Carmelite Chronicles Protestantism in Other Provinces

October 9, 2012

The Carmelite Order played a paradoxical role in the Danish Reformation: it contributed outstanding leaders both to the Protestant and Catholic sides of the debate. On the one hand, it produced Paul Helie, in the words of his biographer, Ludwig Schmitt, S.J., “the only noteworthy champion of the Church.” On the other hand, as the historian, E. H. Dunkley, writes, the Carmelite Order, as “preeminently the learned Order in the Denmark of the early 16th century… contributed more to the Reformation movement in that country than any other community.”

Paul Helie was born around 1480 in Varberg, in the province of Halland, of a Danish father and a Swedish mother, and it is most likely there that at an early age he entered the Order. There also, or in Landskrona or Helsingør, he made his studies. An early work, De simoniaca pravitate (Copenhagen, 1517), already shows the frank criticism of the faults of the Church which characterized his career.

In 1519, the provincial chapter at Landskrona appointed Helie first regent of the new studium in Copenhagen. In 1522, he was elected provincial. In that capacity “Paulus Dacus” attended the general chapter at Padua in 1532 under the prior general, Nicholas Audet. Under Lector Paul, the Carmelite studium in Copenhagen became a center of the humanistic sinceriora studia, the scriptural, patristic approach to theology. He had no quarrel with scholastics other than with those who saw no other approach to revelation.

From The Mirror of Carmel by Joachim Smet, O. Carm.

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