Mon 22nd Sep 2014 | Last updated: Sun 21st Sep 2014 at 20:14pm

Facebook Logo Twitter Logo RSS Logo
Hot Topics

Comment & Blogs

Catholics have no reason to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation

Plans for an ecumenical Luther 2017 are breaking down. That is no disaster

By on Friday, 25 July 2014

Martin Luther's 95 theses began a process that carried millions of people out of communion with the successor of Peter (Photo: CNS)

Martin Luther's 95 theses began a process that carried millions of people out of communion with the successor of Peter (Photo: CNS)

Report: Protestants try to calm row ahead of Luther celebration

Plans by German Catholics and Lutherans to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017 have hit the rocks. Catholics are offended that the German Evangelical Church (which includes Lutherans) has not acknowledged a recent ecumenical convergence on the doctrine of justification, one of the great dividing lines between our two traditions.

We cannot pretend to be too dismayed by this setback. Catholics and Lutherans share many beliefs and some liturgical practices (depending on which variety of Lutheran we are talking about). But the fact remains that, for Catholics, 1517 was a bad year. By nailing his 95 theses to the door of Wittenberg Castle church, Martin Luther began a process that carried millions of people out of communion with the successor of Peter. Luther was right to criticise the abuses of the medieval Church, though many Catholics, such as Erasmus, were also doing so. But he ended up by identifying the Pope with the Antichrist and watering down the doctrine of the Eucharist, setting a precedent for more extreme reformers who eviscerated the sacraments.

The Catholic Church is right to reassess the Reformation in the light of modern scholarship and warmer relations with Protestants; it must also acknowledge its own terrible mistakes and its role in the tragic wars of religion in the 16th and 17th centuries. But it is wrong to “celebrate” the wound that Luther opened in the body of Christ, and therefore the breakdown of this naïve initiative is no disaster.

COMMENT POLICY

The Catholic Herald comment guidelines
At The Catholic Herald we want our articles to provoke spirited and lively debate. We also want to ensure the discussions hosted on our website are carried out in civil terms.

All commenters are therefore politely asked to ensure that their posts respond directly to points raised in the particular article or by fellow contributors, and that all responses are respectful.

We implement a strict moderation policy and reserve the right to delete comments that we believe contravene our guidelines. Here are a few key things to bear in mind when com
menting…

Do not make personal attacks on writers or fellow commenters – respond only to their arguments.
Comments that are deemed offensive, aggressive or off topic will be deleted.
Unsubstantiated claims and accusations about individuals or organisations will be deleted.
Keep comments concise. Comments of great length may be deleted.
We try to vet every comment, however if you would like to alert us to a particular posting please use the ‘Report’ button.

Thank you for your co-operation,
The Catholic Herald editorial team