Erasmus

It would seem by his writings that Erasmus, one of the most well-known people in western Europe in the early part of the 16th century, would have welcomed the Reformation. Consider the views expressed in his most famous work, "The Praise of Folly." He ridiculed popes, bishops and cardinals, claiming they are "highly in love with themselves." He called monastic orders "brainsick fools" who have very little religion in them. He says of Popes, "their only weapons ought to be those of the Spirit." Later, Erasmus wrote a satire that described the failure of Julius II to get into heaven. Summarizing his feelings, he wrote in a private letter that, "The monarchy of Rome, as it is now, is a pestilence to Christendom." As a consequence, any teacher using the writings of Erasmus in the classroom was subject to execution on the spot, by order of the Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian. But just as Michelangelo and other artists were dependent on the Church for support (money for housing, food, etc.), so was Erasmus. It would seem Erasmus was biting the hand that fed him. But he took it on the condition that he would remain an intellectual independent. Erasmus invested heavily in the power of logic. He believed every problem should be studied, researched, debated and discussed. Despite his "fame" (if such a thing could exist in the 1500s), He was not someone who wished the attention of anyone else. Yet when Luther sent waves across Europe with his Ninety-Five Theses, many critics charged Erasmus with inciting such "heresy." Erasmus wrote to Luther, "I have testified to them [the critics] that you are entirely unknown to me, that I have not read your books. and neither approve or disapprove of your writings, but that they [the critics] should read them before the speak so loudly...It was no use; they are as mad as ever...I am myself the chief object of animosity." Luther scorned Erasmus in his reply, writing Erasmus is a dreamer who "thinks that all can be accomplished with civility and benevolence."