In all the years I’ve studied the Catholic Church, I’ve never read a single word that the Church has ever said about Luther. I have read a couple of histories of Luther as well as many of his own works. Luther merits the mild criticism “scoundrel,” on his support of plural marriage alone, in my opinion. He’s a hero to his followers, the “Great Reformer,” yet he taught against the sanctity of true marriage, as God intended. “And the two shall be one flesh.” Few of us know that about Luther – and other salient facts – because it has been suppressed. ‘Scoundrel’ is my assessment and no one else’s.
A recent film on Luther’s life was shown on PBS. It was an unbalanced portrayal, as is usual in portrayals of Luther, that whitewashed the man and trashed the Church. Not a word was said about Luther’s cuts to the Bible, his writings against the Jews, his approval of polygyny, his innovations to Christian doctrine, his condemnation of the Anabaptists to death, etc. It was Luther the Hero vs. the Big Bad Church.
I don’t want to offend anyone, but that’s my honest observation. I was once a Southern Baptist and Luther was my hero. But I knew none of these facts about his life. It’s in his own writings, but those who know, don’t tell.
I was just commenting on how selective filmmakers and biographers have been. They’re careful not to tarnish Luther’s image with the truth.
From the official WELS (Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod) Q&A website:
Q:I was told that Martin Luther approved of bigamous marriages. Could you please inlighten me of these facts.
A:It would be advisable to draw a distinction between what Luther taught as a general principle and to what he in an unusual circumstance grudgingly gave approval.
Luther believed in monogamous relationships, since Scripture clearly points out that a man should be the husband of one wife.
[Insert: There’s no evidence of Luther’s belief in monogamy, since he’s on record as saying that he “could find no Scriptural basis” for forbidding a man to take two or more wives simultaneously. The (66-book) Bible was his only basis for faith and morals.]
Luther also was opposed to divorce. There were two instances where Luther suggested that bigamy was preferable to divorce. In the first case Henry VIII, the king of England, was looking for a reason to divorce his wife so that he could remarry and have a wife who could provide him with a male heir to the throne. Luther suggested that a lesser evil than divorce would be bigamy.
A more famous incident involved the Landgrave of Hesse, Philip, one of the secular leaders of the Reformation. In 1523 at the age of 19 Philip of Hesse, after a promiscuous period as a teenager, entered into a politically advantageous marriage with Katherine of Saxony, the daughter of Duke George. It was not a marriage made in heaven. Of her Philip said, “She drinks, she stinks, she shows me no affection.”
With problems at home, Philip began to turn to his attention elsewhere. Philip was unfaithful to his wife, but this so troubled his conscience that he communed only rarely. In addition to pangs of conscience about his lifestyle, he also had an acute attack of syphillis in 1539, which was endemic in Europe. In 1539 Philip discussed his situation with Martin Bucer, who in turn discussed it with Luther.
In the late summer of 1539 the situation became more serious when Philip met the 17-year-old Margaret von der Saale, a Saxon noblewoman. Her mother, Anna, would consent to her daughter’s relationship with Philip only if it were legitimized as a second marriage. Genuine second marriages, however, were prohibited by church law and by imperial law.
With a long list of specific instructions from Philip of Hesse, Bucer discussed the issue with Luther on December 9-10, 1539. Luther thought the solution to the situation might be bigamy. Luther believed that “divorce is much worse Scripturally than bigamy.” The theologians clearly indicated that they could give him nothing but extraordinary, pastoral advice in his predicament of conscience, and in no way was it to be made public.
On March 4, 1540, the second marriage took place at Rotenburg on the Fulda River. Witnesses included Bucer and Melanchthon, who had been summoned from the assembly in Smalcald without explanation. The matter was to be kept secret, but unfortunately it did not remain one for long. Margaret’s mother let the world know. [unquote]
[Red for emphasis mine]
page 8 WELS Q&A