being cardinals and teaching correctly. But of course, nothing REALLY changed.

    As to Zwingli, who cares about a pathetic Swiss priest. I would rather drink the Blood of Christ with the pope than wine with Zwingli.

  3. Fr John Fleming says:

    If not, then 1552 when J Westphal denounced him as a heretic over the question of the Real Presence or otherwise.

  4. Peregrinus says:

    If I recall correctly – and I probably don’t – there was a spat between the bishop and the civil (cantonal?) authorities over whose business it was to make a judgment of his heresy/orthodoxy, and this spat may have delayed the formulation of a ruling by either authority. Could it be that the bishop was willing to defer to the civil power until it became clear that the civil power was not going to make the judgment the bishop demanded?

  5. Past Elder / Terry Maher says:

    What the heck, bishop, cantonal authorities, all officers of the state, just which one will do it. It’s all civil, nothing of the church of Christ about it.

  6. Mmm…I don’t know that the Catholic Church to which you belong, David, has ever officially hereticised Zwingli; indeed, Dr Sasse remarked that his spirit was well in evidence at Vatican II! So, I would venture to guess that you’re thinking of the Augsburg Confession of 1530 which, following in the wake of the Marburg Colloquy of 1529 (where Luther famously rejected fellowship with Zwingli because he had “a different spirit”), decisively rejected any doctrine contrary to its Article X on the Lord’s Supper, which would have certainly included Zwingli’s position. Granted he is not mentioned there by name, but he is in the later explications of Article X in FC VII, so I think the Lutheran Church is the only church to have hereticised Zwingli – or more strictly speaking, his doctrinal position. Have I covered all the bases?

    • Schütz says:

      I believe you are correct, Mark: As far as I can make out, Zwingli was never formally excommunicated from the Church for the crime of heresy (as was Brother Martin, for eg.). He may well have been under latae sententiae excommunication, as Fr Fleming points out, but never formally or explicitly. The reason for this could well have been as Perry suggests – a spat between ecclesiastical and civil authority in Zurich – but another guess is that it had something to do with the Pope’s relationship with the Swiss, and his dependance on them for military support. Or he just wasn’t paying attention. Zwingli’s early demise in battle solved the problem of at least one “troublesome priest” anyway.

      • Peregrinus says:

        When I say there was a spat between the civil and ecclesiastical authorities over who could (or should) condemn Zwingli, I don’t mean simply the the bishop said “it’s my job” and the council said “no, it’s ours”. Remember, none of the parties to this dispute had anything like our conception of the separation of church and state, or of their respective spheres of concern. The bishop’s view, I think, was that it was the council’s job to condemn Zwingli; his objection was that they weren’t doing it and the dispute was about whether, if they persistently failed to do it, the bishop could, or should do it himself, or whether he could force them to. Remember, elsewhere in Switzerland other cantonal authorites were moving to condemn reformers, or their ideas, and the last thing the Church wanted was to undermine their authority to do so.

        So it wasn’t just a matter of the Pope’s dependence on the Swiss for military support; it was also a matter of the church’s co-dependent relationship with the State, and not just in Switzerland. This is important in the history of the reformation generally, not just in relation to Zwingli. For instance, the claim of Henry VIII that the English parliament could declare him to be (and always to have been) the head of the English church did not seem at all as bizarre to sixteenth-century Catholics as it does to us.

  7. Matthias says:

    PE i think your comments about Zwingli would be echoed by the AnaBaptists who accused him of being a traitor and turning on them. Did not Luther also have issues with Zwingli?

    • Peregrinus says:

      Yes, the reformation was a fairly fractious affair, and practically everybody picked on the poor Anabaptists, who were at the bottom of the food chain of righteous persecution.

      • “poor Anabaptists… at the bottom of the food chain of righteous persecution.” I love that image, Pere.
        I don’t seek to defend the persecution of them, but it must be noted that the early Anabaptist movement was itself known for violence and compulsion (quite unlike their modern descendants, of course). This may partly explain the vehemence of the reaction against them by Catholics, Calvinists and Lutherans at the time. The Anabaptists also represented a threat to the economic as well as the religious order of the day, which no doubt drew down an extra measure of wrath upon them from the ‘powers that be’ (or should that be the ‘powers that were’ now?).

        • Schütz says:

          The difference between Calvinists/Lutherans and the Anabaptists is often described (and well) as the difference between a “magisterial” reformation and a “radical” reformation. “Magisterial” in this sense means that they followed the authority of the “masters and magistrates”, rather than individual intuition and authority.

          • Yes, quite a valid and helpful distinction, David. Lutherans and Reformed also gained official toleration from the Holy Roman Empire, which the Anabaptists didn’t ever do, to my knowledge.
            By the way, I note that the Anabaptist presence in Australia has been growing over the last two decades; they now have their own association with a website (I mean true Anabaptist groups like the Mennonites, not just run-of-the-mill Baptists).

          • Is that “masters and magistrates” as in civic officers, or as in ecclesiastical officers (‘pastors and doctors’)? (From the contrast to following “individual intuition and authority” I expect the latter, but I might be mistaken.)

  8. Matthias says:

    i should have looked at pastor mark’s comments above mine. Oh well .Reminds me that Wesley and Augustus Toplady -the writer of ROCK OF AGES-apparently had a falling out over something. Perhaps he did not like the joy that emanates from a Wesleyan hymn when one can sing it in full voice.

  9. William Tighe says:

    The answer is “never” — but so what? Is the argument that “Zwingli was a Catholic in good standing, just as Kung is” or that “since Zwingli was never excommunicated, despite his manifest heresies, and Kung’s heresies are equally manifest, the two ‘Switzers’ are clearly purveyors of false teaching, regardless of their official status?”

    More support for my views on the absurdity of “latae sententiae” excomminications, a tleast when not followed up by immediate public notice of the same.

    • William Tighe says:

      “The answer is ‘never’ — but so what?”

      A slight qualification. Rome never excommunicated him, but I’m not quite certain that his own bishop, the Bishop of Constance, didn’t do so, although, given the man’s character and opinions:


      it seems very unlikely that he did.

      There is also another consideration that adds to its unlikelihood. Due to, on the one hand, the manner in which the Lutheran Reformation was implemented in Scandinavia and those German territories that embraced it (and even more the way in the 18th Century that “Enlightened” Lutheran princes messed about with Lutheran liturgies by abolishing various “popish” liturgical practices such as the wearing of Catholic vestments) and, on the other, the manner in which Calvinists in Scotland, the Netherlands and France resisted rulers’ suppressing or (in Scotland) controlling their churches, there is the general view that Lutherans tended to be more “acquiescent” and even “supine” in the face of civil rulers than were Calvinists. There is an element of truth to this, but “in the beginning it was not so.”

      The Lutheran “concession” of the “jus reformandi” to the prince as the “summus episcopus” was, at least on Luther’s part, a reluctant one, and one that was “justified” on a theoretical level as much by “civil law principles” (as was the “right to resistance” to Charles V from the 1530s onwards) as on “biblical” ones. In Switzerland, however, the Zurich City Council explicitly claimed for itself the right to determine matters of doctrinal truth (by deciding what views were “in accordance with Scripture”) and, subsequently, to authorize, direct and limit the “reforming” process, accepting such advice in doing so from Zwingli (or anybody else) as they cared to do. Zwingli fully accepted this, as the Christian equivalent of the OT “church polity” of Israel, and it was the same understanding that other Swiss cantons (Berne, Basel etc. — and later Geneva) accepted and acted upon when they “turned Protestant.” (Calvin, like Martin Bucer, intensely disliked such an “ecclesiology,” and fought against it in Geneva, winning only partly and qualified successes in his struggle; and in the 17th Century the Genevan government came to dominate its State Church as much as that of any other Protestant Swiss canton.) So on the theoretical level the Reformed subordinated the(ir) Church to the State to a much greater extent than did the Lutherans, although in the longer term the results were the same in both cases.

      (Fr. Fleming, I think that you are thinking of the “supper strife” in the 1550s between Calvin, on the one hand, and the Lutherans Joachim Westphal and Tileman Hesshus, on the other; Zwingli had been killed in 1531.)

      • William Tighe says:

        I didn’t get around to mentioning the point that I had in mind when I started out on my last comment. The Zurichers asserted from 1523 that the control of “their” church by their council was an aspect of their “civic sovereignty” — and, consequently, that threats by the Bishop of Constance to discipline or to excommunicate Zwingli (and others) was an attack on their political sovereignty and independence. At some point (but I don’t know when) the Zurich government formally declared that the bishop of Constance had no spiritual authority within their canton (he had never asserted any political or “feudal” authority there), since all authority in Zurich, civil and spiritual alike, was derived from god through the city council.

      • Past Elder / Terry Maher says:

        True to form — a priest marries a widow, and his bishop, a rich boy “joins the Church” as we used to say young, ends up bopping the mayor’s daughter, and writes a defence of celibacy against a priest who actually married and raised a family. Church of Christ for sure!

        While Father Zwingli seemed to be of the opinion that the moral laxity of the hierarchy invaildated any authority they might otherwise claim, it just might be precisely because of the Bishop of Konstanz’ character and opinions that he did condemn the priest (Zwingli) to distract and divert attention. from himself.

        While it may be difficult for moderns, especially American moderns, to even imagine why a city council should have any jurisdiction on church or doctrinal matters — it’s unlikely that the next Lutheran church in Omaha will need the Omaha City Council’s approval to exist per se, just get the building permits etc — the wonder is not that city councils had so much power, but that “bishops” were simply another branch of the state, nothing whatever of the overseers instituted by Christ, so it’s just another example of two civil departments in a power struggle over “turf”.

        Nothing whatever to do with the Church of Christ, and to our great deteriment Lutheran churches have been a long time in shedding the ridiculous garbage of “bishops”.

        No matter how well or bad things go for example at our upcoming convention in Houston, at least nothing will end up at the Houston City Council or in the office of whatever denominations have clowns with period costumes and pointy hats calling themselves “bishops” thereof, relics of an empire that never even existed here.

  10. Christine says:

    indeed, Dr Sasse remarked that his spirit was well in evidence at Vatican II!

    Well, Dr. Sasse always maintained that the liturgical movement was true to itself in the Catholic Church in a way it was not in the Protestant churches.

    Here’s an interesting photo of St. Matthew’s Evangelical Church, Berlin, where both Sasse and Bonhoeffer were ordained. Does anyone see a crucifix anywhere that I might have missed?



    • From the pic, it looks and feels remarkably similar to many Catholic churches constructed since Vatican II, which goes to Sasse’s point, I suppose. I wonder if the crucifix was removed in deference to Reformed sensibilities, given that St Matthew’s is now in the EKD union? Of c ourse, a crucifix is an adiaphoron, but it, or its absence, does say something, doesn’t it?

      Speaking of Sasse, and linking this thread back to the subject of the post, one can find his translation of the encounter between Zwingli and Luther at Marburg in ‘This Is My Body’, a book he wrote in English while resident in North Adelaide which is still in print and well worth the study.

      • Past Elder / Terry Maher says:

        Sasse was completely right, and the basis is why I am more vocal on my home turf against “Vatican II For Lutherans” than I am here against Vatican II for Catholics which, if there was a Protestant Reformation, ought to be called the Catholic Deformation.

        It’s good to note what was pointed out — this is a church of the EKD, another LINO (Lutheran In Name Only) body, whose latest accomplishment seems to be a woman bishop with a drunk driving ticket. Real Concordia stuff there, yeah right.

  11. Correct, Terry, although one can still find genuine Lutherans in the EKD here and there, remarkably.
    You know that Sasse left Germany to escape the EKD? Actually, he joined the Lutheran Free Church in Germany, but they didn’t have a teaching position for him, so he emigrated to Australia. Germany’s loss – our gain, although the government of the Federal Republic of Germany did award Sasse the Order of Merit in 1972 in recognition of his contribution to German scholarship. Almost 60 years earlier he had been awarded another honour: the Iron Cross (2nd class) in recognition of his bravery on the battlefront in WWI.
    Which in a way brings us back to Zwingli; was it a mark of divine displeasure that he died in such a way? “Those who live by the sword…”

    • Past Elder / Terry Maher says:

      Yes, I agree Pastor, one can find genuine Lutherans in the EKD, and also in the ELCA here, and for that matter one can find genuine Christians in the RCC.

      Which in no case changes the nature of these disgusting bodies.

      The ELFK had a long history of association with my church body, LCMS, and many of its pastors trained in our seminaries, which in turn had been founded by Germans, until its own seminary opened in Leipzig in 1920 or so.

      To-day it is a member of the KELK (or CELC in English) whose American members are the Wisconsin Synod and the ELS. There is a similar church body formed in then-West Germany, the SELK, which is part of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) to which we belong too. The two churches and councils are not in fellowship, which I suspect has more to do with their respective origins in the former East and West Germanies and our sellowship with the originally West German SELK than any of the alleged differences in doctrine, as we both stand against the distortions of the RCC and the woeful state of the LWF and its member bodies and associated trends.

      Personally, the KELK was my first window into Lutheranism beyond WELS where I first professed the evangelical faith, and the ELFK Small Catechism German text is still the one to which I link on my site for the catechism in the original.

      • Yes, I’m sure Sasse joined the Breslau Synod, Terry, which has now become part of the SELK.
        Ironic isn’t it, all these bodies having the same confession of faith and yet not being in communion? (I’m not including the ELCA here, as surely they are only historically Lutheran now, not confessionally so). That was one of Sasse’s great achievments in Australia you know, helping to unite the LC-MS-aligned ‘Evangelical Lutheran Church of Australia’ and the American Lutheran Church-aligned ‘United Evangelical Lutheran Church Australia’. That’s right, the influence of the great mid-western American Lutheran synods even reached down under!

  12. Christine says:

    If our bloghost will pardon me for a bit of a departure from the subject at hand to address Pastor Henderson’s comments:

    From the pic, it looks and feels remarkably similar to many Catholic churches constructed since Vatican II, which goes to Sasse’s point, I suppose.

    Yes, after Vatican II there were certainly Catholic parishes that reflected the immediate aftermath of the Council. Fortunately, a new and younger group of architects in the U.S. has returned to designing Catholic churches with authentic catholicity in mind. Two such examples are here:



    I wonder if the crucifix was removed in deference to Reformed sensibilities, given that St Matthew’s is now in the EKD union? Of course, a crucifix is an adiaphoron, but it, or its absence, does say something, doesn’t it?

    Most likely that is the case. The Evangelical Lutheran parish (one a magnificent Gothic Catholic structure) in which I was baptized in Germany is also a member of the EKD and now reflects that environment.

    For a Catholic a crucifix is not an adiaphoron. The bishops have instructed that a crucifix must be present in the sanctuary.

    This is more what I had in mind as regards the comments Sasse made about the Liturgical Movement in the Catholic church:

    The real source of her vitality in this
    remnant of her primitive heritage in spite of all these things and which she still retains and which she knows hoe to renew again and again: The profound truth of the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament of the Altar. It is one of the most noteworthy signs of the times that the Roman Catholic church seeks to make the center of her spiritual life precisely that primitive and Scriptural tenet which Blessed Martin Luther so doughtily defended against Zwingli and the sixteenth century Enthusiasts

    It is one of the essentials that drew me back to the Catholic Church as I found more and more LCMS parishes here adopting the American evangelical model.


    • Christine,

      I feel constrained to say that you should look for the church with the eyes of faith and not the aesthetic senses; the church is present wherever the pure Gospel is preached and the sacraments rightly administered (which excludes Rome’s sacrificial doctrine of the Mass) , regardless of how poor her liturgy is (Loehe).

      In regard to the direction of the LC-MS, the LC-MS can at least repent of its mistakes, an option which is not so easy for Rome to take:

      “Which error is worse, that of Rome or that of modern Protestantism? However we answer, one thing is clear: Rome can interpret but not revoke one of its doctrines; they are “irreformable” and must abide until the Last Judgment. But what of Protestantism? A Church of the Reformation is, or ought to be, a repenting church. Can our churches still repent? Or is their day for repentance forever past? Thank God, if they will “hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches”, they can yet return, by His grace, to the Word of God.”
      Hermann Sasse, The Inspiration of Holy Scripture, 1962.

      ‘Ecclesia semper reformanda’


  13. Past Elder / Terry Maher says:

    I see a lot of traditional looking furniture, clothing and curly-qs, but nothing clearly Catholic as distinct from anything else.

    Unfortunately, Sasse could say what he said, and is correct, precisely because he sees Real Presence from a Lutheran point of view, not a Catholic one, and if a Lutheran finds what Luther defended as the Real Presence, it is a sign of the times that the Catholic Church has abandoned what it doughtily defended, and now includes what it revised the Mass at Trent to make sure it would never include.

    The difference between the first and second picture posts is one of degree, not kind. A Protestantism that still has room for a pope and other accoutrements of Imperial culture.

  14. Christine says:

    Pastor Henderson,

    A Catholic knows that the Mass is the Mass, whether celebrated in a magnificent cathedral or by a military chaplain on top of a Jeep, which my husband said he experienced as one of the most reverent Masses he ever attended while he was serving in Viet Nam.

    First you point out some Catholic parishes looked very un-Catholic in the aftermath of Vatican II and then say that I am hung up on aesthetics when I point out that there is a renewal going on in Catholic architecture. Which is it to be?

    Having had one Lutheran and one Catholic parent I think I have a bit of experience in both since my feet have walked in both worlds. I am under no compunction to accept the Lutheran view of what the Mass is and isn’t.

    Yes, the church is always in need of reformation. There are fundamental differences between Wittenberg and Rome as to how we view that.

    Peace, Pastor


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