January 6, 2017

Pontifical Council: Luther a "Witness to the Gospel"?

Martin Luther
Reversing a five centuries-old tradition, the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity released a new Vatican document in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation officially recognizing Martin Luther as a  "Witness to the Gospel". The ecumenical document states:

"Given the fact that the history of the Reformation was marked by painful division, this is a very remarkable achievement. The Lutheran-Roman Catholic Commission on Unity has worked hard to produce a shared understanding of the commemoration. Its important report, From Conflict to Communion, recognizes that both traditions approach this anniversary in an ecumenical age, with the achievements of fifty years of dialogue behind them, and with new understandings of their own history and theology. Separating that which is polemical from the theological insights of the Reformation, Catholics are now able to hear Luther’s challenge for the Church of today, recognizing him as a “witness to the gospel” (From Conflict to Communion 29). And so after centuries of mutual condemnations and vilification, in 2017 Lutheran and Catholic Christians will for the first time commemorate together the beginning of the Reformation."

While many applauded this joint declaration, others have pushed back against its conclusions. Two of Luther's positions in particular are a source of difficulty. One involves his characterization of, and deep contempt for, the Bishop of Rome:

"Luther … proved, by the revelations of Daniel and St. John, by the epistles of St. Paul, St. Peter, and St. Jude, that the reign of Antichrist, predicted and described in the Bible, was the Papacy."

From History of the Reformation of the Sixteen Century, J. H. Merle D’aubigne, Book VI, Chapter XII, p. 215.

"[N]othing else than the kingdom of Babylon and of very Antichrist. For who is the man of sin and the son of perdition, but he who by his teaching and his ordinances increases the sin and perdition of souls in the church; while he yet sits in the church as if he were God? All these conditions have now for many ages been fulfilled by the papal tyranny."

From First Principles, pp. 196-197.

Another stance of Luther that raises alarm is his virulent anti-semitism:

"I brief, dear princes and lords, those of you who have Jews under your rule­­ if my counsel does not please your, find better advice, so that you and we all can be rid of the unbearable, devilish burden of the Jews, lest we become guilty sharers before God in the lies, blasphemy, the defamation, and the curses which the mad Jews indulge in so freely and wantonly against the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, this dear mother, all Christians, all authority, and ourselves. Do not grant them protection, safe­ conduct, or communion with us.... .With this faithful counsel and warning I wish to cleanse and exonerate my conscience."


"Let their houses also be shattered and destroyed… Let their prayer books and Talmuds be taken from them, and their whole Bible too; let their rabbis be forbidden, on pain of death, to teach henceforth any more. Let the streets and highways be closed against them. Let them be forbidden to practice usury, and let all their money, and all their treasures of silver and gold be taken from them and put away in safety. And if all this be not enough, let them be driven like mad dogs out of the land."

From On the Jews and their Lies.

Vatican Radio has this:

"The reason for Church divisions are very often misunderstandings and different interpretations of the same contents of faith and theological convictions. So in our international ecumenical dialogue, we were able to rediscover the common basis we have in these questions of faith and were able to express that these are no longer Church dividing issues... This document could be a basis for all sorts of ecumenical dialogues. with other partners because it addresses the basic intent necessary reform of the Church and also addresses our relationship with God."

1 comment :

Bob Rees said...

I am becoming more and more disenchanted with the current "Bishop of Rome" and the "Vicar of Christ", Francis, and his progressive, purported picks for "Princes", the cardinals with whom agree with his heretical view on so many false truths of. His stand on divorced and remarried "Catholics" and their reception of the Holy Eucharist, open borders, to allow more savage Muslims into our country, his views of homosexuality, along with our current "bishop" McElroy, here in San Diego, and his downright lies that Luther was anything but a heretic. I find it hard to believe that any true Catholic can ascribe to the Pontifical Council and their proclamation that Luther was a "Witness to the Gospel." What is happening to Holy Mother Church that I've loved and served for 70 years? I believe that this started with John XXIII and his views on the turning Holy Mother Church in to a more politically correct institution, during Vatican II.