John Huss

Attacks on the Church

In his sermons Huss attacked the abuses of the clergy, thus earning the hostility of many priests, who turned the archbishop of Prague against him. Huss, however, had the support of Wenceslaus IV (see Wenceslaus, Holy Roman emperor). He furthermore represented the Czech national aspirations in conflict with the German elements in Bohemia. In 1408 the archbishop and the university opposed the king's scheme to have Bohemia observe neutrality between the rival popes Gregory XII and Benedict XIII (Pedro de Luna). Only the Czech members of the university supported Wenceslaus, who as a result changed (1409) the university charter, giving the Czechs a predominant position; he made Huss rector of the university. The Bohemian clergy thus were split into two groups.

This situation was not helped when, in the same year, the Council of Pisa deposed both popes and chose Pietro Cardinal Philarghi as Alexander V, who was shortly succeeded by Baldassare Cardinal Cossa as John XXIII. With papal support, the archbishop forbade preaching in the Bethlehem Chapel, ordered the burning of Wyclif's books, and excommunicated (1410) Huss and his followers. Wenceslaus stood by Huss and in 1411 brought about a truce, but the fight flared up again in 1412, when Huss openly denounced the bulls of the antipope John XXIII against King Lancelot of Naples and preached against indulgences.

The pope excommunicated Huss, who—to save Prague from the papal interdict—retired to a castle near Tabor. During his two years of exile he wrote his chief works, including the De ecclesia, which increasingly reflected Wyclif's influence. He denied the infallibility of an immoral pope, asserted the ultimate authority of Scripture over the church, and accorded the state the right and duty to supervise the church. Because of these ideas he is generally considered a forerunner of the Protestant Reformation.

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