The letters of John Hus/The Incident of Hus and the "Father"; The Mystery cannot be Solved; First Letter from the "Father"

The two following letters of Hus introduce us to a most interesting episode in these last dark days, and show us some of the influences brought to bear upon the Reformer to induce him to be false to himself, and to recant. Every artifice of casuistry was employed to bring out this result; and leaders of the Council added their persuasions. Among these leaders was one whose name we do not know, but whom Hus here calls the “Father.” Of his kindly feelings towards the Reformer Hus has already told us; he was the only one in all the Council upon whose sympathies Hus could count (p. 208). In the following letter the “Father” tried to persuade Hus to yield to the Council’s demands. The letter is without date, and is anonymous, though several copies of it have been preserved for us. Unfortunately not even Mladenowic has added in the margin the name of the writer. Luther in the Epist. Piissimæ identified “Pater” with John Cardinalis, whom he mistakenly took to be John de Bronhiaco (p. 216 n.), Cardinal of Ostia, the president of the Council. That this cannot be “Pater” seems to me clear from the first sentence of his letter on p. 240. If we are to look among the cardinals I should incline to Zabarella, who at the Council on June 8 had promised Hus that he would send ‘a form of abjuration sufficiently guarded’ (Doc. 309). The legal reference in the last clause of his second letter is suitable to one who was the pre-eminent canonist of the Council; while his rank would account for his desire to be anonymous. But any identification is at the best a mere guess, and Zabarella’s after conduct does not lend weight to the surmise.

The “Father’s” first letter took the shape of a form of recantation, which Hus was to fill up and sign. Hus in his reply points out his real difficulty. Though not very clearly put, there is no note of faltering.

The “Father” to Master John Hus

(Without date: middle of June 1415)

A form suggested by the “Father” to John Hus for giving in his submission to the decision of the Council, abjuring and recanting.

I being so and so, etc. Over and above the declarations made by me, which I desire to be understood as repeated, I declare anew that although much is laid to my charge which never entered my mind; none the less in the matter of all the charges brought forward, whether raised against myself or extracted from my books or even the depositions of witnesses, I hereby submit myself humbly to the merciful appointment, decision, and correction of the most holy General Council, to abjure, to revoke, to recant, to undergo merciful penance, and to do all things and several that the said most holy Council in its mercy and grace shall deem fit to ordain for my salvation, commending myself to the same with the utmost devotion.