Did the Catholic Church authorize the murder of Martin Luther?

It has recently been suggested that the Catholic Church conspired or indirectly authorized the immediate murder of Martin Luther after the Diet of Worms in 1521. However, I haven’t been able to substantiate that anywhere on the interwebs. Poster ‘benjohnson’ submitted in this post on another thread that the wording at the beginning of the Edict of Worms points to this conclusion, but further examination seems to contradict the rest of the edict, which clearly states:

“For this reason we forbid anyone from this time forward to dare, either by words or by deeds, to receive, defend, sustain, or favour the said Martin Luther. On the contrary, we want him to be apprehended and punished as a notorious heretic, as he deserves, to be brought personally before us, or to be securely guarded until those who have captured him inform us, whereupon we will order the appropriate manner of proceeding against the said Luther. Those who will help in his capture will be rewarded generously for their good work.” (wiki link)

Am I missing something? Please discuss.

Thanks in advance. :slight_smile:

(To Ben, I’m not trying to single you out. I Respect your opinion on this board and don’t wish to harass you or call you out personally, but I found your explanation inadequate.)

Considering there were people killed for being heretics, I’d say that statement could be taken as calling for the death of Luther.

Firstly, the call was from Emperor Charles V not the Bishops of Worms. Second, it was for Fr. Martin’s apprehension and detention not execution.

So, how is it now misread as a call for his execution by the Church?

…good question.

I didn’t know he was murdered. I thought he died a natural death.

He wasn’t and I don’t ever recall reading that he was in hiding for his life either. Not sure what he died from but he did die a natural death and I think he lived long enough to marry an x-nun and start his own version of religion. God Bless, Memaw

Maybe, but I was hoping you could support the claim with a bit more detail. :slight_smile:

No worries!

The first tragedy was that Luther was declared an outlaw without a hearing or trial.

And it’s fair to say that Luther was afraid for his life - he hid in the Wartburg Castle for a time disguised as a knight.

In addition, he was unable to attend Diet of Augsburg because of the price on his head, and indeed, Luther never left Saxony where he was given protection by the local prince.

However, I think it’s also fair to say that the Catholic Church learned a lesson with Jan Hus - when it invited Hus to dialog with a promise of safe-passage. And then burned him at the stake as a heretic.

The resulting Hussite wars would give anybody caution.

In addition, when Luther’s grave was left unmolested when the church he was buried in fell into Catholic hands.

Lutherans and Catholics can take solace that we behaved much better than would have been expected at that time in history.

The crime that Luther was condemned for was being religious heretic, and that determination would have had to have come from the Church.

Just in case I give the wrong impression: Lutherans generally don’t care - it’s not like we’re grumpy at Catholics for it or anything.

I use the fact in my Confirmation class to show the right attitude to take in adversity - even though Luther was under tremendous stress he still never walked away from God or the church (our view).

EDIT: Any I don’t think ‘murder’ would be entirely fair to the Catholic viewpoint at the time - burning heretics was considered a way to get a heretic to recant and draw closer to God and a way to stop masses of people from following a heretical idea that would lead the public away from God. Really misguided to be sure, but the intent wasn’t murder.

This comes from www.LUTHER.de:

“When Luther and the princes who supported him left Worms, the emperor imposed an Imperial Act (Wormser Edikt): Luther is declared an outlaw (he may be killed by anyone without threat of punishment).
On the trip home, Elector Friedrich the Wise allowed Luther to be kidnapped on May 4 (Luther knew about it beforehand). This took place on the one hand to guarantee Luther’s safety and on the other hand to let him disappear from the scene for a short while; there were even rumors of Luther’s death. This action also helped the Elector not to endanger himself because he could have been held liable for protecting an outlaw and heretic.” (emphasis mine)

I suppose a Lutheran website is allowed to embellish a little when it comes to Luther. :wink:

That is how I remembered it. Thanks. :slight_smile:

Ben, as Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V would have felt compelled to condemn Luther, just as King Henry VIII of England felt compelled to do so, earning the title “Defender of the Faith” in 1521: en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defence_of_the_Seven_Sacraments

Jacob Probst was prosecuted under the terms of the Worms Edict in December 1521, and although he was compelled to make a public recantation and repudiation of Luther’s teachings, was not burned at the stake.

The link to the article on the Assertio Septem Sacramentorum is accurate as far as it goes. And there is no better man to read on Henry than J. J. Scarisbrick. Even so, the story of how Hank got the *Defensor Fidei title * is slightly more complicated than that. Tis a tale I’ve told here before.


Indeed, but the edict did have teeth: Johann Esch and Heinrich Voes didn’t recant…


Luther was an outlaw and an excommunicated heretic. Killing him, from the standpoint of both Church and imperial authorities would not have been murder. Kind of the way most Americans regard the killing of Osama bin Laden. (The common thinking was that heretics were worse than murderers because they killed souls.)


The Roman Church at the time was doing the same as Islam does to today where it hold majority for converting to another faith.

They’re just giving a definition of what it means to be an outlaw - that the person is specifically outside the regular protection of the law. You literally can kill an outlaw and take their positions without repercussions.

Moe info: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outlaw

To be fair, the Church would normally only persecute the leaders of any particular heresy. I suspect that those that erroneously followed would normally come into line once a demonstration was made.

what difference would’ve it made? bad people do bad things

the damage was already done; and to this day and most likely ever, will not be undone

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