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Updated:  Aug 12, 2013
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Johann Faber

Theologian, doctor of sacred theology, b. 1478; d. May 21, 1541

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* Published by Encyclopedia Press, 1913.

Faber, JOHANN, theologian, b. at Leutkirch, in Swabia, 1478; d. in Vienna, May 21, 1541. He studied theology and canon law at Tübingen and Freiburg in the Breisgau; was made doctor of sacred theology in Freiburg; became in succession minister of Lindau, Leutkirch; Vicar-General of Constance, 1518; chaplain and confessor to King Ferdinand I of Austria, 1524; was appointed Bishop of Vienna, 1530. While a canon of the cathedral of Basle he formed a friendship with Erasmus that lasted throughout their lives; Erasmus persuaded Faber to take up the study of the Fathers. Like others of his time Faber was at first friendly with the Reformers, Melanchthon, Zwingli, and Oecolampadius, sympathizing with their efforts at reform and opposing certain abuses himself; but when he realized that neither dogma nor the Church herself was spared by the Reformers, he broke with them and became their most consistent opponent. He wrote his first polemic against Luther, "Opus adversus nova quaedam dogmata Martini Lutheri" ( 1552). This was soon followed by his "Malleus Haereticorum, sex libris ad Hadrianum VI summum Pontificem" (Cologne, 1524; Rome, 1569). From this latter work he is sometimes called the "hammer of heretics". He entered into public debate with Zwingli at Zurich; was prominent in all the diets held to restore peace to the Church; and was one of the committee appointed to draw up a refutation of the Confession of Augsburg. On some points, e.g. the celibacy of the clergy, he was willing to recognize certain unfortunate conditions if an agreement could be reached to prevent similar conditions in the future, but no agreement was possible. He was sent by Ferdinand to Spain and then to Henry VIII in England to seek aid against the invading Turks; Ferdinand also had him enlist the services of the University of Vienna to combat the spread of the doctrines of Luther in Austria. As bishop his zeal was unbounded; he protected his flock by frequent preaching and numerous writings, and he held regular conferences with his clergy. He founded twelve scholarships for boys who wished to become priests but did not have the means to realize their ambition.

His works (German and Latin) are homiletical and polemical in character. Besides those already mentioned he wrote treatises on faith and good works, on the Sacrifice of the Mass; an instruction and answer to Luther's work against the King of England; a treatise against the more recent tenets of Luther; a comparison of the writings of Hus and Luther; the power of the pope in the case of Luther; an answer to six articles of Zwingli; defense of Catholic belief against the chief Anabaptist, Balthasar of Friedberg; a book on the religion of the Russians; sermons on the misery of life, and on the Blessed Sacrament; sermons of consolation and courage while the Turks were besieging Vienna. His works in three folio volumes (Cologne, 1537-40) do not contain his polemical writings; these are found in "Opuscula qumdam Joannis Fabri, Episcopi Viennensis" (Leipzig, 1539).


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"Between heresy and schism there is this difference, that heresy perverts dogma, while schism, by rebellion against the bishop, separates from the Church. Nevertheless there is no schism which does not trump up a heresy to justify its departure from the Church."
-- St. Jerome, (In Ep. ad Tit., iii, 10), remarking on how practically and historically, heresy and schism nearly always go hand in hand.


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