Martin Luther, Roman Catholic Prophet

Martin Luther, Roman Catholic Prophet

Martin Luther, Roman Catholic Prophet

Martin Luther, Roman Catholic Prophet

Excerpt

Arise, O Lord, and judge thy cause…. A roaring sow of the woods has undertaken to destroy this vineyard, a wild beast wants to devour it…. Since these errors, as well as many others, are found in the writings or pamphlets of a certain Martin Luther, we condemn, reject and denounce these pamphlets and all writings and sermons of this Martin, be they in Latin or other languages, in which one or more of these errors are found. For all times do we want them condemned, rejected and denounced.

—Pope Leo X, 1520

For the Catholic Church the name of Martin Luther is linked, across the centuries, to the memory of a sad period and particularly to the experience of the origin of deep ecclesiastical divisions. For this reason the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's birth should be for us a reason to meditate, in truth and Christian charity, on that event fraught with historical significance which was the period of the Reformation. Because time, by separating us from the historical events, often permits them to be understood and represented better.

—Pope John Paul II, 1983

Roman Catholic attitudes toward Martin Luther (1483–1546) have changed. Whether popular, scholarly, or magisterial, twentiethcentury Catholic viewpoints about Luther have generally abandoned a tradition of contempt for the German reformer. The alternate perspectives, however, are not nearly as sharply defined or as singleminded. The contemporary Catholic opinion towards Luther is genuinely positive. Today few would choose the latter of Avery Dulles's options, given at a sermon during the Chair of Unity Octave (a period of prayer for Christian unity held annually from January 18 to 25) in 1965: “What are we to think of Martin Luther? Was he a reformer sent by God to recall the Church to its true vocation or a false prophet impelled by Satan to lead the faithful astray?” Rather, the current state of the question for Catholics remains as it was given in . . .

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