Excerpts from the Vatican Letter on Martin Luther

Fact: Pope Francis is being accused of heresy for his remarks about Martin Luther.

Fact: Pope Francis said nothing about Luther which contradicts formal dogma.

“In fact, scientific research by evangelical and Catholic scholars, the results of which have already reached notable points of convergence, has led to the outlining of a more complete and more differentiated picture of Luther’s personality, of the complex web of historical reality in society, in politics and in the church of the first half of the 16th century.”

“Consequently Luther’s profound piety that, with burning passion, was driven by questioning on eternal salvation, is clearly delineated.

“Similarly it becomes clear that the break in ecclesiastical unity is not reduced to a simple lack of comprehension by authorities of the Catholic Church nor to only the simple comprehension of true catholicism by Luther, even if both had their role.

“The decisions taken indeed had very deep roots. In the dispute on the interpretational line and on the reception of Christian faith, which have in themselves a potential of ecclesiastical division, cannot be explained only by historical reasons.

“Therefore, a double force is necessary, both in confronting Martin Luther and in the search for reestablishment of unity.

“In the first place it is important to continue accurate historical work, It is a question of, through an investigation without taking sides, motivated only by the search for truth, arriving at a just image of the Reformer, of the entire epoch of the Reformation and of the people who were involved in it.

“Guilt, where it exists, must be recognized, on whichever side it is found where polemics have clouded the view, the direction of this view must be corrected and independently by one side or the other.

“Furthermore, we must not let ourselves be led by the intention of erecting a judgment on history, but the intention must be only that of better understanding the events and of becoming bearers of the truth.

“Only offering ourselves, without reservation, to a purification through the truth, can we find a common interpretation of the past and gain at the same time a new point of departure for the dialogue of today.

“And it is precisely this second thing that is dominant.

“The clarification of history that turns to the past and its lasting significance must go on equal footing with the dialogue of faith that, at present, we undertake to search for unity.

“This dialogue finds its solid base, in conformity with the written Evangelical-Lutheran confessional in that which unites us even after the separation and that is to say: in the word of the Scriptures, in the confession of faith, in the councils of the ancient church.”

“In humble contemplation of the mystery of divine providence and in listening devoutly to what the spirit of God teaches us today in the memory of events of the Reformation, the church has to extend the confines of its love to go to meet in unity all those who, through baptism, bear the name of Jesus Christ.

“I accompany with my special prayers and blessings … all the ecumenical forces for the great cause of unity of all Christians.”

Wow. Can you believe that a Roman Pontiff made those statements? He absolutely did. Yes, Pope Saint John Paul II made all of the above statements about Martin Luther, in this letter.

The above quotes show the bias with which the conservative Catholic subculture treats Pope Francis as opposed to Pope John Paul II. Imagine of Pope Francis said any of the above words. They would accuse him of heresy. And what if Pope Francis said the following:

“The gift of salvation cannot be limited to those who explicitly believe in Christ and have entered the Church.”

“The universality of salvation means that it is granted not only to those who explicitly believe in Christ and have entered the Church. Since salvation is offered to all, it must be made concretely available to all.”

“For those, however, who have not received the Gospel proclamation … salvation is accessible in mysterious ways … without external membership in the Church…. It is mysterious for those who receive the grace, because they do not know the Church and sometimes even outwardly reject her.”

Again, that is not Pope Francis, but Pope Saint John Paul II. If Francis has said the above words, it would be added to the list of accusations against him .

But much of the animosity toward Francis is being driven by the internet. If the internet was as prevalent during the entire time of the pontificate of John Paul II, perhaps he would be the Pope accused of heresy. Consider the vast set of changes made by John Paul II when he signed the new Code of Canon law into effect in January, 1983. If Pope Francis had done that, they would accuse him of heresy.

Can we have Pope-Saints now that there’s an internet? Now that there’s a way for any fringe opinion to gather to itself thousands of like-minded idiots, can we have a Pope that is not accused of heresy and other sins, no matter who the Pope may be? Maybe not. Maybe this is the new (sick) norm, where every individual Catholic and small group of Catholics judged each word and deed of each Pope, and condemns him for anything contrary to their own ideas.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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