On this day in 1535, Charles V, Emperor of the unholy Roman Empire, issued a decree that Anabaptists – those who rebaptized believers, and who refused to recant of this act, would be put to death by fire. Also those who provided hospitality to these “heretics” would be beheaded or, in the case of women, be drowned. This came after he received a memorandum from the Archbishop of Cologne which declared that “as (has) been the nature of the Anabaptists through the ages, even as the old histories on imperial law over a thousand years testify” they were attempting to reinstate the practice of community of goods – ie. they willingly shared their food and personal goods among themselves, and through their generosity towards others were drawing Catholics to their faith and practices.
It is commonly declared today that the Anabaptists arose during the Reformation period, but the title is uttered with hatred by Roman historians from the first years of Catholicism’s history. Not only did the accursed Anabaptists practice rebaptism, they also taught salvation by grace through faith, the priesthood of all believers, and soul liberty. For the most part they were peace-loving, productive members of their communities. But they condemned the Catholic priesthood, and thus the Catholic priesthood condemned them – to death.