Thursday, March 06, 2014

The Peasants Revolt vs. The St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre

Over the years I've come across a number of Roman Catholics using Luther's harsh comments towards the peasants as means of discrediting him.  I've covered this a lot of the years, for instance:

Luther and the Peasant's War

Luther and the Peasants Revolt

Luther: I Have Slain all the Peasants

Luther: Peasants are no better than straw

I'm looking forward to the next Roman Catholic I come across doing this, because this is what I'll be responding with.

St. Bartholomew's Day massacre happened in 1572. Though that massacre included "Roman Catholic mob violence," this isn't what I find interesting. Rather, it's the following from Alister McGrath:
Protestantism’s prejudices against Catholicism were reinforced by the bizarre reaction of the papacy to the massacre in France. Gregory XIII’s celebration of the massacre was as jubilant as it was undiplomatic: the bells of Rome rang out to mark a public day of thanksgiving, the guns of the Castel Sant’ Angelo were fired in salute, and a special commemorative medal was struck to honor the occasion. Gregory even commissioned Giorgio Vasari to paint a mural depicting the massacre. Such tactless actions could not fail to produce a reaction of total distaste and disgust, and the 'anti-popery' that subsequently spread throughout Protestant regions of Europe remained a persistent element of Protestant self-definition until very recently. [McGrath, Alister. Christianity's Dangerous Idea (p. 131). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
Now, here's a little background on Gregory XIII, compliments of the Catholic Encyclopedia. Most remember him as the pope that strove to reform the Roman church. That included "trying to depose the queen by force of arms." And also:
His youth was not stainless. While still at Bologna, a son, named Giacomo, was born to him of an unmarried woman. Even after entering the clerical state he was worldly-minded and fond of display. But from the time he became pope he followed in the footsteps of his holy predecessor, and was thoroughly imbued with the consciousness of the great responsibility connected with his exalted position.
Interestingly, the Catholic Encyclopedia attempts to defend Gregory over the 1572 massacre, arguing "...he was probably not acquainted with the circumstances of the Parisian horrors." Why sure... that's why he had this painting commissioned (shown above). The author of the link previously cited claims the painting still hangs on wall inside the Vatican (I'm not sure whether that's true or not). Probably the most interesting stretch from the Catholic Encyclopedia is that "But even if Gregory XIII was aware of all the circumstances of the massacre (which has never been proven), it must be borne in mind that he did not rejoice at the bloodshed, but at the suppression of a political and religious rebellion."


explorer said...

I saw a discussion where a RC blogger claims that:

"Its not the church that sent the people to massacre. The massacre was due to overzealous sinners"

and that

"the church remains holy and untainted, despite its sons and daughters committing sins"

and that

"when the church's members commit sins, the church mourns and is disfigured, but the church remains holy".

What are your thoughts on this?

James Swan said...

I would want to see the context of the argument that was presented. It reminds me of the who executed John Huss question. Romanists claim they didn't do it, but he was executed because of the infallible declaration of the Council of Constance

The Catechism of the Catholic Church includes "those who are pilgrims on earth" as part of the communion of saints (954, 962). See also 825: "The Church on earth is endowed already with a sanctity that is real though imperfect. In her members perfect holiness is something yet to be acquired."

I can only speak from my Reformed perspective, that on face value their isn't much disagreement with the overall idea that the saints on earth still sin. Of course, for Romanism, the entire paradigm of "church" is bathed in her false soteriology, so when it's all fleshed out, the idea of "church" shows a lot dissimilarities with my Reformed view.

Paul said...


I'm away from my library so I have to rely on memory. But I'm fairly confident in these facts:

1. The pope called for the bells at the Vatican to be rung in celebration of the massacre. as well as saying masses in celebration of the event.

2. The vatican issued coins in commemoration of the event.

It was a very dark event for Catholics that had support from the very top.