Pope Innocent III’s bull Exsurge magnum shows how many composers felt when anti-papist radicals in the Council of Trent destroyed their art. The composer Agricola said that the Council’s harsh actions were “ridiculous and cruel,” but he didn’t say that he didn’t agree with the pope. In his book De Civitate Dei, St. Augustine wrote about the Expulsion of Augsburg. He said that “the people of the city of Terni feared the severity of the punishments given, and the people of the other cities that were unlucky in this way were forced to seek refuge in numbers that could not meet the needs of their sad country.” So, St. Augustine, who wanted to eliminate all individuality and make everyone a part of the state, criticized the harsh treatment of their rebellious subjects by the councilmen, especially after the Expulsion of Augsburg proved their guilt. In today’s politically correct world, it would be hard to listen to such ideas.
Reformers fought for the freedom of thought because they didn’t want to upset the pope and because they thought the councils didn’t have any authority in the matter. The scholars of the time started the colleges and universities that helped their cause because they believed in the power of the pope. The Pope is like a religious leader from the past, but he lives in the modern world. People who think the Pope responds to even the smallest amount of pressure are either wrong or trying to change the past.
Theology Donatus tells the story of a man named Don Baptista, who was a devout Catholic and a follower of St. Augustine. Don Baptista wrote to a council in Toledo about how his religion was being taught to the masses in a state called Pagina. When asked what he meant by “involuntary servitude,” he insisted that it included both the forced celibacy of the popes and the mass-produced, mindless, soulless, entertain-the-races, word-painting, blind-as-a-fool popular music of the late Middle Ages. And he was so happy with his answer! Martin Luther, a strong believer, said a long time ago, “If there is anyone among us who has not seen the most beautiful things that art can show the eye, let him go to a cathedral and ask the painter if there is anything there that is not beautiful.”
So, it turned out that the reformers of the 1600s didn’t care much about which composer did the next best word painting or which composer wrote the most beautiful music. They only cared about which one was the most honest about his religious beliefs. And that’s how things were back then. The real test of a person is whether or not he can feel the truth about what he is doing. The real test of a true Catholic is whether or not he can feel the truth about everything he does.
So, which composer did a great job of responding to the changes made by the Council of Trent?
I think that Don Marquis de La Menou’s “Parolin” was one of the most interesting responses ever written down. In this work, which came out after 1503, La Menu shows that the top leaders of the Roman Catholic Church, including the Pope, are corrupt. Don Marquis de La Menu is right about how bad things have gotten, which, along with what came before, is the best way to describe where we are now.
But what about the other works that we saw in the first part of this article to be typical of the Protestant Reformation of the 1600s? One of these is “Werdneck” by Stendhal, which was written between 1590 and 1594. Another is “Feucelle” by Bach, which was written around the same time. Even though the ideas in these pieces are well-known and most likely would have been around at the time of the Reformation, the pieces’ confusing language doesn’t take away from how important they are for understanding what happened after the Reformation. For example, Stendhal’s description of how the top leaders of the Catholic Church used the power of the mass media to trick ordinary people into believing things that were not in the reformed Bible is a key part of what has come to be called “postmodernism.”