Luther's Eternal Destiny


#1

Greetings,

I read in an RC apologetical work that the Roman Church makes no presumption concerning the eternal destiny of Martin Luther.

Is that assertion true, and if so, has it always been the position of the Roman Church?

It seems to run contrary to the language of the papal bulls issued concerning Luther.

Exsurge Domine said that the Pope could, “without any further citation or delay, proceed against him to his condemnation and damnation…” Luther was neverthless given time for repentance, so that he might escape “the death of a sinner.” But Luther obviously did not repent.

Decet Romanum Pontificem spoke of Luther’s “depraved and damnable purpose.” It called for any of the faithful who were sympathetic to the Lutherans to shun them, so that they “may escape divine vengeance and any degree of participation in their damnation.” It further declared concerning Luther and his followers: “…these and the other sentences, censures and punishments… we decree to have fallen on all these men to their damnation.”

Clarification would be appreciated.

J


#2

Since no one was there at the point of his dying breath then no one can know with any certainty just exactly what transpired in his heart between the Lord and ML.

We canonize saints based on the evidence that we have and we have no such evidence in ML’s case. I have no concerns for him, he is not my problem, he is the Lord’s.

I have no place to judge another man’s servant.

I have my hands full getting myself ready to someday face the Lord. May Luther and I both find mercy for all our sins.
Pax tecum,.


#3

Well…The Church kinds needed Luther. There may not have been the Council of Trent if he hadn’t have broken out of the Church.

Unfortunately, if you take this view, you also have to look at the thousands of Protestant denomenations or sects that were a direct result of the Reformation.

Bummer. But hmm…I think Luther was a very smart and passionate man. But again, to echo Church Militant, what is between a master and his servant is of no business of mine. I hope for the best.


#4

I think that the Pope did not like Martin Luther. :smiley:


#5

Thanks to those who have replied.

CM, I think your view is an accurate representation of what the book I was reading was trying to explain.

What looks like a problem, though, is that we do have an account of Martin Luther’s death. Right before his departure from this life, he was asked, “Reverend father, are you ready to die trusting in your Lord Jesus Christ and to confess the doctrine which you have taught in His name?” He then answered, “Yes.” That affirmation would seem to rule out the notion of a last minute act of repentance.

In any event, I suppose the question could be made more precise: If Martin Luther did not repudiate the teachings which were condemned by the papacy, does the language of the papal bulls imply that he was damned?

Again, any light on this matter would be appreciated.

J


#6

One of the many St Theresa’s wrote that she had seen Luther and Calvin in hell. I believe she wrote that the Lord told her that “Their torment is great, but for every soul their false teachings send to hell their torment increases.”

It makes one fear for the eternal disposition of the false Protestant preachers. If their preaching causes someone to fall from the faith or be lost, how could God justify giving eternal bliss to someone whose errant teachings has caused someone to experience eternal suffering?

I guess it comes down to authority. If one wrongly takes authority for oneself, and then uses it to teach truth mixed with half-truth or outright lie, one must then accept the consequences if their actions lead someone to damnation.

Thal59


#7

[quote=Johannes]Thanks to those who have replied.

CM, I think your view is an accurate representation of what the book I was reading was trying to explain.

What looks like a problem, though, is that we do have an account of Martin Luther’s death. Right before his departure from this life, he was asked, “Reverend father, are you ready to die trusting in your Lord Jesus Christ and to confess the doctrine which you have taught in His name?” He then answered, “Yes.” That affirmation would seem to rule out the notion of a last minute act of repentance.

In any event, I suppose the question could be made more precise: If Martin Luther did not repudiate the teachings which were condemned by the papacy, does the language of the papal bulls imply that he was damned?

Again, any light on this matter would be appreciated.

J
[/quote]

When Jesus promised Peter the keys of the kingdom and the power to “forgive or to hold bound” He was indicating that Peter and his successors would have great power over members of the church. But that great power is not absolute power. Regardless of any language used by any pope talking about any person about any subject, no man has the power to confer eternal damnation on another. Not any pope or all popes together.

peace

Jim


#8

[quote=Johannes] I read in an RC apologetical work that the Roman Church makes no presumption concerning the eternal destiny of Martin Luther.
[/quote]

In fairness, the encyclical does not address the “eternal destiny of Martin Luther”.

[quote=Johannes] Exsurge Domine said that the Pope could, “without any further citation or delay, proceed against him to his condemnation and damnation…” Luther was neverthless given time for repentance, so that he might escape “the death of a sinner.” But Luther obviously did not repent.
[/quote]

It is not obvious Luther did anything, and, if you continue to read the encyclical the Church obviously desires Luther to return to the faith:

[quote= Decet Romanum Pontificem] Decet Romanum Pontificem
Yet, with the advice of our brothers, imitating the mercy of almighty God who does not wish the death of a sinner but rather that he be converted and live, and forgetting all the injuries inflicted on us and the Apostolic See, we have decided to use all the compassion we are capable of. It is our hope, so far as in us lies, that he will experience a change of heart by taking the road of mildness we have proposed, return, and turn away from his errors. We will receive him kindly as the prodigal son returning to the embrace of the Church.
Therefore let Martin himself and all those adhering to him, and those who shelter and support him, through the merciful heart of our God and the sprinkling of the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ by which and through whom the redemption of the human race and the upbuilding of holy mother Church was accomplished, know that from our heart we exhort and beseech that he cease to disturb the peace, unity, and truth of the Church for which the Savior prayed so earnestly to the Father. Let him abstain from his pernicious errors that he may come back to us. If they really will obey, and certify to us by legal documents that they have obeyed, they will find in us the affection of a father’s love, the opening of the font of the effects of paternal charity, and opening of the font of mercy and clemency.
[/quote]

Since the encyclical specifically states the Church wishes Luther return to the faith your assertion that it condemns Luther in eternity seem incorrect. The Church does not specify here the eternal destiny of Luther, it is warning him and his followers of their probable destiny.


#9

[quote=Thal59]One of the many St Theresa’s wrote that she had seen Luther and Calvin in hell. I believe she wrote that the Lord told her that “Their torment is great, but for every soul their false teachings send to hell their torment increases.”

It makes one fear for the eternal disposition of the false Protestant preachers. If their preaching causes someone to fall from the faith or be lost, how could God justify giving eternal bliss to someone whose errant teachings has caused someone to experience eternal suffering?
[/quote]

The problem here is one of private revelation, which we are not bound to accept.

I certainly disagree with the reformation/post-reformation errors, and I certainly cherish concern for all souls, but it’s simply a fact that none of us can presume to ascertain the final disposition of any soul, nor is discussion of such worthy or wise (IMO). No offense intended at all…

I guess it comes down to authority. If one wrongly takes authority for oneself, and then uses it to teach truth mixed with half-truth or outright lie, one must then accept the consequences if their actions lead someone to damnation.

Thal59

This I have to agree with and therefore all the more take to heart the admonition of St. Paul to Timothy when he told him “Carefully study to present thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2nd Timothy 2:15)
Pax vobiscum,


#10

Luther still believed himself to be a good person and doing God’s will. He was very misguided but I don’t think he would be sent to Hell for it.


#11

[quote=Thal59]One of the many St Theresa’s wrote that she had seen Luther and Calvin in hell. I believe she wrote that the Lord told her that “Their torment is great, but for every soul their false teachings send to hell their torment increases.”

** It makes one fear for the eternal disposition of the false Protestant preachers. If their preaching causes someone to fall from the faith or be lost, how could God justify giving eternal bliss to someone whose errant teachings has caused someone to experience eternal suffering? **

I guess it comes down to authority. If one wrongly takes authority for oneself, and then uses it to teach truth mixed with half-truth or outright lie, one must then accept the consequences if their actions lead someone to damnation.

Thal59
[/quote]

If only every Catholic parent could take this thought seriously. We too are responsible for our children…

The is an oft told story about St Padre Pio…

While hearing confessions, a woman came to him and he ran from her. She followed him asking why he would not let her come to him. He told her that he had seen the souls of her children in hell… and they were there because of her permissiveness.

I could not imagine what a terrible thing that would be… to know I had born any cause of someone else’s damnation.


#12

Tom,

With all respect, I do not understand your argument.

I know the bulls do not say that the Pope is damning Luther. However, there is a big difference between (a) damning someone yourself, and (b) finding someone guilty of offenses that will certainly lead to eternal damnation, unless they are repented of. It looks to me like (b) is what the bull is doing. And if that is the case, then Luther’s failure to repent would seem to require the conclusion that he is now in hell.

You said that: “if you continue to read the encyclical the Church obviously desires Luther to return to the faith.” I fully agree. I even said: “Luther was neverthless given time for repentance.” Yet the church comes across as so greatly desirous of his repentance because, if he does not repent, he will then be unable to escape damnation.

The solemn threats of the bulls do not seem to be dealing with a mere probable destiny. Rather, it looks like they claim that Luther must either repent before he dies, or face damnation after his death.

It may well be that I still don’t understand something. That’s why I asked the question in the first place.

Perhaps the Latin does not suggest eternal damnation as strongly as do the English translations. The literal meaning of the verb ‘damno’ is just to condemn judicially. It doesn’t necessarily refer to eternal damnation. But since both condemnation and damnation are mentioned in the bulls, it seems reasonable to assume that the damnation here spoken of is the eternal condemnation of hell (otherwise it would appear redundant to use both words).

J


#13

[quote=Johannes]Greetings,

I read in an RC apologetical work that the Roman Church makes no presumption concerning the eternal destiny of Martin Luther.
[/quote]

Hi Johannes,

I’m simply curious what “RC apologetical work” you’re reading.

Hubert Jedin was a German Catholic historian from the Universities of Breslau and Bonn. He was a specialist in the history of the Council of Trent.Jedin pointed out that Catholicism never condemned Luther by name at Trent, and that no official judgment on Luther exists by which a loyal Catholic is bound.

However, Catholic historian Joseph Lortz has said:“The Church condemned Luther as a heretic.” One needs only to go visit the Catholic Encyclopedia and read its thoughts on Heresy and heretics to posit where heretics wind up.

In my own studies, I find a shift in attitude toward Luther in Roman Catholic circles. Previous to the work of Lortz, many Catholic works against Luther had no problem locating him far from heaven. for instance, Cochlaeus said Luther was a child of the devil and possessed by the devil.Denifle said the devil controlled him. Patrick O’Hare concludes similally.

After Lortz though- an ecumenical wave went through the church. Now, it’s hard to find Current RCC scholars and apologists willing to be so certain of Luther’s fate.

Regards,
James Swan
beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/


#14

The Catholic Church has never used her teaching authority to declare that any particular man is in Hell. Jesus told us to love even our enemies, and that command to love all men certainly includes Martin Luther.

What we can be absolutely certain of, is that the living Magisterium of the true church has declared that certain teachings associated with Martin Luther are heretical, and that anyone that embraces these heretical teachings risks their eternal damnation.


#15

Greetings Mr. Swan,

The work is A Biblical Defense of Catholicism by Dave Armstrong.

The description of a shift in views on Luther is very helpful. Thanks for sharing it.

What particularly bothers me about this whole matter is that what was actually done in the sixteenth century appears to have been reinterpreted or muddied in more recent times in order to serve the purposes of, for example, the ecumenical movement.

I still cannot see how, if the bulls are read in a straightforward way, and understood according to their original meaning, anyone can conclude that there is not grounds to say that Luther would be presumed to have been damned.

The standard modern response to this appears to be the assertion that the church never directly or explicitly said that Luther was damned. That is of course true. But it ignores what seems like a simple, albeit indirect, inference from the bulls. For if someone is authoritatively called upon to repent because he is guilty of sins entailing damnation, and if he dies obstinately refusing to repent, then, even without any further declaration, there would appear to be only one possible presumption about his fate.

While I don’t want to open a new can of worms, this discussion reminds me of modern interpretations of the meaning of anathema. The historic form for the proclamation of anathema against an individual included the following words: “…we declare him excommunicated and anathematized and we judge him condemned to eternal fire with Satan and his angels and all the reprobate, so long as he will not burst the fetters of the demon, do penance and satisfy the Church…”

The proviso about repentance can today be seized upon to show that the anathematized person was not actually consigned to hell, since, while living, he had an avenue of escape, and it was even hoped that he would take the opportunity to flee from wrath. But although no irreversible proclamation of eternal condemnation was made, it would seem disingenuous to say that an anathamatized individual who reaffirmed his sins with his last dying breath could be presumed to be anything but damned.

J


#16

Johannes,

Thanks for your response. I can appreciate your desire and struggle to make sense of the whole issue. This Luther question you raise is really just an aspect of bigger issues.

I am very familiar with Dave Armstrong’s work, and Dave is very familiar with mine (Any reading of either his website or my blog makes that obvious).

As opposed to many here at Catholic Answers, Dave Armstrong is ecumenical in his approach to Luther. If you were to ask him if he thinks Luther is a Christian, I’m fairly certain his response would be, “Yes”. Just recently on my blog he commented,

“Luther is a mixed bag, as are almost all human beings. He got some things right and some wrong… but speaking for myself (as one who has written a lot about Luther, from a Catholic standpoint), I don’t think Luther was a “bad” man; just severely misguided and heretical in some respects.That’s what happens when we lean on ourselves rather than the Christian tradition which has been preserved by the Holy Spirit and passed down to us. Any of us who tried to come up with a significantly new version of Christianity would get things wrong. So Catholics point out wrongs, according to our Church teaching and Scripture, while at the same time rejoicing when agreement is found. I don’t see how this is contradictory of hypocritical at all.Popes, of course, are also sinners, as are all of us (if that even needs to be said).”

Source: A Roman Catholic Martin Luther Quiz

I have done some fairly involved research on Catholic approaches to Luther, which Armstrong used to link from his site, I’m not sure if he still does:

Roman Catholic Understanding of Luther Part 1

Roman Catholic Understanding of Luther Part 2

These will at least provide a reference in Catholic scholarship on Luther, and the way it has changed over the years. Others here will be much more knowledgeable with the correct interpretation of Catholic ecumenism. I tend to think that if you were to poll 1000 Catholic scholars in 1560 they would say Luther was condemned as a heretic and got what he deserved. If you were to poll 1000 Catholic scholars in 2006, the responses would be varied.

Best wishes in your studies,
James Swan
beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/


#17

Mr. Swan,

Thank you again for your insights. The information at your links is quite useful.

Gratefully,

J


#18

[quote=TertiumQuid]In my own studies, I find a shift in attitude toward Luther in Roman Catholic circles. Previous to the work of Lortz, many Catholic works against Luther had no problem locating him far from heaven. for instance, Cochlaeus said Luther was a child of the devil and possessed by the devil.Denifle said the devil controlled him. Patrick O’Hare concludes similally.
[/quote]

Analysis of his life.

After Lortz though- an ecumenical wave went through the church. Now, it’s hard to find Current RCC scholars and apologists willing to be so certain of Luther’s fate.

Analysis of his fate after death.

You are mixing scholarship about the fruits of his life with speculation about his fate after death. The Church has never claimed to know with certainty what happened to him after death. And the Church still teaches that heresy leads to Hell. Did you think that teaching changed? If Luther repented after death, he could have been saved. The Church stated that his actions in life were heretical. If you have a problem with the definition of “heresy” within the Church that is another topic. We know through Church teaching the fate for heretics is Hell. But where does the Church ever claim final judgment from Christ? What we are left with, so many generations later, is the knowledge that it is to the detriment of all Christians that he did not return to the faith.


#19

[quote=Johannes]…What looks like a problem, though, is that we do have an account of Martin Luther’s death. Right before his departure from this life, he was asked, “Reverend father, are you ready to die trusting in your Lord Jesus Christ and to confess the doctrine which you have taught in His name?” He then answered, “Yes.” That affirmation would seem to rule out the notion of a last minute act of repentance…
[/quote]

Not at all. In the first place, he affirmed that he was ready to die trusting in Jesus, which we all must do. As for the rest, we don’t and can’t know what transpired in his mind from that point until the point at which death occurred.

JB.


#20

[quote=Johannes]Greetings,

I read in an RC apologetical work that the Roman Church makes no presumption concerning the eternal destiny of Martin Luther.

Is that assertion true, and if so, has it always been the position of the Roman Church?

It seems to run contrary to the language of the papal bulls issued concerning Luther.

Exsurge Domine said that the Pope could, “without any further citation or delay, proceed against him to his condemnation and damnation…” Luther was neverthless given time for repentance, so that he might escape “the death of a sinner.” But Luther obviously did not repent.

Decet Romanum Pontificem spoke of Luther’s “depraved and damnable purpose.” It called for any of the faithful who were sympathetic to the Lutherans to shun them, so that they “may escape divine vengeance and any degree of participation in their damnation.” It further declared concerning Luther and his followers: “…these and the other sentences, censures and punishments… we decree to have fallen on all these men to their damnation.”

Clarification would be appreciated.

J
[/quote]

Peace.

As far as I understand, the Cahtolic Church does not even make a decision on the eternal destiny of Judas. In other words, the CC does not make a decision on the eternal destiny of anyone.

Peace.


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