The Church Under Frederick I
In his electoral charter (Handfaestning), drawn up at the assembly of notables (Herredag) at Roskilde, August 3, 1523, Frederick was required to promise among other things not to allow heretics to preach or teach in the realm. Other stipulations, however, were designed to eliminate dependence on Rome. Frederick’s sympathy for Lutheranism soon became apparent. His court neglected the Church abstinence and received communion under both species. In May of 1526, Helie was summoned to preach before the king and, although he spoke with reserve, mediocri libertate, he left under insults and threats of the soldiery.
It was perhaps as a result of this experience that Helie in 1526 wrote his first polemic tract in Danish, A Christian Instruction on Lutheranism, which attacks Luther’s characteristic doctrines on good works, freedom of the will, the sacraments, the infallibility of the Church, and her jurisdictional power. In Sweden, it evoked a rebuttal from Olaf Petersen, secretary of the council of Stockholm (Stockholm, 1527).
At the Herretag held in Odense in December, 1526, it was decided that in the future the archbishop of Lund, not the pope, would confirm Danish bishops. The tax paid to Rome on such occasions would instead be paid into the royal treasury. The bishops pressed the king to desist from authorizing preachers contrary to their authority. Frederick in 1526 had granted letters of protection and authority to preach in Viborg to John Tausen, former Hospitaller of St. John, and to George Sadolin, who joined Tausen in Viborg and opened a school which became a training ground for Lutheran ministers. The bishops could not bring themselves to make the material concessions demanded by the nobles and so failed to win their support, even though the latter were predominantly Catholic.
Although Lector Paul was an outstanding and able opponent of the new teachings, he was not trusted by his own co-religionists because of his frank criticism of the Church and his supposed leanings toward Lutheranism. In 1527, the Jutland bishops invited John Eck and John Cochlaeus to Denmark to defend the Catholic faith, but without result. “The journey is very long, and the people are said to be barbarous,” the fastidious Erasmus wrote to Cochlaeus on August 25. On the other hand, the Lutherans were disappointed in their expectations, when, after all, Helie turned against them.