I've been reading through parts of D.A. Carson's commentary on John while my congregation has been studying John 9-12 this quarter in our sermons, and one of the sections I was reading refers the reader to the notes on John 20:22. As I was looking at that section, I noticed a footnote that gives a lengthy quote from John Calvin's commentary on John:
... for it would be meaningless if the Spirit did not proceed from Him. So much the more hateful is the sacrilege of the Papists, who seize to themselves the honour which belongs to the Son of God. For their mitred bishops boast that in making sacrificing priests they breathe out the Spirit when they belch over them. But the fact plainly shows how different their stinking breath is from Christ's divine breathing; for all that they do is to change horses into asses. Moreover, Christ not only communicates to His disciples the Spirit whom He has received, but bestows Him as His own, as the one whom He has in common with the Father. Wherefore, all who profess to give the Spirit by breathing usurp to themselves the glory of divinity (2.204-205). [John Calvin, Calvin's Commentaries: The Gospel according to St. John, 2 vols., tr. T.H.C. Parker (Oliver & Boyd, 1959-61)
I haven't a clue what Calvin is talking about here, either about what Roman Catholic practice he was targeting or about what he was saying they were doing that he thought was so awful (which may turn out not to be the same thing, since he may have been wrong about what they were doing). If anyone has any information on this, I'd be curious to know.
Could you imagine a theologian getting away with saying this sort of thing nowadays? People do talk like this now, but we rightly label them cranks. This was par for the course during the Reformation. It's not exactly irenic, is it? As much as I think what the reformers needed to say what they were saying, at least on the major issues, I do regret how they too often said it.