The Catholic Luther: 25 Shocking Examples

The Catholic Luther: 25 Shocking Examples February 5, 2016
Portrait of Martin Luther (1528), by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]
* * *
* *

[all words below are Luther’s own]

* *

Further sources which include full primary and secondary documentation are indicated by numbers after the citations, and listed at the bottom.

* * * * *


Anointing (Catholic Sacrament of)

6 October 1520 Now I do not condemn this our sacrament of extreme unction, but I firmly deny that it is what the Apostle James prescribes; for his unction agrees with ours neither in form, use, power nor purpose. Nevertheless; we shall number it among those sacraments which we have instituted, such as the blessing and sprinkling of salt and holy water. (14)

Baptism: Infant

6 October 1520 Little children . . . are free in every way, secure and saved solely through the glory of their baptism . . . Through the prayer of the believing church which presents it, . . . the infant is changed, cleansed, and renewed by inpoured faith. Nor should I doubt that even a godless adult could be changed, in any of the sacraments, if the same church prayed for and presented him, as we read of the paralytic in the Gospel, who was healed through the faith of others (Mark 2:3-12). I should be ready to admit that in this sense the sacraments of the New Law are efficacious in conferring grace, not only to those who do not, but even to those who do most obstinately present an obstacle.(2)

Baptism: Regeneration
16 March 1522 I reason thus: See, my Lord, I have been baptized in thy name so that I may be assured of thy grace and mercy. (3)

expressed in the simplest form, the power, the effect, the benefit, the fruit and the purpose of baptism is to save. No one is baptized that he may become a prince, but, as the words declare [of Mark 16:16], that he may be saved. But to be saved, we know very well, is to be delivered from sin, death, and Satan, and to enter Christ’s kingdom and live forever with him . . . Through the Word, baptism receives the power to become the washing of regeneration, as St. Paul calls it in Titus 3:5 . . . Faith clings to the water and believes it to be baptism which effects pure salvation and life . . . When sin and conscience oppress us . . . you may say: It is a fact that I am baptized, but, being baptized, I have the promise that I shall be saved and obtain eternal life for both soul and body . . . Hence, no greater jewel can adorn our body or soul than baptism; for through it perfect holiness and salvation become accessible to us . . . (2)

Catholic Church: Authority of

6 January 1519 I shall issue a pamphlet exhorting the people to cleave to the Roman Church, and be obedient and respectful, . . . I agreed to write to his Holiness the Pope, humbly submitting and recognizing that I had been too hot and hasty, though I never meant to do aught against the Holy Roman Church, . . . I promised to send out a paper admonishing every one to follow the Roman Church, obey and honor her, and explaining that my writings were not to be understood in a sense damaging to her . . . (1)

7 January 1519 For when I have learned my mistakes, I will gladly withdraw them, and do nothing to impair the honor and power of the Roman Church. (1)

24 February 1519 I deny that the Roman Church is superior to all Churches, but not that she is our superior, as she now is de facto. (1)

Late February 1519 That the Roman Church is honored by God above all others, is what we cannot doubt. Saint Peter, Saint Paul, forty-six popes, many hundreds of thousands of martyrs, have shed their blood in its bosom, and have overcome hell and the world, so that God’s eye regards it with especial favor. (1)

3 March 1519 I realize that I cannot, under any circumstances, recant anything if I want to honor the Roman church – and this has to be my primary concern. . . . I testify that I have never wanted, nor do I today want, to touch in any way the authority of the Roman church . . . or demolish it by any craftiness. On the contrary I confess the authority of this church to be supreme over all, and that nothing, be it in heaven or on earth, is to be preferred to it, save the one Jesus Christ who is Lord of all . . . I shall publish something for the common people to make them understand that they should truly honor the Roman church, and influence them to do so. . . . I strive for only one thing: that the Roman church, our Mother, be not polluted . . . (1)

5 March 1519 I was never of a mind to desert the Apostolic See . . . (1)

13 March 1519 For although in my disputation with Eck I shall have to dispute the assertion that the Church of Rome is superior to all others, I shall do so with the reservation of full submission and obedience to the Holy See. (1)

13 October 1520 But, to say yet more, even this never entered my heart: to inveigh against the Court of Rome or to dispute at all about her. (1)

1528 We on our part confess that there is much that is Christian and good under the papacy; indeed everything that is Christian and good is to be found there and has come to us from this source. For instance we confess that in the papal church there are the true holy Scriptures, true baptism, the true sacrament of the altar, the true keys to the forgiveness of sins, the true office of the ministry, the true catechism in the form of the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the articles of the creed . . . I speak of what the pope and we have in common . . . I contend that in the papacy there is true Christianity, even the right kind of Christianity and many great and devoted saints. . . . The Christendom that now is under the papacy is truly the body of Christ and a member of it. If it is his body, then it has the true spirit, gospel, faith, baptism, sacrament, keys, the office of the ministry, prayer, holy Scripture, and everything that pertains to Christendom. So we are all still under the papacy and therefrom have received our Christian treasures. . . . We do not rave as do the rebellious spirits, so as to reject everything that is found in the papal church. For then we would cast out even Christendom from the temple of God, and all that it contained of Christ. (14)

1538 The papacy has God’s word and the office of the apostles, and we have received the Holy Scriptures, baptism, the sacrament, and the office of preaching from them . . . we ourselves find it difficult to refute it . . . Then there come rushing into my heart thoughts like these: Now I see that I am in error. Oh, if only I had never started this and had never preached a word! For who dares oppose the church, of which we confess in the creed: I believe in a holy Christian church . . . (14)

Confession / Absolution / Penance

16 March 1522 I will allow no man to take private confession away from me, and I would not give it up for all the treasures in the world, since I know what comfort and strength it has given me. . . . Therefore, no man shall forbid the confession nor keep or draw any one away from it. . . . we have private confession, when I go and receive a sure absolution as if God himself spoke it, so that I may be assured that my sins are forgiven. (3)

 What is the Office of the Keys? It is the peculiar power which Christ has given to His Church on earth to forgive the sins of penitent sinners, but to retain the sins of the impenitent as long as they do not repent. . . .

What do you believe according to these words? . . . when they absolve those who repent of their sins and are willing to amend, this is as valid and certain, in heaven also, as if Christ, our dear Lord, dealt with us Himself.

What is Confession? Confession embraces two parts. One is that we confess our sins; the other, that we receive absolution, or forgiveness, from the pastor as from God Himself, and in no wise doubt, but firmly believe, that by it our sins are forgiven before God in heaven. (3)
1537 Since Absolution or the Power of the Keys is also an aid and consolation against sin and a bad conscience, ordained by Christ [Himself] in the Gospel, Confession or Absolution ought by no means to be abolished in the Church, especially on account of [tender and] timid consciences and on account of the untrained [and capricious] young people, in order that they may be examined, and instructed in the Christian doctrine. (3)

15 March 1523 [I would not find fault] if every pastor examines the faith of the children . . . lays hands on them, and confirms them. (4)

Contraception: Opposition to

1544 Onan must have been a malicious and incorrigible scoundrel. This is a most disgraceful sin. It is far more atrocious than incest and adultery. We call it unchastity, yes, a Sodomitic sin. For Onan goes in to her; that is, he lies with her and copulates, and when it comes to the point of insemination, spills the semen, lest the woman conceive. Surely at such a time the order of nature established by God in procreation should be followed . . . He was inflamed with the basest spite and hatred . . . Consequently, he deserved to be killed by God. He committed an evil deed. Therefore God punished him . . . That worthless fellow . . . preferred polluting himself with a most disgraceful sin to raising up offspring for his brother. (13)


1525 [W]hen I hear of Christ, an image of a man hanging on a cross takes form in my heart, just as the reflection of my face naturally appears in the water when I look into it. If it is not a sin but good to have an image of Christ in my heart, why should it be a sin to have it in my eyes? (6)

1539 The custom of holding a crucifix before a dying person has kept many in the Christian faith and has enabled them to die with a confident faith in the crucified Christ. (6)

Eucharist: Adoration

1523 From these words we understand that there are two kinds of worship: one outward and physical, the other inward and spiritual. It is outward worship when you choose outward places and gestures to express it, as when in the church or before the altar or the sacrament you prostrate yourself, kneel, bend your body, bow your head, look up toward heaven, speak with your mouth and do similar things that can be done outwardly and are signs by which you outwardly acknowledge your God or overlord.. . .

But where worship is offered from the heart, there follows quite properly also that outward bowing, bending, kneeling, and adoration with the body. . . . Now to come back to the sacrament: he who does not believe that Christ’s body and blood are present does well not to worship either with his spirit or with his body. But he who does believe, as sufficient demonstration has shown it ought to be believed, can surely not withhold his adoration of the body and blood of Christ without sinning. For I must always confess that Christ is present when his body and blood are present. His words do not lie to me, and he is not separated from his body and blood. . . . one should not condemn and accuse of heresy people who do adore the sacrament. (14)

1526 We do not want to abolish the Elevation but retain it because it goes well with the German Sanctus and signifies that Christ has commanded us to remember Him. For as the Sacrament is elevated in a material manner and yet Christ’s body and blood are not seen in it, so He is remembered and elevated by the word of the sermon and is confessed and adored in the reception of the Sacrament. (14)

Eucharist: Forgiveness of Sins and Salvation

1529 That is shown us by these words, “Given and shed for you for the remission of sins”; namely, that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation. (14)

Eucharist: Real Presence

6 October 1520 Therefore, I permit every man to hold either of these opinions [transubstantiation or substance of bread remaining with the Body of Christ also present], as he chooses. (14)

16 March 1522 I take to myself the blessed sacrament, when I eat his body and drink his blood as a sign that I am rid of my sins and God has freed me from all my frailties; and in order to make me sure of this, he gives me his body to eat and his blood to drink, so that I shall not and cannot doubt that I have a gracious God. (3)

1524 I confess that if Karlstadt, or anyone else, could have convinced me five years ago that only bread and wine were in the sacrament he would have done me a great service. At that time I suffered such severe conflicts and inner strife and torment that I would gladly have been delivered from them. I realized that at this point I could best resist the papacy . . . But I am a captive and cannot free myself. The text is too powerfully present, and will not allow itself to be torn from its meaning by mere verbiage. (9)

1525 [T]his word of Luke and Paul is clearer than sunlight and more overpowering than thunder. First, no one can deny that he speaks of the cup, since he says, “This is the cup.” Secondly, he calls it the cup of the new testament. This is overwhelming, for it could not be a new testament by means and on account of wine alone. (9)

1525 . . . The bread which is broken or distributed piece by piece is the participation in the body of Christ. It is, it is, it is, he says, the participation in the body of Christ. Wherein does the participation in the body of Christ consist? It cannot be anything else than that as each takes a part of the broken bread he takes therewith the body of Christ . . . (9)

1528 [S]ince we are confronted by God’s words, “This is my body” – distinct, clear, common, definite words, which certainly are no trope, either in Scripture or in any language – we must embrace them with faith . . . not as hairsplitting sophistry dictates but as God says them for us, we must repeat these words after him and hold to them. (9)

1528 I have often asserted that I do not argue whether the wine remains wine or not. It is enough for me that Christ’s blood is present; let it be with the wine as God wills. Sooner than have mere wine with the fanatics, I would agree with the pope that there is only blood. (14)

1532 All right! There we have it! This is clear, plain, and unconcealed: “I am speaking of My flesh and blood.” . . . There we have the flat statement which cannot be interpreted in any other way than that there is no life, but death alone, apart from His flesh and blood if these are neglected or despised. How is it possible to distort this text [John 6]? . . . You must note these words and this text with the utmost diligence . . . It can neither speciously be interpreted nor avoided and evaded. (9)

September 1544 For this is . . . how it was accepted in the true, ancient Christian church of fifteen hundred years ago . . . When you receive the bread from the altar, . . . you are receiving the entire body of the Lord; . . . (8)

Immaculate Conception of Mary (or Similar Doctrine)

December 1527 But the other conception, namely the infusion of the soul . . . it is believed that it took place without contacting original sin. Therefore the Virgin Mary is in the middle between Christ and all other men . . . for her first conception was without grace, but the second was full of grace . . . Just as men are conceived in sin both with regard to body and soul, and Christ is free of sin – body and soul – so Mary the Virgin is conceived according to the body without grace, but according to the soul she is full of grace. (11)


27 February 1540 . . . in conception the flesh and blood of Mary were entirely purged, so that nothing of sin remained. Therefore Isaiah says rightly, “There was no guile found in his mouth”; otherwise, every seed except for Mary’s was corrupted. (11)

1544 God has formed the soul and body of the Virgin Mary full of the Holy Spirit, so that she is without all sins, for she has conceived and borne the Lord Jesus. (11)

1545 . . . the pure Virgin Mary, who has not sinned and cannot sin for ever more. (11)


Marriage: Primary Purpose of (Children)

1536 Today you find many people who do not want to have children. Moreover, this callousness and inhuman attitude, which is worse than barbarous, is met with chiefly among the nobility and princes, who often refrain from marriage for this one single reason, that they might have no offspring. It is even more disgraceful that you find princes who allow themselves to be forced not to marry, for fear that the members of their house would increase beyond a definite limit. Surely such men deserve that their memory be blotted out from the land of the living. Who is there who would not detest these swinish monsters? But these facts, too, serve to emphasize original sin. Otherwise we would marvel at procreation as the greatest work of God, and as a most outstanding gift we would honor it with the praises it deserves. (13)

“Mother of God”

1521 She became the Mother of God, in which work so many and such great good things are bestowed on her as pass man’s understanding. For on this there follows all honor, all blessedness, and her unique place in the whole of mankind, among which she has no equal, namely, that she had a child by the Father in heaven, and such a Child . . . Hence men have crowded all her glory into a single word, calling her the Mother of God . . . None can say of her nor announce to her greater things, even though he had as many tongues as the earth possesses flowers and blades of grass: the sky, stars; and the sea, grains of sand. It needs to be pondered in the heart what it means to be the Mother of God. (11)


Papal Primacy and Acceptance of Papal Supremacy to Some Degree


30 May 1518 (Letter to Pope Leo X). . . evil reports are being spread about me, some friends having vilified me to your Holiness, as if I were trying to belittle the power of the Keys and of the Supreme Pontiff, . . . your Holiness’s apostolic authority . . . So all may see from this how I esteem the spiritual power, and honour the dignity of the Keys. . . . Therefore, most holy father, I prostrate myself at your feet, placing myself and all I am and have at your disposal, to be dealt with as you see fit. My cause hangs on the will of your Holiness, by whose verdict I shall either save or lose my life. Come what may, I shall recognise the voice of your Holiness to be that of Christ, speaking through you. (1)


30 May 1518 I expect to receive Christ’s verdict through the Papal throne. (1)

17 October 1518 I was assuredly . . . too irreverent to the name of the Pope . . . I humbly implore your Reverence to deign to refer this case to our Most Holy Lord Leo X, that these doubts may be settled by the Church, so that he may either compel a just withdrawal of my propositions or else their just affirmation. I wish only to follow the Church . . . (1)

3 March 1519 (Letter to Pope Leo X) . . . you truly stand in the place of Christ. . . . Most Holy Father, before God and all his creation, I testify that I have never wanted, nor do I today want, to touch in any way the authority of . . . Your Holiness or demolish it by any craftiness. (1)

5 March 1519 I am quite content that he should be called, and in fact be “Lord” . . . and that he wields his authority by the grace of God, because it is certain that he could have no power unless God willed it. (1)

30 May 1519 I know that man can think of nothing unless it be given to him from above. But least of all can that be said of the pope, of whom it is written: The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord. Therefore, Holy Father, I lay my work at your feet in all confidence. Whatever your decision may be, it will in any case have its origin in Jesus, without whom you cannot propose or speak anything. If you condemn my book to be burned, I will say: As it has pleased the Lord, so it has happened. If you command that it be preserved, I will say: Praise be to God! . . . all well-meaning readers may know with what pure intentions I have sought to fathom the nature of ecclesiastical power and what reverence I hold toward the power of the keys. . . . Therefore, Most Holy Father, I cast myself at your feet with all that I am and possess. Raise me up or slay me, summon me hither or thither, approve me or reprove me as you please. I will listen to your voice as the voice of Christ reigning and speaking in you. (1)

5 July 1519 . . . the respect I bear to the sovereign pontiff . . . When Dr. Eck declares that the universal Church must have a head, he says well. (1)

20 July 1519 . . . the Roman pontiff to whom I did not deny a precedence in honor. (1)


Perpetual Virginity of Mary

1523 A new lie about me is being circulated. I am supposed to have preached and written that Mary, the mother of God, was not a virgin either before or after the birth of Christ . . Scripture does not say or indicate that she later lost her virginity . . . When Matthew [1:25] says that Joseph did not know Mary carnally until she had brought forth her son, it does not follow that he knew her subsequently; on the contrary, it means that he never did know her . . . This babble . . . is without justification . . . he has neither noticed nor paid any attention to either Scripture or the common idiom. (12)

Christ, our Savior, was the real and natural fruit of Mary’s virginal womb . . . This was without the cooperation of a man, and she remained a virgin after that. (12)

1539 Christ . . . was the only Son of Mary, and the Virgin Mary bore no children besides Him . . . I am inclined to agree with those who declare that ‘brothers’ really mean ‘cousins’ here, for Holy Writ and the Jews always call cousins brothers. (12)

Prayers For the Dead

1528 As for the dead, since Scripture gives us no information on the subject, I regard it as no sin to pray with free devotion in this or some similar fashion: ‘Dear God, if this soul is in a condition accessible to mercy, be thou gracious to it.’ And when this has been done once or twice, let it suffice. For vigils and requiem masses and yearly celebrations of requiems are useless, and merely the devil’s annual fair. (10)


6 October 1520 . . . 
these things cannot be called sacraments of faith, because there is no divine promise connected with them, neither do they save; but sacraments do save those who believe the divine promise. (4)

1529 We further believe that in this Christian Church we have forgiveness of sin, which is wrought through the holy Sacraments and Absolution, . . . (5)

Sacramentals (Holy Water, Blessings, Etc.)

6 October 1520 . . . those sacraments which we have instituted, such as the blessing and sprinkling of salt and holy water. (14)

Saints: Images of

1525 Where however images or statues are made without idolatry, then such making of them is not forbidden. . . . [M]y image breakers must also let me keep, wear, and look at a crucifix or a Madonna . . . as long as I do not worship them, but only have them as memorials. . . . images for memorial and witness, such as crucifixes and images of saints, are to be tolerated . . . And they are not only to be tolerated, but for the sake of the memorial and the witness they are praiseworthy and honorable . . . (6)

Schism: Aversion and Opposition to


Late February 1519 . . . if unfortunately there are such things in Rome as might be improved, there neither is, nor can be any reason that one should tear oneself away from the Church in schism. Rather, the worse things become, the more a man should help and cling to her, for by schism and contempt nothing can be mended. We must not desert God on account of the devil; or abandon the children of God who are still in the Roman communion, because of the multitude of the ungodly. There is no sin, there is no evil that should destroy charity or break the bond of union. For charity can do all things, and to unity nothing is difficult. (1)


5 July 1519 Never have I taken pleasure in any schism whatsoever, nor will I to the end of time. The Bohemians have done wrong in voluntarily separating from our communion, even if they have divine right on their side; for the highest divine right is love and unity of the Spirit. (1)


Sign of the Cross


1529 In the morning, when you get up, make the sign of the holy cross and say: In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen . . . (6)


Sinners in the Church


Autumn 1533 Our manner of life is as evil as is that of the papists. (7)


Tradition: Apostolic


1528 In the first place I hear and see that such rebaptism is undertaken by some in order to spite the pope and to be free of any taint of the Antichrist. In the same way the foes of the sacrament want to believe only in bread and wine, in opposition to the pope, thinking thereby really to overthrow the papacy. It is indeed a shaky foundation on which they can build nothing good. On that basis we would have to disown the whole of Scripture and the office of the ministry, which of course we have received from the papacy. We would also have to make a new Bible. . . .. . . We recall that St. John was not averse to hearing the Word of God from Caiaphas and pays attention to his prophecy [John 11:49 f.] . . . Christ bids us hear the godless Pharisees in the seat of Moses, though they are godless teachers . . . Let God judge their evil lies. We can still listen to their godly words . . . if the first, or child, baptism were not right, it would follow that for more than a thousand years there was no baptism or any Christendom, which is impossible. For in that case the article of the creed, I believe in one holy Christian church, would be false . . . If this baptism is wrong then for that long period Christendom would have been without baptism, and if it were without baptism it would not be Christendom. (14)

1532 This testimony of the universal holy Christian Church, even if we had nothing else, would be a sufficient warrant for holding this article [on the sacrament] and refusing to suffer or listen to a sectary, for it is dangerous and fearful to hear or believe anything against the unanimous testimony, belief, and teaching of the universal holy Christian churches, unanimously held in all the world from the beginning until now over fifteen hundred years. (14)


Works: Supreme Importance of, as Proof of Authentic Faith


1529 [E]very day should witness the war against the old man and the growth of the new. For, if we wish to be Christians, we must practice the things that make for Christianity. (5)


1537 Good works follow such faith, renewal, and forgiveness. And what there is still sinful or imperfect also in them shall not be accounted as sin or defect, even [and that, too] for Christ’s sake; but the entire man, both as to his person and his works, is to be called and to be righteous and holy from pure grace and mercy, shed upon us [unfolded] and spread over us in Christ. 3] Therefore we cannot boast of many merits and works, if they are viewed apart from grace and mercy, but as it is written, 1 Cor. 1, 31: He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord, namely, that he has a gracious God. For thus all is well. 4] We say, besides, that if good works do not follow, faith is false and not true. (5)

1545 Where is the fruit that shows you really believe? . . . Christ has not died so that you could remain such a sinner; rather, he died so that sin might be put to death and destroyed and that you might now begin to love God and your neighbor. Faith takes sins away and puts them to death so that you should live not in them but in righteousness. Therefore demonstrate by your works and by your fruits that you have faith . . . [Whoever believes] will say it with his deeds – or forget about having the reputation of being a believer . . . Love follows true faith . . . One should do everything that is good so that faith does not become an empty husk but may be true and genuine. (5)


Full Source Documentation is in the Following Papers
[Note from 2-5-16: my posted papers are in a state of flux at the moment, so I can’t provide links to the papers below, and many will have different titles when they are fully processed into Patheos. But I can assure all that I do have full bibliographical documentation for every quote.]


(1) Martin Luther’s Obedience to Pope Leo X and the Catholic Church from 1518 to 1520 (+ References to Pope as “Antichrist”)

(2) Baptismal Regeneration: Luther, Wesley, and Anglicanism

(3) Martin Luther On the Sacrament of Absolution (and Private Confession)

(4) Martin Luther’s Opinion of (the Catholic Sacrament of) Confirmation

(5) Martin Luther on Sanctification and the Absolute Necessity of Good Works as the Proof of Authentic Faith
(6) Martin Luther on Crucifixes, Images and Statues of Saints, and the Sign of the Cross

(7) Martin Luther: Protestants’ “Manner of Life” No Better Than That of the “Papists”

(8) The Protestant Sacramentarian Controversies (Calvin vs. Luther vs. Zwingli)

(9) Martin Luther Refutes Zwingli & Other Deniers of the Real Presence

(10) Martin Luther Espouses Prayer For the Dead / Retroactive Prayer

(11) Martin Luther’s Mariology (Particularly the Immaculate Conception)

(12) Luther, Calvin, and Other Early Protestants on the Perpetual Virginity of Mary

(13) Contraception and the “Fewer Children is Better” Mentality: the Opposition of Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Other Protestants

(14) Martin Luther: Catholic Critical Analysis and Praise
Stay in touch! Like Biblical Evidence for Catholicism on Facebook:

Browse Our Archives