Letter of Pope Adrian VI to Francis Chieregato

The Scriptures complain that the sins of the people come from the sins of the priest, and, therefore (as Chrysostom says), our Saviour, when He was about the cure the sickness of the city of Jerusalem, went to the temple to chastize first of all the sins of the priests, like a good physician, who cures disease by going to its root. We know that in this Holy See there have been many abominations these many years – abuses in spiritual things, excessive decrees, and everything perverted; nor is there any wonder if the disease has descended from the head to the members; from the supreme pontiffs to other prelates of lower rank. We all have gone aside everyone to his own ways, and there was none that did good, no, not one. Therefore it is necessary that we all give glory to God and humble our souls before Him, and each of us see whence he has fallen, and rather judge himself than await the judgment of God in the rod of His anger.

In this matter, so far as we are concerned, thou wilt promise that We shall spare no pains that this curia, from which, perchance, this whole evil has emanated, shall be reformed first of all, so that the health and reformation of all may also emanate from it. We feel ourselves the more bound to bring this about because We see that the whole world eagerly desires this kind of a reformation. We were never ambitious for this pontificate (as We believe We had told thee elsewhere), and so far as We were ourselves concerned We should have preferred to lead a private life and to serve God in retirement; indeed, We should have utterly refused the pontificate if the fear of God and the purity of our election and the danger that schisms might have arisen out of our refusal had not compelled us to accept it. Therefore We took upon us the yoke of the supreme dignity, not from lust of power, nor for the purpose of enriching our relatives, but with the intention of obeying God’s will, of reforming the deformed Church, His bride, of succoring the oppressed, of promoting and honoring learned and virtuous men who have for a long time been neglected, and of doing everything else that a good Pope and legitimate successor of St. Peter ought to do.

No one should be surprised, however, if he sees that We do not immediately correct all the wrongs and abuses. The disease is too deep-seated; it is not simple but has many complications; its cure must proceed slowly and the most serious and dangerous symptoms must be combated first, lest in our desire to reform everything at once we turn everything upside down. Sudden changes are dangerous in a state, says Aristotle, and he who blows his nose too hard draws blood.

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