Today in Catholic History – Colloquy of Worms

Between 11 September and 8 October 1557, Catholic and Protestant theologians met at Worms to discuss their theological differences. The Catholic theologians included Michael Helding, and St. Peter Canisius, SJ. The Protestant theologians included Philip Melanchthon, Johannes Brenz and Erhard Schnepf. Canesius had previously condemned these type of gatherings as “The experience of centuries gives
ample proof that at such meetings time is only frittered away with profitless talk. At the end, neither party
will ever allow itself to have been beaten ; each side claims the victory ; contradictory reports of the trans-
actions are spread about, and the result is not tranquillisation of minds and temper, but only worse division and embitterment.” Canesius’ words will be prophetic.

The discussions began with issues concerning the relationship of the Bible and tradition. When the doctrines of original sin and justification became the topics of concern, Canasius noted that difficulty in trying to find a common Protestant/Catholic understanding when the various Protestant movements did not have agreement amongst themselves – a particularly contentious issue was whether good works were necessary for salvation. Unable to come to agreement on these issues, the meeting was dissolved. The failure of the Colloquy/Conference of Worms will reveal for the first time the serious divisions growing within the Protestant movement.

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