Pope makes nice with Luther

The Pope is now praising Martin Luther:

Pope Benedict XVI is to rehabilitate Martin Luther, arguing that he did not intend to split Christianity but only to purge the Church of corrupt practices.

Pope Benedict will issue his findings on Luther (1483-1546) in September after discussing him at his annual seminar of 40 fellow theologians — known as the Ratzinger Schülerkreis — at Castelgandolfo, the papal summer residence. According to Vatican insiders the Pope will argue that Luther, who was excommunicated and condemned for heresy, was not a heretic.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, the head of the pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said the move would help to promote ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and Protestants. It is also designed to counteract the impact of July’s papal statement describing the Protestant and Orthodox faiths as defective and “not proper Churches”.

The move to re-evaluate Luther is part of a drive to soften Pope Benedict’s image as an arch conservative hardliner as he approaches the third anniversary of his election next month. This week it emerged that the Vatican is planning to erect a statue of Galileo, who also faced a heresy trial, to mark the 400th anniversary next year of his discovery of the telescope. . . .

Cardinal Kasper said: “We have much to learn from Luther, beginning with the importance he attached to the word of God.” It was time for a “more positive” view of Luther, whose reforms had aroused papal ire at the time but could now be seen as having “anticipated aspects of reform which the Church has adopted over time”.

HT: Uwe Siemon-Netto

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • JPW

    Interesting. I’m not sure that acknowledging Luther wasn’t a heretic 500 years later will really improve ecumenical dialog. It might successfully remind Protestants that the Catholic Church has only now realized Martin Luther was not a heretic.

    How is a heretic defined? Clearly Luther’s teachings (which have not changed since the Reformation) are still at odds with the Vatican’s. To qualify as a heretic does one need to, for example, not believe in the Trinity?

    What does Kasper mean by saying Luther “anticipated aspects of reform”? That’s silliness. Luther did more than “anticipate” reform.

  • JPW

    Interesting. I’m not sure that acknowledging Luther wasn’t a heretic 500 years later will really improve ecumenical dialog. It might successfully remind Protestants that the Catholic Church has only now realized Martin Luther was not a heretic.

    How is a heretic defined? Clearly Luther’s teachings (which have not changed since the Reformation) are still at odds with the Vatican’s. To qualify as a heretic does one need to, for example, not believe in the Trinity?

    What does Kasper mean by saying Luther “anticipated aspects of reform”? That’s silliness. Luther did more than “anticipate” reform.

  • Carl Vehse

    As far as Lutherans are concerned, the pope is still the Antichrist.

  • Carl Vehse

    As far as Lutherans are concerned, the pope is still the Antichrist.

  • Joe

    Hear, hear!

  • Joe

    Hear, hear!

  • http://chaz-lehmann.livejournal.com Pr. Lehmann

    What Lutherans think about the matter is irrelevant. The Pope is not the antichrist because the Confessions say he is.

    The Confessions say that the Pope is the Antichrist because the Pope is the Antichrist. ;-)

    He still claims authority to decide who is in heaven and hell. He still affirms the doctrine of purgatory (though before Benedict was pope he didn’t). He still impugns the Gospel.

    I’m not surprised that he’s declaring Luther not to be a heretic. Papa Ratzi has liked Luther for a long time. But this changes nothing.

    Until the Pope admits that his office is by human right and allows (even encourages) the Gospel to be preached, all of the condemnations in the Lutheran Confessions still apply and the Roman church is still apostate.

  • http://chaz-lehmann.livejournal.com Pr. Lehmann

    What Lutherans think about the matter is irrelevant. The Pope is not the antichrist because the Confessions say he is.

    The Confessions say that the Pope is the Antichrist because the Pope is the Antichrist. ;-)

    He still claims authority to decide who is in heaven and hell. He still affirms the doctrine of purgatory (though before Benedict was pope he didn’t). He still impugns the Gospel.

    I’m not surprised that he’s declaring Luther not to be a heretic. Papa Ratzi has liked Luther for a long time. But this changes nothing.

    Until the Pope admits that his office is by human right and allows (even encourages) the Gospel to be preached, all of the condemnations in the Lutheran Confessions still apply and the Roman church is still apostate.

  • Pingback: BXVI to Luther: “Bygones” « Planet Augsburg

  • Pingback: BXVI to Luther: “Bygones” « Planet Augsburg

  • Bror Erickson

    Catholics adopting Reformed tactics. They have more in common than they thought. They can both sing Luthers praises and totally ignore him at the same time.

  • Bror Erickson

    Catholics adopting Reformed tactics. They have more in common than they thought. They can both sing Luthers praises and totally ignore him at the same time.

  • Joe

    This was in the comments to the actual article and I thought it should be repeated here. The poster identified himself as, ” John, Greeley, USA”:

    “Luther was more of an “evangelical catholic” and really only sought to go back to what the earlier church fathers believed and practiced before some of the later medieval abuses, but the Pope has not dealt with two key abuses: justification by grace through faith alone in the Word and Sacraments; and the abuse of making the Mass into a propitiatory sacrifice. Though actual Lutherans are not always very faithful to their own writings they are very careful in reforming only what needed reform in accordance with Scripture. See http://www.bookofconcord.org or http://www.wittenbergtrail.com

  • Joe

    This was in the comments to the actual article and I thought it should be repeated here. The poster identified himself as, ” John, Greeley, USA”:

    “Luther was more of an “evangelical catholic” and really only sought to go back to what the earlier church fathers believed and practiced before some of the later medieval abuses, but the Pope has not dealt with two key abuses: justification by grace through faith alone in the Word and Sacraments; and the abuse of making the Mass into a propitiatory sacrifice. Though actual Lutherans are not always very faithful to their own writings they are very careful in reforming only what needed reform in accordance with Scripture. See http://www.bookofconcord.org or http://www.wittenbergtrail.com

  • Pingback: A weird week! « Strengthened by Grace

  • Pingback: A weird week! « Strengthened by Grace

  • C.A. McCoy

    Beyond all the clashing of semantic swords, it would be good to see the positive aspects of the most recent papal spin on Martin Luther and his theology, which did indeed “anticipate” the reforms of the Roman Catholic Church, which is what the good Cardinal was talking about. . .the reforms which took place for instance, in the ensuing hundreds of years and in Vatican II itself. I personally thank God for those slow reforms, as they opened the door for those of us raised in a pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic Church which was far more insular and condescending toward our “separated brethren” as they now call protestants. You have no idea what it was like prior to Vatican II, and now, we can thank God for further reflection and dialogue on the theology of Martin Luther as well. . .this would have been unheard of in the days when we were taught that he was a heretic and one who due to selfish ambition was out to destroy the Church.

  • C.A. McCoy

    Beyond all the clashing of semantic swords, it would be good to see the positive aspects of the most recent papal spin on Martin Luther and his theology, which did indeed “anticipate” the reforms of the Roman Catholic Church, which is what the good Cardinal was talking about. . .the reforms which took place for instance, in the ensuing hundreds of years and in Vatican II itself. I personally thank God for those slow reforms, as they opened the door for those of us raised in a pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic Church which was far more insular and condescending toward our “separated brethren” as they now call protestants. You have no idea what it was like prior to Vatican II, and now, we can thank God for further reflection and dialogue on the theology of Martin Luther as well. . .this would have been unheard of in the days when we were taught that he was a heretic and one who due to selfish ambition was out to destroy the Church.

  • fw

    #9 C.A. McCoy

    Is this the famous Charles Arthur McCoy, former Presbyterian Missionary, husband of Lilia, pedagogue extraordinaire, from the bay area of california???!!! If so, I have been looking for you!

  • fw

    #9 C.A. McCoy

    Is this the famous Charles Arthur McCoy, former Presbyterian Missionary, husband of Lilia, pedagogue extraordinaire, from the bay area of california???!!! If so, I have been looking for you!

  • C.A. McCoy

    #10, ’tis indeed, and we would welcome contact with you as well. I believe you have my e-mail address, so please use it to drop us a line. . .sorry to do this in this venue, and apologies to Dr. V ahead for this, but it’s the only way I know how to respond to you esteemed F.W. as I fear I’ve lost your e-mail address.

    We’re thrilled to see Laura Pausini has won yet another grammy this year. . .Hope all is well. Saludos, desde la gran Republica de California y que Dios te bendiga!

  • C.A. McCoy

    #10, ’tis indeed, and we would welcome contact with you as well. I believe you have my e-mail address, so please use it to drop us a line. . .sorry to do this in this venue, and apologies to Dr. V ahead for this, but it’s the only way I know how to respond to you esteemed F.W. as I fear I’ve lost your e-mail address.

    We’re thrilled to see Laura Pausini has won yet another grammy this year. . .Hope all is well. Saludos, desde la gran Republica de California y que Dios te bendiga!

  • fw

    Hey Charles! fwsonnek@gmail.com I don´t have your email address charles. I would have emailed you directly long ago or called you!

  • fw

    Hey Charles! fwsonnek@gmail.com I don´t have your email address charles. I would have emailed you directly long ago or called you!

  • fw

    #11 CA McCoy

    Give Lilia a hug for me.

  • fw

    #11 CA McCoy

    Give Lilia a hug for me.

  • Allan Schwarb

    Interesting that the leaders who most defend the ‘least of these’ — the embryo-person — are most excoriated in the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646), Chapter 25 as ‘[those] Antichrist[s], [those men] of sin and son[s] of perdition,’

    Instead of painting 500 years of popes with this broad-brush, perhaps it’s time ‘love your enemy’ and pray for them.

    Finally, if only Protestantism had such champions of the unborn.

  • Allan Schwarb

    Interesting that the leaders who most defend the ‘least of these’ — the embryo-person — are most excoriated in the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646), Chapter 25 as ‘[those] Antichrist[s], [those men] of sin and son[s] of perdition,’

    Instead of painting 500 years of popes with this broad-brush, perhaps it’s time ‘love your enemy’ and pray for them.

    Finally, if only Protestantism had such champions of the unborn.


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