Thursday, March 13, 2008

Pope Benedict to "Rehabilitate Luther"?

  • WHAT THE PRESS REPORTED: That Martin Luther? He wasn’t so bad, says Pope, by Richard Owen in Rome. London Times Online March 6, 2008:
    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.

  • ANY BASIS IN THE TRUTH?: Vatican spokesman calls rumors of rehabilitation of Luther groundless, by Carol Glatz. Catholic News Service. March 10, 2008:
    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Rumors that the Vatican is set to rehabilitate Martin Luther, the 16th-century leader of the Protestant Reformation, are groundless, said the Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi. [...]

    News reports in early March alleged that Pope Benedict XVI was dedicating a planned September symposium with former doctoral students to re-evaluating Luther, who was excommunicated and condemned for heresy.

    The story "does not have any foundation, insofar as no rehabilitation of Luther is foreseen," Father Lombardi told the Italian news agency ANSA March 8.

    Vatican officials said the topic of the pope's annual summer gathering of former students this year has not yet been decided. Of the two topics under consideration, Luther is not one of them, one official told Catholic News Service.


Carl Olson at Insight Scoop offers some suggestions:

  • Read Luther and the unity of the churches: an interview with Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger Communio Fall 1984.

  • "Consider getting a copy of Ratzinger's Principles of Catholic Theology (Ignatius, 1987, 1989), which contains a major section on ecumenical dialogue, including a section on "Luther's protest" and the Council of Trent's response to certain teachings of Luther and Co."

  • Also see Fr. Aidan Nichols', The Theology of Joseph Ratzinger (T&T Clark, 1988):
    Ratzinger "finds two figures within the Wittenberg Reformer. First, there is the Luther of the Catechisms, the hymns and the liturgical reforms: and this Luther can be received by Catholics whose own biblical and liturgical revivals in this century reproduce many of Luther's own criticisms of the late medieval Church. But besides this Luther there is also another: the radical theologian and polemicist whose particular version of the doctrine of justification by faith is incompatible with the Catholic understanding of faith as a co-believing with the whole Church, within a Christian existence composed equally of faith, hope, and charity" (p. 276).

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