*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***

It is the 27th of July. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac, brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I’m Adam Francisco in for Dan van Voorhis.

Today on Christian History Almanac, we look at a moment in medieval church history, for on this day in 1417, Pope Benedict XIII was deposed. It’s hard to think that the church of Rome would depose a pope. They are, after all, in the catholic view, the vicar of Christ and top of the ecclesiastical hierarchy in an institution that is by no means democratic in any way. Nevertheless, it was necessary.

And indeed it was. Let’s go back a century. In 1309, Pope Clement V moved the papacy to the French city of Avignon, where it remained until Gregory XI moved it back to Rome in 1376. Two years later, when Gregory died, a certain faction who hated his replacement, a pope named Urban VI, elected Clement VII as the Pope in Avignon. There were now two popes with their own bureaucracy in two different cities.

This began what is known as the Western Schism. It was a debacle for a number of reasons, not the least being that, according to the official papal proclamation, salvation was contingent upon a Christian’s submission to the holy father. This was a problem. Which of the popes was the true one? Which one held the keys to your forgiveness and ensured your right standing before God?

Confusion, suspicion, and even hatred of the church increased year after year for nearly three decades. Finally, officials decided to fix the problem. It took several attempts, but finally, a council was assembled in the city of Pisa in central Italy in the years 1409. The council declared both the Roman and Avignon popes as schismatics, heretics, and scandalous liars. It demanded that they both step down in favor of a new Pope the council had just elected named Alexander V.

But they didn’t. So now in 1409, there were three popes. The Pisan pope worked his tail off organizing yet another council. It was decided that they would meet again in the southern German city of Constance. Finally, after three years of negotiations, the resignation of the Roman and Pisan Pope, and on July 27th forced deposing of the Avignon Pope, Martin the V was elected as Holy Roman Pontiff. There was now just one Pope. (Sort of. A few more will contend with being pope in France throughout the 15th century, but they were all ignored.)

As a side note, it was also at the Council of Constance where John Hus was burned at stake (a few weeks before Benedict XIII was deposed) for his criticism of the corruption of the papacy. It took another century for Martin Luther to begin his criticism of the church in his day and age.

And now a reading from Psalm 44.

O God, we have heard with our ears,
our fathers have told us,
what deeds you performed in their days,
in the days of old:
2 you with your own hand drove out the nations,
but them you planted;
you afflicted the peoples,
but them you set free;
3 for not by their own sword did they win the land,
nor did their own arm save them,
but your right hand and your arm,
and the light of your face,
for you delighted in them.

4 You are my King, O God;
ordain salvation for Jacob!
5 Through you we push down our foes;
through your name we tread down those who rise up against us.
6 For not in my bow do I trust,
nor can my sword save me.
7 But you have saved us from our foes
and have put to shame those who hate us.
8 In God we have boasted continually,
and we will give thanks to your name forever. Selah

9 But you have rejected us and disgraced us
and have not gone out with our armies.
10 You have made us turn back from the foe,
and those who hate us have gotten spoil.
11 You have made us like sheep for slaughter
and have scattered us among the nations.
12 You have sold your people for a trifle,
demanding no high price for them.
13 You have made us the taunt of our neighbors,
the derision and scorn of those around us.
14 You have made us a byword among the nations,
a laughingstock[b] among the peoples.
15 All day long my disgrace is before me,
and shame has covered my face
16 at the sound of the taunter and reviler,
at the sight of the enemy and the avenger.

17 All this has come upon us,
though we have not forgotten you,
and we have not been false to your covenant.
18 Our heart has not turned back,
nor have our steps departed from your way;
19 yet you have broken us in the place of jackals
and covered us with the shadow of death.
20 If we had forgotten the name of our God
or spread out our hands to a foreign god,
21 would not God discover this?
For he knows the secrets of the heart.
22 Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.

23 Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord?
Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever!
24 Why do you hide your face?
Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?
25 For our soul is bowed down to the dust;
our belly clings to the ground.
26 Rise up; come to our help!
Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love!

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 27th of July brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.

The show is produced by Christopher Gillespie and written by Adam Francisco.

You can catch us here every day. And remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true. In the end, everything is going to be ok.