Open Letter To Cardinal Müller: How Can a Excommunicated Heretic Be a “Witness to Hope”?
It is indisputable that in recent times the historical figure of Martin Luther has undergone a remarkable rehabilitation. Once excommunicated, Luther has been recommended to the faithful as a “witness to the Gospel.” His statue has been photographed in the Vatican, a commemorative Reformation postage stamp has been issued by the Vatican, and the Holy Father himself has praised Martin Luther’s personal journey and the Protestant Reformation which he began.
However, the excommunication of Luther has not been lifted; he is still considered to be a formal heretic, and his theological opinions are in contradiction with the truth which the Catholic Church possesses. Luther rejected the authority of the Papacy, the forgiveness of sins through Confession, and the doctrine of transubstantiation, among many others. He did not recant these opinions, and neither did the church that he founded. In what way can it be possible for Catholics to receive the Eucharist in communion with the members of Luther’s church, when Luther repudiated the priestly authority by which the Eucharist is confected?
This poll was conducted on our site, Pewsitter.com. Founded in 2006, Pewsitter is one of the oldest and largest Catholic news aggregators on the Internet. We gather and review thousands of stories weekly from national and international Catholic sources, and publish hundreds on our portal to keep our readership informed.The Holy Father, as we have seen in the arrangement for the upcoming 2018 Synod, welcomes the perspectives of the lay faithful. We therefore conducted a survey of our readership, asking whether they believe it possible for an excommunicated heretic to be a witness of the Gospel; we received almost 1000 responses. Of the 949 respondents, 95% or 910 do not believe it to be possible. Our methodology does not allow individuals to vote multiple times, and therefore the results can be considered a fair sample. The results are attached.
Clearly the results of our poll reveal that a large percentage of Catholics are confused about the contradiction of Luther’s status as an excommunicated heretic and his simultaneous rehabilitation as a “Witness to Hope.” Given this situation it would seem prudent, if not a necessity, that an explanation be provided by the Holy See as to how these two contradictory positions can be held at the same time. Moreover, it is our understanding that the pronouncements from the Council of Trent are infallible on these matters concerning Luther. If so, the Church’s position cannot be rescinded or reversed.
The Church’s contradictory positions on Luther, we fear, are damaging its moral authority: scandalizing faithful Catholics, and confusing other people of goodwill. Clarity is needed on this issue. We respectfully request that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith provides an explanation that resolves this apparent contradiction.
We would be pleased to publish your response, in hopes that it would further the education of our readers – and their understanding of this issue.