The administrative efforts and plans of Staupitz, however, were met by decided opposition within the Congregation.
Certain houses favoured the status quo because they feared that union would lead to a relaxation of discipline; these houses vehemently opposed Staupitz and his plans. To this particular group belonged the Erfurt monastery, and Luther himself took an active part in the position assumed by his house.
The opposition of the seven Observantine monasteries became acute when the bull above referred to was published by Staupitz. It was the protest of the seven Observantine monasteries against the Bull as the direct cause of Luther's despatch to Rome.
Luther did not travel to Rome because of any personal or communitarian theological or ecclesial differences with the Roman authorities; indeed, he did not venture to Rome on his own inititaive, but in response to being chosen to be a travelling companion and supported to a more experienced Augustinian to speak to the Augustinian general leadership about an administrative matter.
In fact, Luther found himself offside with his Erfurt community when upon his return he explained that he had been won over to the opinion of the Prior General that any desire for a stronger union with houses not seeking an equivalent degree of renewal had potential to divide the Order further and thereby to retard the possibility of general reform rather than to advance it.
There were thirty monasteries in the Congregation, all nominally of the stricter "observance." But within this Congregation of Observantines there was a division of thought: part wanted to reunite, to return to the original division into provinces together with the same rules which prevailed before Proles reformed them (this was represented by Staupitz at Wittenberg); another part did not wish to go back, to reunite with the non-observant, unreformed Augustinian Province, and this school of thought of seven priories was represented by Erfurt and Luther, for which cause he went to Rome.
It should not be thought, however, that all of the Conventuals (i.e., those houses not part of the Observance) were thereby lax in the observance of the Rule of Augustine; in fact, in so far as the effects of the Reformation upon the Augustinian Order are concerned, the Saxon Observantines were among the first to fall before the storm set loose from Wittenberg, whereas the German Conventuals, under such worthy provincials as Trager and Hoffmeister, proportionately coped better in warding off the tide of the Protestant Reformation than did the Observantine houses.
Luther, then, was sent to Rome by his Superiors at Erfurt in behalf of the seven Observantine convents which objected to Staupitz's proposed union. It did not take much time to complete his official business, and it seems that Luther was quite satisfied with his treatment by the Augustinian Curia. With regard to the effect of the journey concerning the Order, a certain compromise was reached. At any rate Staupitz was unable to carry out his plan and eventually gave it up.
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