Bernardino Ochino – Lapsed Capuchin, Protestant Reformer

This is the sad story of the Vicar-General of the Capuchin Franciscans in the mid-1500s who became a Protestant and eventually a Trinitarian heretic.

Ochino’s defection to the Protestants back then would have been tantamount to someone like Fr. Benedict Groeschel or Fr. John Corapi becoming a Protestant Evangelical. Prior to his defection, Ochino was a gifted preacher, a humble Franciscan, and a source of Catholic renewal. It was a very scandalous affair.

A native of Siena, he joined the Observantine Franciscans and rose to be their general. In 1534 he transferred to the still more austere Capuchins, of whom he was twice (in 1538 and 1541) the vicar-general. His preaching was so eloquent and moving that Emperor Charles V said of him, ‘That man is enough to make the stones weep.’

Contact with Peter Vermigli led him to accept Protestant doctrines, and in 1541 he became a Lutheran. He was cited before the Inquistion, but escaped to Geneva. From 1545 to 1547 he was minister to the Italian Protestants at Augsburg.

In the latter year T. Cranmer invited him to England and secured for him a Prebend of Canterbury and a royal pension as an Anglican. In England, Ochino gave himself up to writing The Usurped Primacy of the Bishop of Rome and the Labyrinth, the latter attacking the Calvinistic doctrine of Predestination. On Queen Mary’s accession to the English throne, he returned to Switzerland and in 1555 was appointed a pastor at Zurich, but on account of his Thirty Dialogues (1563), which proved him unsound on the doctrine of the Trinity and on monogamy, he was expelled from his office. He then went to Poland, but was not allowed to remain there, and died in Moravia.

The moral of this story: If you leave the Catholic flock, you never know where you’ll end up. Ochino was once the leader of a potent Catholic revival. He ended in heterodoxy. Let this be a warning to all of us.

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  • st bosco

    Im not catholic, and im not worried about not being catholic. Have a nice day

  • stephen

    THIS REPLY COMES FROM A MAN WHO HAS BEEN A FRANCISCAN FOR 50 = YEARS ….

    Today must be for you a very slow news days — else why dig up this old and sad story?  As  you were preparing that filler: the Church  Universal [and especially the Franciscan Family] was and is remembering our China Martyrs [9 July  1900], our Dutch Martyrs [9 July 1572], one of our Capuchin Friars , declared blessed,who died in Dachau [ 9 July 1942] and today our Franciscan Martyrs in Syria [1860].  Balance the sad story  which you [very oddly decided to dig up] with the glorious story of our Franciscan martyrs … and THEN will you give the FULL picture.

  • Fr. Héctor R.G. Pérez, STD

    This is,  indeed,  a  very sad  story, especially  if  he did not  come  back  home,   but so is the tale of  each of the millions  of  Catholics  who  today have abandoned the  Faith and the Church.  Seeing this  makes  us  aware  of the fact  that no  matter  who  we  are  or  how  high  we may be in the  hierachy or the  estimation of  men,  we  can also  fall and lose  all that we consider  dearest and highest.  In this case, too,  the best  way to not  repeat  history  is to  remember it. Thank  you  for  posting it.  God bless  you!

  • Fr. Héctor R.G. Pérez, STD

    This is,  indeed,  a  very sad  story, especially  if  he did not  come  back  home,   but so is the tale of  each of the millions  of  Catholics  who  today have abandoned the  Faith and the Church.  Seeing this  makes  us  aware  of the fact  that no  matter  who  we  are  or  how  high  we may be in the  hierachy or the  estimation of  men,  we  can also  fall and lose  all that we consider  dearest and highest.  In this case, too,  the best  way to not  repeat  history  is to  remember it. Thank  you  for  posting it.  God bless  you!

  • Fr. Héctor R.G. Pérez, STD

    This is,  indeed,  a  very sad  story, especially  if  he did not  come  back  home,   but so is the tale of  each of the millions  of  Catholics  who  today have abandoned the  Faith and the Church.  Seeing this  makes  us  aware  of the fact  that no  matter  who  we  are  or  how  high  we may be in the  hierachy or the  estimation of  men,  we  can also  fall and lose  all that we consider  dearest and highest.  In this case, too,  the best  way to not  repeat  history  is to  remember it. Thank  you  for  posting it.  God bless  you!

  • Fr. Héctor R.G. Pérez, STD

    This is,  indeed,  a  very sad  story, especially  if  he did not  come  back  home,   but so is the tale of  each of the millions  of  Catholics  who  today have abandoned the  Faith and the Church.  Seeing this  makes  us  aware  of the fact  that no  matter  who  we  are  or  how  high  we may be in the  hierachy or the  estimation of  men,  we  can also  fall and lose  all that we consider  dearest and highest.  In this case, too,  the best  way to not  repeat  history  is to  remember it. Thank  you  for  posting it.  God bless  you!

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for sharing this bit of history. It is always sad when anyone, particularly a man of the cloth whom, in my opinion should know better, leaves the faith.

  • Julie

    This shows how easy it is to become lost. Thanks for the reminder that we need to pray for our brothers and sisters who have become estranged from the church Jesus Himself founded. We should always be loving and concerned for them.

  • Kjetil Kringlebotten

    Stephen; are we to believe everything is perfect and never speak of the things that isn’t?

  • Brad

    Dear Stephen the Franciscan: cautionary tales are of value to men.  Full stop.

  • james ross

    Taylor,
    I am reminded of a couple of articles I saw recently int the J.W. magazines, AWAKE and WATCHTOWER this month ( June 2014). They profile the guys, Capito, Cellularius, and Campinho for being great Bible students. They denied the Mass for starters and then went on to deny the Trinity. For the latter denial, they were persecuted by their fellow Reformers ( who also denied the former point of the Mass).
    In the AWAKE the feature Joseph Priestly, a deist, who also denied the Trinity. He went on to deny revelation in the Bible too and so had to get out of England.