John of Wesel

c.1400-1481. Roman Catholic reformer. John Ruchrath or Rucherat was born in Oberwesel am Rhein, studied at Erfurt (where he later served as rector of the university), and after a brief period as professor in Basle (1461), he became a cathedral preacher in Worms (1463). He fought for the reform of theology, even when it led him to defend disturbing and unpopular positions. He rejected the Filioque clause of the Nicene Creed as unbiblical, and virtually denied the Augustinian doctrine of original sin on the same grounds. Canon law was binding only inasmuch as it accorded with Scripture. Fasting, clerical celibacy, distinctions between bishops and priest were all human institutions and held no authority over the conscience of the faithful. Indulgences were a pious fraud, because only God could remit the penalties for sin. Indicted for suspected Hussite doctrines, he was deposed in 1477 and brought before the Inquisition in 1479. He recanted, but his books were burnt and he was sentenced to confinement for the rest of his life in the Augustinian cloister at Mainz. He died soon after, a broken and dispirited man.