By Luther W. Martin
From May 17, 1410 until May 29, 1415, Baldasarre Cossa served as the “pope” of the Roman Catholic Church. Cossa took the name “Pope John XXIII” and was one of the Pisan line of Popes during the Great Schism (1378-1417).
The Popes Rule From France For Seventy Years!
From 1305 until 1370, the Popes had reigned from the city of Avignon, France. The Popes during this three generation span, were all Frenchmen, and included: Clement V, John XXII, Benedict XII, Clement VI, Innocent VI, Urban V, and Gregory XI.
The Story of the Great Schism!
The Church was torn from top to bottom by the schism, both sides in good faith (it was impossible to know to whom allegiance was due), which lasted with its two lines of popes (and at one time three) till the election of Martin V in 1417 (Catholic Dictionary by Attwater, Macmillan, 1952, p. 452).
During the “Great Schism” contenders for the Papal throne represented the Pisan line, the Roman line, and the Avignon line. On June 26, 1409, the Council of Pisa elected the Archbishop of Milan, as Pope, under the name Alexander V. He reigned less than a year, and died May 3, 1410. Meanwhile, a Pope of the Avignon line, Benedict XIII; and another of the Roman line, Gregory XII also reigned. As soon as Alexander V died, a three day conclave at the castle of Bologna elected Cossa as Pope John XXIII.
The Roman Church Would Like To Forget The First John 23rd!
John XXIII created eighteen new cardinals during his reign. He also convoked the Council of Constance, in the German city by that name, which held its first session November 16, 1414.
The solitary permanent achievement of the council (Constance), was its condemnation of John Wyclif (A History of the Church, by Philip Hughes, Vol. III, Sheed & Ward, 1947, p. 280).
The Council of Constance deposed John XXIII, on May 29, 1415; and deposed Gregory XII, on July 4, 1415. Then, for a period of two years and nine months, there was no pope and the Council of Constance was the ruling body of the Catholic Church.
A Catholic Publication Makes Some Embarrassing Admissions!
There now existed the sad spectacle, so tragic to Christendom (Roman Catholicism, LWM), of three great prelates, each supported by a considerable party, claiming the papal honor. John, for a time, had the greatest following, although today (1942 A.D.), with the clouds of contemporary confusion and distortion and clamor removed, Pope Gregory stands as the validly elected pontiff. How then was the dilemma to be solved? Surely not by the entrance of John XXIII upon the historic stage for ‘of all the miserable consequences of the disastrous Synod of Pisa,’ states Pastor, ‘this election was the worst.’ John was not, indeed, the moral monster his enemies afterwards endeavored to represent him, but he was utterly worldly minded and completely engrossed by temporal interests. An astute politician and courtier, he was not scrupulously conscientious and was more of a soldier than a churchman.
The Council of Constance was probably the greatest assemblage of its kind ever yet convened. At the Imperial invitation came cardinals and prelates of the three obediences (Pisan, Roman, and Avignon, LWM) and significantly there also came ambassadors from seven kingdoms. The balloting was not the privilege alone of the great and care was taken to allow each nation an equitable share in the discussions. Indeed the convention can be said to have been conducted on democratic lines for to offset the schemes of a highly placed few, votes were given to parish priests and representative laymen and doctors of divinity as well as to ambassadors and prelates. John arrived with a great display of pomp to preside at the assembly but instead of a submissive flock he found an unfriendly throng, united in its intention to oppose him.
A long document, accusing him of almost every crime, had been drawn up by canonists, and realizing the campaign against him the second pope of Pisa accepted defeat: fearing for his personal safety he ignominiously fled the conference (Pageant of the Popes, by John Farrow, Sheed & Ward, 1942, pp. 202-203).
An English Archbishop Writes To John 23rd!
Archbishop Arundel is cited as an authority for the fact of Wyclif’s translation on the strength of the letter which, conjointly with the English bishops, he wrote to Pope John XXIII. In 1412, in forwarding the list of grave errors which a Commission of twelve Oxford theologians had detected in the works of Wyclif (The Old English Bible and Other Essays, by Francis Aidan Gasquet, George Bell & Sons, 1908, p. 145).
John Hus Executed By Council Of Constance!
. . . John Hus was now thirty-three years of age, rector of the university (of Prague – LWM), and incumbent of the Bethlehem Church lately founded for the preaching of sermons in Czech, and already, through the sermons and lectures of Hus, ‘a university for the people.’ Hus was not a particularly good theologian, but he was a great orator and preacher, a severe critic of the ways of his clerical brethren and a man of extremely austere life. Once he was won over to the English theories (Wyclif’s – LWM) all Prague would soon be taking sides for or against them.
The fight opened when, in the next year (1403), the ecclesiastical authority in the Czech capital condemned the twenty-four Wyclifite theses condemned at Oxford in 1382 and another twenty-one also extracted from his works. There was a second condemnation in 1405, at the demand of Innocent VII, and a third in 1408. Hus had accepted the condemnation of 1403, but five years as a reformer had turned him into an extremist. The clergy’s attachment to goods, he was now saying, was heresy, and as for Wyclif – who had thundered against it in much the same terms – Hus prayed to be next to him in heaven. Hus was now suspended from preaching, but as the king continued to favour him he disregarded the prohibition. There was a schism in the university – where the German, anti-Czech element was strongly anti-Wyclif – and presently a solemn burning of Wyclifite literature. Hus was now excommunicated, first by the Archbishop of Pragt!e and then by Cardinal Colonna acting for John XXIII, and Prague was laid under an interdict, so long as he (Hus) remained there. In 1411 he appealed from the pope to a General Council; in 1412 a still heavier excommunication was pronounced against him; he began to organize his following among the Czech nobles, and when, at the king’s request, he left Prague, it was to spread his teachings by sermons in the country villages and the fields. Prague, and indeed all Bohemia, were now in great confusion. The king still supported Hus and exiled his Catholic opponents, even putting two of them to death, and the crisis was the first topic to occupy the General Council summoned at Rome by John XXIII in 1413, from which came a fresh condemnation of Wyclifite doctrine. When it was announced by the emperor that a new council was to meet at Constance, Hus declared that he could appear before it, to defend the truth of this teaching, and on October 11, 1414, with body of associates and an escort of Czech nobles, he set out from Prague. He reached Constance on November 3, two days after the solemn entry of John XXIII. For both of them the city was to prove a prison, but for Hus a prison (from) whence he was to go forth only to his execution.
The story of the trial of John Hus at the Council of Constance is too important in its detail to risk a summary history’s distortion of it. His heresy was manifest and the longer the discussions continued the more clearly it was proved. He refused to abandon his beliefs, and, declared a heretic, on July 6, 1415, he was handed over for execution to the town authorities, and burnt at the stake that same day. One year later his associate, Jerome of Prague, a layman, after trial before the council, suffered the like fate (A History of the Church, by Philip Hughes, Sheed & Ward, 1947, pp. 312-313).
Catholic Council Seeks Vengeance Against Wyclif!
It was in the eighth session (May 4, 1415) of this same Catholic Council of Constance that decreed some thirty years after Wyclif’s death, that his body was to be dug up, and his remains were to be burned, and his ashes scattered in the stream which flows by Lutterworth.
Summary Of Actions By Pope XXIII (1410-1415)
Archbishop Arundel wrote to Pope John XXII in 1412, concerning the alleged false teaching of the late John Wyclif.
John XXIII summoned a General Council at Rome in 1413, which issued condemnations of Wyclif and Hus.
John XXIII created eighteen new cardinals during his reign.
John XXIII presided at the early sessions of the Council of Constance (1414-1418), which had John Hus burned at the stake; had John Wyclif’s remains exhumed, burned and scattered; and which also had Jerome of Prague executed.
Pope John XXIII Duplicated!
In the year of 1958, the Roman Catholic Church was headed by another John the 23rd. He died in 1963.
There is no record of a Pope John XX. Why didn’t they use that Roman numeral?
Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 3, pp. 74-75
February 1, 1990