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Pope Benedict on Martin Luther

As was pointed out in the comments on my last post (though I should give credit to my friend, Charlie Collier of Wipf & Stock for pointing it out to me first), it seems that there will indeed be upcoming interaction between the current Pope and Martin Luther.  According to a recent article in the Times Online, Pope Benedict will release his findings based on his study of Luther after discussing him in a seminar with 40 other theologians.  According the article, the Pope plans to release a positive assessment of Luther as a Reformer of the church, arguing that he did not intend to split the church, but only to purge it of corrupt practices, in some ways anticipating some of the reforms of Vatican II.

Some think that this move to positively evaluate Luther is something of a PR mop-up after the bad reactions to the statement released by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith last summer which declared Protestant and Eastern Orthodox churches to be “not proper Churches.”  Regardless, I think more Catholic engagement with Luther is a good and important thing and the future of ecumenical theology may have a lot to do with such studies.  Ironically enough, it may very well be that Luther will be a decisive key in healing the very rift in the church that he helped create.  It is always the scribes of the kingdom who practice the hard art of bringing treasures new and old out of the storehouse of the church. 


  1. Ben wrote:

    An interview with Pre-B16 Ratzinger on Luther.

    By the way, the CDF document in question doesn’t say that about the EO, just the Protestants. The EO are characterized as Churches which “lack something in their condition as particular churches” by not being in communion with the Bishop of Rome. The Protestants “have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery [and] cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called ‘Churches’ in the proper sense.” As the wits said when the document came out, “BREAKING NEWS: POPE CATHOLIC!”

    Friday, March 7, 2008 at 10:36 am | Permalink
  2. Halden wrote:

    Ben, you upper first link doesn’t seem to be there.

    Friday, March 7, 2008 at 10:46 am | Permalink
  3. Ben wrote:

    FIXED LINK Darn closing quotes.

    Friday, March 7, 2008 at 11:01 am | Permalink
  4. Bobby Grow wrote:

    This should be interesting. Fortunately “who” confers constituency to the “who” the church is, is Christ–and not the Pope.

    Friday, March 7, 2008 at 1:38 pm | Permalink
  5. Fr Alvin Kimel wrote:

    The Times article is a bunch of hooey. But the times is notoriously bad and misleading in its reporting of church affairs–and especially in its reporting of the Catholic Church.

    Benedict/Ratzinger has long appreciated, though not uncritically, the theology of Martin Luther. I would not be surprised, therefore, if he were to speak positively about Luther’s contributions to Christian theology and the reform of church practice. If he should do so, it would certainly not be, as the article suggests, to improve the public relations image of the Vatican.

    Folks may find of interest this 25 year old interview with Ratzinger on the subject of Luther.

    Friday, March 7, 2008 at 4:48 pm | Permalink
  6. Hill wrote:

    The Communio interview is fascinating. I guess it makes sense for a German to have spent considerable time reflecting on Luther.

    Friday, March 7, 2008 at 5:01 pm | Permalink
  7. Freder1ck wrote:

    And wouldn’t an Augustinian theologian be the most likely to have studied Luther?

    Ratzinger credited with saving Lutheran pact (Sept 1999).

    Lutheran hailed Cdl Ratzinger as Expert on Luther: Cardinal invited Protestants to read the pre-Reformation writings

    Ignatius Insight blog lists several references

    Friday, March 7, 2008 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

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