Thursday, March 06, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI: Luther Not a Heretic?

A Time Online (UK) article is stating that Pope Benedict XVI, at a seminar with 40 other theologians at Castelgondolfo, will state that he doesn't think Martin Luther was a heretic. The article states: "According to Vatican insiders the Pope will argue that Luther, who was excommunicated and condemned for heresy, was not a heretic." Now two questions come to mind: (1) who are these "Vatican insiders" (perhaps they are inter-religious "experts?") and (2) how much secular bias against the Church is embedded into this story? We have to be very tentative when we read articles such as this one that speculate what the Pope does and does not intend to do at some future event.

It is, all things considered, a curious article. It goes on to state:

"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."

This passage, again, is suspect. The "drive to soften Pope Benedict's image"? Has our Pope really seemed to care about his image? He angered Muslims with his Regensburg speech only to apologize for how they responded to it. He issued the Motu Proprio to the dismay of many inside and outside of the Church. All of a sudden he is concerned with his image? If I had to guess - and I'm not guessing - I'd say it is more these "Vatican insiders" (read: heterodox Bishops and Cardinals buried inside the Curia) who are most concerned with his "image."

It goes on to say:

"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”."

Here is where we issue the Cardinal Kasper alert. Notice how the article is mentioning what Pope Benedict XVI will say and do in the future yet what we get is Cardinal Kasper's personal spewings. Perhaps they are trying to give credence to his heterodox views by placing them on the Pope's coat tails. Whenever we hear him speaking from the inter-religious dialog perspective, danger follows. From experience it appears that he is most concerned with promoting peace - which most often means indifference - between religions. I believe - if I am not mistaken - he was the one who tried to weaken the blow of the new Good Friday prayer for the traditional liturgy by essentially downplaying the call for Jews to conversion. It's not as if we are going to have a mission to convert the Jews, he said (if I am not mistaken). Really? It seems as if perhaps we should.

And how can we have a "more positive" view of a heretic? Regardless of Luther's intentions (which I tend to be of the mind to think he was a very troubled, scrupulous man who fell into heresy more out of a troubled soul than out of the malice of some others, such as Mr. Jean Calvin), he ended in heresy. God judges his soul, not me (thankfully), and I will in no way guess as to his eternal fate. However, because of Truth and of care for souls, we cannot have a "more positive" view of heretics. To do so lends credence, or at least tolerance, to falsehoods which can lead people to not fully evaluate the dangers of the error. "If the Pope thinks Luther isn't a heretic," some may reason, "then I guess Protestantism isn't all that bad after all."

What is apparent in this article - for whatever scant morsels of reality may be found in it - is that the greatest concern is "to promote ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and Protestants" and to "soften Pope Benedict's image as an arch conservative hardliner as he approaches the third anniversary of his election next month." These two concerns should be far down the list - if they even make the list - of the Vicar of Christ on earth. The greatest goal must be to preach the Gospel, to make the Truth (Who is Christ) absolutely crystal clear, to glorify God and to speak the truth (in charity and humility) for the salvation of souls. We cannot compromise for the sake of "ecumenical dialogue" or even worse, for the sake of image. The idea of acting for the sake of dialogue or image sounds more like the errors of the modern world dictating ecclesial priorities rather than the glory of God and the care for souls.

One can only wonder what these "Vatican insiders" would have planned for Jesus' image if they had been alive at that time. Perhaps they would think they could hurry him into being a political power who would overthrow the Romans. Maybe they would issue statements on the cleansing of the temple in an attempt to make Jesus' image less harsh. Whatever they would have done in the past - whoever they are - they sure do cause enough difficulties for Christ and His disciples in our own day and time.

O Lord, cleanse and strengthen Your Church so that she may faithfully and uncompromisingly preach and teach the Truth. Send faithful workers to Your harvest field. Miserere mei.


Tim A. Troutman said...

If Luther wasn't a heretic, then the word "heretic" is absolutely meaningless.

StBasil said...

Absolutely. Regardless of his intentions or whatever discomfort may have driven him to that end, the objective fact cannot be denied.

Pax Christi tecum.