Capito Incarcerated

November 1510

Matthew Zell waited until our dinner of pigeon pie and bread was served by the mistress of the Hog Snout.  Then he looked at me as sternly as his good nature allows.  “I told you Eck would get you into trouble.  He’s too arrogant and contentious.”

Before I could speak, Hubmaier rushed to Eck’s defense.  “He has a right to be arrogant.  He’s brilliant.  A genius.” 

“And he would be the first to tell you that,” Zell said, as we all plunged our spoons into the pie.

Johann Eck--Gustav Konig

“But consider,” I said.  “Who else entered a university at the age of eleven?  Acquired a Master’s degree by fourteen?  Received a Papal dispensation that he might be ordained before the required age?”

Zell snorted.  “As if the Church couldn’t wait for him to grow up.   But he is still of peasant stock, just like the rest of us.  Tutoring to pay the rent, just like the rest of us.”

“Which makes his accomplishments all the more astounding,” Hubmaier said.  “At sixteen, he lectured on Aristotle while studying theology, law, mathematics, geography–”

“And Greek and Hebrew on the pot,” Zell added.  “I admit that he has a prodigious memory.  But even Capito reasons faster.  And have you ever heard Eck utter one original idea?  No.  He wins debates by drowning his opponents in a flood of massive quotations–not all relevant to the subject–until they are beaten through exhaustion and confusion.  Does he study because he wants to learn or only because he wants to collect more quotable ammunition?  Or perhaps he studies all the time because he has no friends.”

“That’s not true,” Hubmaier said.  “We’re his friends.”

“You’re his votaries,” Zell said.  He turned to me.  “And now look where that has landed you.”

Just then Eck walked into the room.  He raised a hand in my direction, but did not come over.  Perhaps he was ashamed to be seen with me.

“What a hulking boar hog,” Zell said.  “He’s like a walking square.  If you saw him without that robe, you would assume he was a butcher.”  Zell tore at the hard bread.  “And tomorrow you will be under house arrest because of him.”

I shrugged as if I didn’t care.  “Only for three days,” I said. 

Johann Eck--Gustav Konig

Of course, in truth I was humiliated.  Disciplined by the Senate for writing graffiti mocking another faculty member.  “They started it,” I said, referring to the anti-Eck faction.

“No, he started it,” Zell said, “by being so arrogant and pretentious.  His huge appetite for glory begged for ridicule, and they provided it.   And,” he added another sting, “their cartoons were better than yours.”

“Maybe,” I said, “but my poems were better.”  I chewed the bread without pleasure.  It was well known the mistress extended her flour with sawdust.    

“Well, Eck is leaving,” Hubmaier said, “now that he has his Doctorate.  “At the  University of Ingolstadt, they will appreciate him.  And by the Muses, I wish I were going with him!”

“Perhaps he’ll send for you,” Zell said, “if he finds himself lacking for worshipers.”

I knew that Zell’s tirade against Eck was due to his friendship for me and his concern that this blot on my reputation would affect my future career.  So I replied only one thing more.  “Eck will do great things.”

“Certainly he will,” Hubmaier said.

But as I think about the many debates that rage in the church over doctrine, over. . .everything, I see how many arguments originate, not from the quest for truth, but from  pride.  And I resolve, Dear Reader, to amend my ways.  Perhaps Eck will be recorded by history as a great debater.  But I shall strive from this day forward that, if Capito is remembered at all, it will be as a man of peace.

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Published in: on June 3, 2011 at 7:08 am  Leave a Comment  

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