How Luther viewed the Holy Roman Church: Part 1 of 500 Years of the Protestant Revolution

How Luther viewed the Holy Roman Church: Part 1 of 500 Years of the Protestant Revolution

In solemn and mournful remembrance of the events surrounding the grievous actions of Martin Luther, that split Europe and deprived hundreds of millions of souls of the benefits of sacramental life, we will post again important articles on the matter.


Martin Luther and the Catholic Church

a guest-post by John R. T. Lamont (2016)

A number of favourable comments about Martin Luther have been made by Catholic authorities to mark the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017. In particular, the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, whose president is Cardinal Kurt Koch, has issued a Catholic-Lutheran ‘Common Prayer’ for 500 years of Reformation together with the Lutheran World Federation. This ‘Common Prayer’ includes the following prayers: ‘Help us to rejoice in the gifts that have come to the Church through the Reformation’, and ‘The ecumenical journey enables Lutherans and Catholics to appreciate together Martin Luther’s insight into and spiritual experience of the gospel of the righteousness of God, which is also God’s mercy’; ‘Thanks be to you O God for the many guiding theological and spiritual insights that we have all received through the Reformation.’ This is not of course an initiative of the magisterium of the Church, but it is as effective in forming the beliefs of Catholics as a magisterial statement, since it is presented in the media as a position of the Church. This initiative urgently requires comment and criticism from faithful Catholics.

The best way to criticise Luther is by citing his own words. Unfortunately these words are often very obscene and repugnant, and a strong stomach is needed to peruse them. It is regretted that the necessities of the times should make it important to recall these writings to the notice of Catholics.

The first element of Luther’s thought that should be addressed is his view of the Roman Catholic Church. His mature views on this topic were presented in a letter on the Roman Papacy, ‘Against the Roman Papacy, An Institution of the Devil’, that he published in 1545. The letter was illustrated with woodcuts of startling obscenity, which will not be reproduced here. The offensive and blasphemous remarks in the letter are of course deplored by Rorate Caeli – and are given here in illustration of the man now praised by Cardinals and high prelates.


Against the Roman Papacy, An Institution of the Devil

Martin Luther

The Most Hellish Father, St. Paul III, in his supposed capacity as the bishop of the Roman church, has written two briefs to Charles V, our lord emperor, wherein he appears almost furious, growling and boasting, according to the example of his predecessors, that neither an emperor nor anyone else has the right to convoke a council, even a national one, except solely the pope; he alone has the power to institute, ordain, and create everything which is to be believed and done in the church. He has also issued a papal bull (if one may speak like that) for about the fifth time; now the council is once again to take place in Trent, but with the condition that no one attend except his own scum, the Epicureans and those agreeable to him; whereupon I felt great desire to reply, with God’s grace and aid. Amen!

…. Meanwhile, we see and hear what a masterly conjurer the pope is. He is like a magician who conjures gulden into the mouths of silly people, but when they open their mouths they have horse dirt in them. So this shameful fop Paul III calls for a council now for the fifth time, so that anyone who hears the words must think he is serious. But before we can turn around, he has conjured horse dirt into our mouths, for he wants to have a council over which he can exercise his power, and whose decisions he could trample on. The very devil himself would thank him for such a council, and no one but the miserable devil, together with his mother, his sister, and his whoring children, pope, cardinals, and the rest of his devilish scum in Rome will get there. …

These three words, “free, Christian, German,” are to the pope and the Roman court nothing but sheer poison, death, devil, and hell; he cannot stand them, nor see or hear them. That’s the way it is! It is certain that he would rather let himself be torn to pieces and would rather become Turkish or devilish or whatever else would help him. …

This is the language of the see in Rome, so that when he grants a free council, you may henceforth also understand it in Roman: when they say “free,” it means captive” with us Germans; when they say “white,” you must understand “black”; when they say “the Christian church,” you must understand “the scum of all the scoundrels in Rome”; when they call the emperor a “son of the church,” it is as much as to say he is the most accursed man on earth, who they wish were in hell so that they would have the empire; when they call Germany the praiseworthy nation, it means the beasts and barbarians who are not worthy to feed on the pope’s dung, like the Italian Campanus (as one says) did when he had been in Germany (not to his disadvantage) and, on returning to the Italian frontier, turned his back on Germany, squatted, bared his behind, and said, “Aspice nudatas, Barbara terra, nates,” “Look here, you beasts, look up my ass.” …

Someone may think here that I am satisfying my own desire with such scornful, wounding, stinging words to the pope. O Lord God, I am far, far too insignificant to deride the pope. For over six hundred years now he has undoubtedly derided the world, and has laughed up his sleeve at its corruption in body and soul, goods and honour. He does not stop and he cannot stop, as St. Peter calls him in II Peter 2 [:14], “insatiable for sin.” No man can believe what an abomination the papacy is. A Christian does not have to be of low intelligence, either, to recognize it. God himself must deride him in the hellish fire, and our Lord Christ, St. Paul says in II Thessalonians 2 [:8], “will slay him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by his glorious coming.” I only deride, with my weak derision, so that those who now live and those who will come after us should know what I have thought of the pope, the damned Antichrist, and so that whoever wishes to be a Christian may be warned against such an abomination. …

Those in Rome have been practiced and well versed in such rascality and roguery for over four hundred years now, as one can see from the pope’s decretals and all the histories of emperors. Just look how the poor lawyers are plagued, patching, unifying, and smoothing the Roman rascality with glosses before they can give it any sort of shape; it is just as though a furrier patched up a bad pelt on which neither the skin nor the fur is any good, and which is moreover full of spit, pus, and excrement! …

If [the popes] have not been able to kill the emperors with treachery and every diabolical wickedness, it is nevertheless their definite intention, and their regret has always been that their bloodthirsty, murderous, evil intentions have been foiled and prevented. The descendants of the emperor Phocas, their founder and regicide, are, as was said, desperate, thorough arch rascals, murderers, traitors, liars, the very scum of all the most evil men on earth as is said in Rome itself. They embellish themselves with the names of Christ, St. Peter, and the church, even though they are full of all the worst devils in hell-full, full, and so full that they can do nothing but vomit, throw, and blow out devils! You will say that this is true when you read the histories of how they have treated the emperors. …

Until now we had to believe that the pope was the head of the church, the most holy, the savior of all Christendom. Now we see that he, with his Roman cardinals, is nothing but a desperate scoundrel, the enemy of God and man, the destroyer of Christendom, and Satan’s bodily dwelling, who, through him, only harms both church and state, like a werewolf, and mocks and laughs up his sleeve when he hears that such hurts God or man more of this later. …

And even if they would be reformed in a council which really is not possible and the pope and cardinals should promise in blood to observe it, it would still be wasted trouble and labor; they would only grow worse afterward than they were before, as happened after the Council of Constance. For since they believe that there is no God, no hell, no life after this life, and live and die like a cow, sow, or other animal, II Peter 2 [:12], it is to them ridiculous to keep seals and letters, and reform. That is why it would be best for the emperor and estates of the empire to let the blasphemous, abominable rascals and damned scum of Satan in Rome just go to the devil. …

Thus this pope of Sodomists, this founder and master of all sins, here wants to push sin and damnation off onto Emperor Charles, although he knows quite well that his rascally tongue lies abominably. And such accursed villains want to convince the world that they are head of the church, the mother of all churches, and masters of the faith. Why even if we were stones and wooden blocks, we could see by their works throughout all the world that they are lost, desperate children of the devil and also mad, crude asses in Scripture. Someone probably would like to curse them so that they might be struck down by lightning and thunder, burned by hellish fire, have the plague, syphilis, epilepsy, the plague of St. Anthony, leprosy, carbuncles, and all the plagues but these are all caresses, and God has long ago punished them with greater plagues, just like God’s despisers and blasphemers should be punished, Romans 1 [:26, 27], namely, that in sanity they have become so obviously mad and raving that they do not know whether they are or want to be male or female; they are not ashamed in the presence of women, and their mothers, sisters, and grandmothers are among those forced to see and hear such things of them, to their great distress. Shame on you, popes, cardinals, and whatever you are at the curia, that you are not afraid of the cobblestones upon which you ride, which would like to swallow you! …

The imperial laws have much to say about how to handle furious, insane, mad people. How much greater the need is here to put into stocks, chains, and prisons the pope, cardinals, and the whole Roman See, who have not become raving mad in the usual way, but who rage so horribly that at one time they want to be men, at another women, and never know at any one time when their mood will strike them. We Christians should nevertheless believe that such raving and lunatic Roman hermaphrodites have the Holy Spirit and are the heads, masters, and teachers of Christendom! But I must stop here, or save what I could write further against the papal briefs and bulls, for my head is weak, and I feel that I might not get everything said, and yet I still have not gotten to the points I had intended to make in this book. …

These extracts from the letter convey its message accurately, although the entire text (which is quite long) contains passages that are considerably more vulgar and obscene than those given here.

In connection with Luther and Lutheranism, it is important to call attention to the fact that Cardinal Koch and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity have also recently issued a document on relations between Catholics and Jews, entitled ‘The Gifts and Calling of God are irrevocable’. Its stated goal is to contribute to ‘enriching and intensifying the theological dimension of Jewish-Catholic dialogue’. Like the document on Lutheranism, it has no magisterial authority, but has been presented as the official position of the Church. In the light of the Pontifical Council’s praise for ‘Martin Luther’s insight into and spiritual experience of the gospel of the righteousness of God’, it is opportune to recall Luther’s position on the Jews. Luther initially hoped that Jews would all convert to Lutheranism, and made some positive assertions about them, but when they declined to do so he changed his tune. His mature thought on Jews and Judaism is expressed in his work ‘On the Jews and their Lies’. Its main recommendations are as follows:


On the Jews and their Lies

Martin Luther

What shall we Christians do with this rejected and condemned people, the Jews? Since they live among us, we dare not tolerate their conduct, now that we are aware of their lying and reviling and blaspheming … I shall give you my sincere advice:

First, to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. … Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed. For they pursue in them the same aims as in their synagogues. Instead they might be lodged under a roof or in a barn, like the gypsies. … Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing, and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them.  … Fourth, I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb. … Fifth, I advise that safe-conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews.  … Sixth, I advise that usury be prohibited to them, and that all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them and put aside for safekeeping. … Seventh, I recommend putting a flail, an ax, a hoe, a spade, a distaff, or a spindle into the hands of young, strong Jews and Jewesses and letting them earn their bread in the sweat of their brow, as was imposed on the children of Adam. For it is not fitting that they should let us accursed Goyim toil in the sweat of our faces while they, the holy people, idle away their time behind the stove, feasting and farting, and on top of all, boasting blasphemously of their lordship over the Christians by means of our sweat. No, one should toss out these lazy rogues by the seat of their pants. … In brief, dear princes and lords, those of you who have Jews under your rule: if my counsel does not please you, find better advice, so that you and we all can be rid of the unbearable, devilish burden of the Jews. …

Now let me commend these Jews sincerely to whoever feels the desire to shelter and feed them, to honor them, to be fleeced, robbed, plundered, defamed, vilified, and cursed by them, and to suffer every evil at their hands — these venomous serpents and devil’s children, who are the most vehement enemies of Christ our Lord and of us all. And if that is not enough, let him stuff them into his mouth, or crawl into their behind and worship this holy object. Then let him boast of his mercy, then let him boast that he has strengthened the devil and his brood for further blaspheming our dear Lord and the precious blood with which we Christians are redeemed. Then he will be a perfect Christian, filled with works of mercy for which Christ will reward him on the day of judgment, together with the Jews in the eternal fire of hell!

The absurdity of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity issuing both these documents within a month of each other (Dec. 12th 2015 for the one on Lutheranism, Jan. 11th 2016 for the document on Catholics and Jews) is too patent to require comment.




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