The evil bishop, the evil Pope, and the satire of Erasmus on such creatures

I mentioned a little while ago how a Canadian episcopal bishop named Michael Bird, fervent in promoting non-Christian causes such as homosexuality in his unfortunate church, zealous in suing his congregations for daring to disapprove, seizing their property and closing the doors, is now suing a blogger who dared to criticise and satirise him, the Anglican Samizdat blog.  Few will endorse attempts by bishops to silence bloggers.  Sadly we live in an era when bishops endorse vice and harass virtue.

This evening I was browsing Anthony Grafton’s Forgers and Critics, and found mention of a work by Erasmus, Julius Excluded From Heaven.  An English translation is online here.

Pope Julius II was not a respectable person.  He was the kind of self-serving scoundrel who ignores the interests of the church he heads, instead concentrating on increasing his own wealth and power.  Such ‘Popes’ were the direct cause of the Reformation.

Erasmus’ witty remarks will strike more than a few as apposite for Bishop Michael Bird, since he seems to keen on turning churches into money and silencing critics by litigation.  Indeed they will apply, to a greater or lesser extent, to every worldly prelate.  Here are a couple of snippets:

PETER: Fine! but let’s go back a ways: you are the nephew of Sixtus.
JULIUS: Glad to confirm it; I’d like to stop the mouths of those who say I’m his son. That’s slanderous.
PETER: Slanderous indeed-unless perhaps it’s true.
JULIUS: It’s an insult to papal dignity, which must always be protected.
PETER: But I think popes should protect their own dignity by not doing anything offensive to the moral law.

And:

PETER: So the court of Rome is to be, as it were, the treasure chest of the whole world?
JULIUS: Is it such a great matter if we collect all their carnal wealth, seeing we spread our spiritual gifts far and wide?
PETER: What spiritual gifts are you talking about? Up to now I’ve heard only about worldly things. No doubt you attract men to Christ by preaching his holy word?
JULIUS: There are people who preach it, and I don’t prevent them, as long as they don’t in any way question my authority.

The litigious bishop is always a figure of fun.  Perhaps we need a  new Erasmus!

2 Responses to “The evil bishop, the evil Pope, and the satire of Erasmus on such creatures”


  1. James Snapp, Jr.

    Ah, Julius II — I was just doing some research the other day when his name came up. If you go to the CSNTM website, and look for Lectionary 117, you’ll see that this lectionary — written entirely in gold, except for some secondary pages — was given to Julius II, probably in late 1511 or early 1512.

    If you visit the images, you will see that there are several pages at the front, with a Latin dedicatory letter of some sort. This is from the bishop who gave the lectionary to Julius II (whose picture is in the margin, besides being in the main picture). Do you know of anyone who could translate these pages?

    There is a slight chance that their contents might shed some light on how Codex Vaticanus got to the Vatican Library.

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

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