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Charles V: Edict of Worms on Condemning Heresy and Those Who Challenge Ecclesiastical and Secular Authority

January 1, 1521

Edict and mandate of Charles, Fifth of this name, Emperor Elect of the Romans, ordered and written on the imperial day celebrated in the city of Worms. Against Brother Martin Luther of the order of the Saint Augustinian Eremites, reviver of the old and condemned heresies and inventor of new ones.

Against each and every one of the books and writings under the name of the said Luther already published or to be published, and also against those who henceforth will print, buy, or sell those books and writings.

[…I]t is our duty to help subdue the enemies of our faith and bring them to the obedience of the divine majesty, magnifying the glory of the cross and the passion of our Lord (insofar as we are able), and to keep the Christian religion pure from all heresy or suspicion of heresy, according to and following the ordinance and custom observed by the Holy Roman Church.

For…if we do not put an end to this contagious confusion, it could lead to the corrupting of all faithful nations and to their falling into abominable schisms.

[…] He [Pope Leo X] declared that those books, in whatever language they are written, would have to be burned and taken out of the people’s memory forever… As such, he [Luther] would have to be arrested, and, consistent with the ordinance and the rights, he would have to be punished according to the contents of the apostolic bulls.

[Luther] destroys all civil police and hierarchical and ecclesiastical order, so that people are led to rebel against their superiors, spiritual and temporal, and to start killing, stealing, and burning, to the great loss and ruin of public and Christian good. Furthermore, he institutes a way of life by which people do whatever they please, like beasts. They behave like men living without any law, condemning and despising all civil and canon laws to the extent that Luther, by excessive presumption, has publicly burned the decretals and (as we might expect) would have burned the imperial civil law had he not had more fear of the imperial and royal swords than he had of apostolic excommunication.

[…] For this reason, and to kill this mortal pestilence, we ask and require that no one dare to compose, write, print, paint, sell, buy, or have printed, written, sold, or painted, from now on in whatever manner such pernicious articles so much against the holy orthodox faith and against that which the Catholic Apostolic Church has kept and observed to this day. We likewise condemn anything that speaks against the Holy Father, against the prelates of the church, and against the secular princes, the general schools and their faculties, and all other honest people, whether in positions of authority or not. And in the same manner we condemn everything that is contrary to the good moral character of the people, to the Holy Roman Church, and to the Christian public good.

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