500 years ago, Catholics embracing Luther

ROME – This year marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, and since we’ve framed that world-changing event for a half-millennium now as “Catholics v. Protestants,” it’s easy to forget a simple truth about what happened on Oct. 31, 1517, and everything that followed: Martin Luther’s original audience was made up entirely, 100 percent, by Catholics.

“Five hundred years ago, Europe was a tinder box, it was ready to go aflame,” said Martin Marty of the University of Chicago, himself a Lutheran and one of America’s preeminent scholars of religion, in a recent Crux interview.

“Luther, an Augustinian friar, left his monastery and either posted by mail to the Archbishop of Mainz, or posted to the door of the church in Wittenberg in Saxony in southern Germany, 95 theses that he wanted to debate,” Marty said.

“He hit exactly the points that were at issue in the hearts of so many people.

“They were all Catholics,” Marty said, “and it struck their hearts, because they were struggling with the same things he was.”

What that means, Marty suggested, is that despite centuries of bitter ecclesiastic rivalries, Protestants and Catholics have a common heritage, which he said has flowered in the modern ecumenical movement.

“I remember going once to a meeting of the World Council of Churches, where the topic was the nature of the unity we seek,” Marty said.

“The bureaucratic typist from Geneva who sent the draft to us in the press room had said that the goal of Christian unity is that all in each place come to a ‘full committee fellowship!’”

Marty said of course, the word was supposed to be, come to a ‘fully committed fellowship’ – “Today’s Catholic and Lutheran leadership are both committed to finding new ways to move toward that fully committed fellowship.” Continue reading


Additional reading

News category: Features.

Tags: , , ,