#009: My Opinion of Martin Luther [Podcast]

My opinion of “Father” Martin Luther. Every October 31 is the anniversary of Martin Luther’s Great Protest against the Catholic Church. Find out what I really think of him in today’s podcast.

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“My Opinion on Martin Luther”

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1) Proverb of the Week:
Proverbs 12:17

2) Tip of the Week: 
Decide what you do not do.

3) Featured Segment:
“My Opinion of Martin Luther

4) Latin Word of the Week:
hæresis from Greek hairesis “a taking or choosing, a choice.” We get the word “heresy” from it.

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065 40 Days of Joy 02/26/2015
064 Why did God make you? Luke 19 Gives the Answer 02/11/2015
063 Is Being A Christian Hard or Easy? 01/21/2015
062 Catholic View of the End Times and Tribulation 01/14/2015
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059 Revolution in Catholic Education – Jennifer Fulwiler Interviews Taylor Marshall 12/31/2014
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056 Top 5 Advent Devotions 11/07/2014
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050 The Seven Sorrows of Mary are the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit 09/15/2014
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048 Brain Science, Your Soul & Prayer 09/03/2014
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045 Did Saint Paul Teach Once Saved Always Saved? 08/06/2014
044 How to Escape Joyless Catholicism, Part 2 07/30/2014
043 How to Escape Joyless Catholicism, Part 1 07/24/2014
042 Golf Cart Saints 07/15/2014
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034 Jokes of Saint John XXIII 05/07/2014
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032 4 Sections of Hell 04/23/2014
031 Meet the Saint Version of You 04/16/2014
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028 Demons, Snakes, and Ticks: Lessons from a Hunting Trip 03/26/2014
027 How to Make an Eternal Impact with Your Life 03/19/2014
026 Thoughts on My Pilgrimage to Our Lady of Guadalupe 02/26/2014
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024 The Seven Lies We Believe About Our Failures 02/11/2014
023 How to Restart Your Mental Computer 02/06/2014
022 Top Five Productivity Tips from Thomas Aquinas 01/29/2014
021 Did You Miss God’s Plan for Your Life? 01/23/2014
020 When Prayer Becomes a Chore 01/15/2014
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018 A Podcast Against Bitter Catholics! 12/30/2013
017 Mary’s Painless Delivery of Christ Explained 12/18/2013
016 Our Lady of Guadalupe and Saint Luke (Plus How to Set Goals) 12/11/2013
015 Total Consecration to Mary 12/04/2013
014 What’s Your Apostolate? 11/27/2013
013 6 Items for the Liturgy of Your Life 11/20/2013
012 Why You Should Be More Creative 11/13/2013
011 Why Did They Stop Teaching Virtue? 11/06/2013
010 How Do Saints Hear Our Prayers? 10/30/2013
009 My Opinion of Martin Luther 10/23/2013
008 My Top 5 Daily Prayers 10/16/2013
007 Your Guardian Angel 10/03/2013
006 How You Can Convert 7 Billion People 09/25/2013
005 3 Strategies for a Marriage that Sings! 09/18/2013
004 4 Step Plan When Family Leave the Faith 09/12/2013
003 5 Tools for Deep Daily Prayer Life 09/04/2013
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  • Gladius

    I attended a Mass and at the sermon the Priest said some approving words about Luther. The Consecration came and the Priest elevated the Chalice first, then the Host. I mentioned this to the Priest some time later and he wasn’t aware of what he’d done. My conclusion, Luther is still causing trouble.

    • “Luther is still causing trouble.”

      Yes he is!

    • Dan

      Proof that Luther is still causing trouble as you suggest in your example. The Roman Missal 3rd edition as well as previous versions that I’m aware, has the exact words and format that must be said in a specific order. If that formula and order is not followed the consecration is invalid (i.e., Christ is not present and communion is just bread or bread and wine not as you would expect, Christ is NOT present, it would be just ordinary bread and wine). He had to deliberately bypass the consecration of the host section to get to the wine portion of the consecration. The missal is layed out with prayers said up to that point for consecration and the text for consecration is ALWAYS on one of the two open/flat pages and the text is even significantly much larger print. There is no way he would have to turn a page. Now, if he catches the mistake that he missed the Host consecration he should have stopped and went back directly to the host section then following with the wine consecration. Even if he did the wine consecration first he must go back to the host said the prayers of concentration then he should have also said the prayer again for the wine consecration immediately after the host consecration for validity. As the wine done before the host makes it an invalid consecration. Even if he truthfully doesn’t remember doing that but he does the wine first and then the host…..he would have other mental issues and other parts of the mass would be convoluted as well. However, from your description of the mass that was the only issue. Every priest knows that for validity the consecrations must be performed exactly and if a mistake is made there is nothing to prevent correcting that error. According to your description he didn’t reconsecrate the wine (normally if you consecrate the host you immediately consecrate the wine and after years of daily masses this is something you DO NOT forget) therefore he has, is and maybe still performing invalid masses and should be reported to his Bishop.

  • Dan

    I think we need to take the whole biography of Luther into account and look at his inner life as well as his voluminous written output. As a young monk, it seems that Luther never really felt at peace. Perhaps he was lacking in faith, hope, and love; and/or had some psychological issues that needed to be resolved. As a professor and preacher, Luther seems to have had trouble with his ego, something which shows up in the grandiose statements about himself in his writings and his vile attacks on others. As an excommunicated reformer and the founder of a new church, it became next to impossible for Luther to exercise true humility. He should have been looking for help from others; instead, he had to come up with all the answers himself.

    Sadly, I think there are many like Luther in the Protestant and Evangelical world today. There are many pastors who develop large churches and publish many books, but I fear that they have issues of the soul that will never really be addressed because they are not submitted to any authority over themselves or in communion with any group except for those who are “under” them in ministry.

    I appreciated the hopes you had for one united church. With humble men like Francis I at the service of Christ, I think reunion would not only heal the visible church but also heal many men’s damaged souls.

    • Justas399 .

      What about the RCC exercising humility and own up to the corruption and errors of the church at the time of Luther and reformers?

      • The Council of Trent openly recognized those abuses. Blessed John Paul II also spoke of the abuses not long ago. He said that there people to blame on BOTH sides.

      • Dan

        It has been my experience that every Catholic I know has acknowledged the abuses of the Reformation era and has expressed dismay over what happened with Luther. This is not to say that Luther has been supported as having done the right thing–just that there is sorrow over what happened to Europe and the Church during that time.

      • ssoldie

        Go back and read Council of Trent.

  • RDG Stout

    I wasn’t sure what to expect when I saw this topic, but I greatly appreciated your approach. The thought experiment regarding Luther, and comparing him to saints who patiently suffered persecution from their own Church, was a helpful combination of gentle and firm. Luther was willing to be killed for his interpretation of the faith but he wasn’t willing to be humble or silent. Have you read the recent Lutheran-Catholic joint publication “From Conflict to Communion”?

  • Magdalene

    Particularly since reading Dr. Warren Carroll’s “The Cleaving of Christendom”, my opinion of Luther has not been a good one. But before that I knew he was a priest who not only broke his vows but married a nun and caused civil war that cost hundreds of thousands of lives and he split the Church. The splitting has never stopped ever since. He was not a reformer but caused a revolt, and a bloody one.

  • Neuro_diverse

    ML had very serious scrupulosity problems when he was a monk. We now know
    that scrupulosity is just the instantiation in religious practice of the
    obsessive-compulsive dissorder (OCD). ML also had episodes of rage and
    depression. All three problems point to a serious neurotransmitter imbalance,
    particularly lack of serotonin. Nowadays shrinks would have given him a SSRI
    like Prozac till leaving him zombie. But in his time there we neither shrinks
    nor SSRIs.

    Due to this scrupulosity/OCD, Luther was in a permanent state of
    self-inflicted torture through examination of conscience for potential sins, as
    attested by his frequent and over-detailed confessions. And this was required
    each day before receiving the Eucharist by Pau’s “A person should examine
    himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup.” (1 Cor 11:28)

    So he needed to find a solution to this unsustainable situation and found
    this: if all that was required was faith, he no longer needed to torture
    himself. The “examine himself” of 1 Cor 11:28 referred only to faith, not to
    potential sins!

    The problem was that he found a solution based on pride: “I am the reference.
    The Church’s doctrine and praxis is wrong.” Rather, he should have found a
    solution based on humility: “The Church’s doctrine and praxis are the
    reference. I am neurologically defective and have a disability that prevents me
    from practicing the faith like neurologically healthy people. So I apply for
    reduction to layman status and live in peace practicing the faith to the degree
    I can.”

    • Dan

      This is similar to the angle I took on Luther in my comment on the podcast. I think we have come a long way in our understanding of the different needs of different people. If I remember correctly, Luther’s father wanted him to be a lawyer. Much of Luther’s work involved legal-type wrangling. Perhaps Martin did not read his vocation correctly when he became a monk. Nowadays there are certain factors which can screen aspirants out of vocations to religious life. One of those is a history of mental illness.

  • Neuro_diverse

    Engaging in a speculative exercise of retrospective psychiatry, I will present hints that point to the probability that ML was a case of Asperger’s Syndrome (AS). To put it into perspective, Isaac Newton and Paul Dirac were clear, unmistakable cases of AS, while Albert Einstein might have been a mild case, if at all. This hypothesis is fully consistent with my previous hypothesis of ML having OCD, as approximately 40% of aspies have OCD, including myself.

    Hint 1: The character of his father, and possibly also of his mother. As is well known, AS and quasi-AS traits have a genetic basis. From the entry on ML in Catholic Encyclopedia (CathEn):

    “His father, Hans, was a miner, a rugged, stern, irascible character. … Extreme simplicity and inflexible severity characterized their home life, so that the joys of childhood were virtully unknown to him. His father once beat him so mercilessly that he ran away from home and was so
    “embittered against him that he had to win me to himself again.” His mother, “on account of an insignificant nut, beat me till the blood flowed, and it was this harshness and severity of the life I led with them that forced me subsequently to run away to a monastery and become a monk.”

    To note, not all AS cases have inflexibility, severity and harshness as parents. But it is definitely one of the ways in which their personality can develop. The strikingly similar case that comes to mind is Paul Dirac’s father, another tyrant.

    Hint 2: his experience at school. Also from CathEn:

    “The same cruelty was the experience of his earliest school-days, when in one morning he was punished no less than fifteen times.”

    This is just the typical sad experience of so many aspie schoolchildren of past days, and even now in some backward places.

    Hint 3: the irregularity in the reciting of the daily Office. Also from CathEn:

    “The solemn obligation of reciting the daily Office, an obligation binding under the penalty of mortal sin, was neglected to allow more ample time for study, with the result that the Breviary was abandoned for weeks.”

    This is fully and remarkably consistent with AS, and was actually what first suggested to me that ML could have had it. Now, there are two possible approaches of an aspie to routine: either the aspie adheres strictly to routine, and routine becomes his life, or he disengages completely from it. There are no nuanced positions in between. And when an aspie becomes interested in a subject matter and engages in it, such as myself writing this now, he detaches completely from the notion of the passage of chronological time, or in other words your psychological time detaches, uncouples from chronological time. Which implies that an aspie with intellectual interests is not suited at all for a way of life which demands a high degree of existential synchronicity with chronological time, such as that of a priest or monk.

    Hint 4: his tendency to build his own “system”. From CathEn:

    “The prescribed and regulated ascetical exercises were arbitrarily set aside. Disregarding the monastic regulations and the counsels of his confessor, he devised his own, which naturally gave him the character of singularity in his community.”

    Hint 5: his extremely high capacity for concentration in work, as attested by his work during his 10-month stay at the Wartburg Castle (May 1521 – March 1522), which included chiefly the translation of the New Testament from Greek to German, as well as several other doctrinal and polemical writings.

    Hint 6: his extremely low capacity for nuanced diplomacy. For him, the only way to interact with anybody who differed with his views was one of frontal combat.

  • Neuro_diverse

    Another hint came just to my mind:

    hint 7: his overburdening with work assignments by his superiors. From Cathen:

    “His further appointment as district vicar in 1515 made him the official representative of the vicar-general in Saxony and Thuringia. His duties were manifold and his life busy. Little time was left for intellectual pursuits, and the increasing irregularity in the performance of his religious duties
    could only bode ill for his future. He himself tells us that he needed
    two secretaries or chancellors, wrote letters all day, preached at
    table, also in the monastery and parochial churches, was superintendent of studies, and as vicar of the order had as much to do as eleven priors; he lectured on the psalms and St. Paul, besides the demand made on his economic resourcefulness in managing a monastery of twenty-two priests, twelve young men, in all forty-one inmates.”

    This is the typical case of over-explotation of a capable aspie within an organization, nowadays usually a corporation. Lacking interpersonal skills to negotiate his workload, he just accepts all duties that his manager assigns to him. The manager, for his part, seeing that the aspie is highly capable and does not protest, just tries to extract the maximum possble yield from him. I know this all too well, first hand.

    Now, the failure of the article in Cathen to establish a connection of causality between this excessive workload and “the increasing irregularity in the performance of his religious duties” would be appalling if we do not recall that Cathen was written in 1911 when there was almost no knowledge of psychiatry and psychology, much less of the atypical constitution and consequent limitations of people with Asperger Syndrome. Because anyone with this knowledge can tell that, given this overburdening, it was just logical that, quoting Cathen, “This condition of morbidity finally developed into formal scrupulosity. Infractions of the rules, breaches of discipline, distorted ascetic practices followed in quick succession and with increasing gravity;”

  • Neuro_diverse

    Please allow me to make a final comment out of my own aspie perfectionism: in a correct overall logical order, “hint 7” in my previous comment should be “hint 3”, and the previous hints 3-6 should be renumbered 4-7.

    Just in case someone finds this speculation worthwhile and wants to reproduce it somewhere else, which of course would be OK with me.

    • Dan

      I had never considered this hypothesis before: Luther as an “aspie.” Good work!

  • Phil Spomer

    This is much too ad hominem to adequately engage Lutheran theology.

    • Michael Kocian

      The truth is bothersome for those who prefer heresy. Martin Luther was indeed mentally unstable, arrogant and prideful. These are well documented. To avoid these in the discussion is to limit the truth from entering, and this truth is very relevant to the heresies created by Martin Luther.

      • Phil Spomer

        Thank you for replying Michael,

        You are right about Luther being mentally unstable, arrogant
        and prideful. I too have these faults, as do others, as Saint Paul wrote, “For
        I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the
        desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” Romans 7:18.
        My point is that human sin does not alter objective truth. Both Luther and Paul affirmed that we are saved as a gift of God through faith in Christ Jesus,
        through Whom we were created to do good works (Ephesians 2:10).

        In the encyclical UT UNUM SINT Pope John Paul wrote, “The
        Catholic Church acknowledges and confesses the weaknesses of her members, conscious that their sins are so many betrayals of and obstacles to the accomplishment of the Saviour’s plan. Because she feels herself constantly called to be renewed in the spirit of the Gospel, she does not cease to do penance. At the same time, she acknowledges and exalts still more the power of the Lord, who fills her with the gift of holiness, leads her forward, and conforms her to his Passion and Resurrection.”

        The sin was ours. The righteousness is God’s. Through His Word and Sacraments His righteousness is counted to us. If in the cause That We Be One, someone desires to know what Lutheran theology is, look not to the sins of Father Martin, but to the Augsburg Confession, especially articles 4 (on Justification) and 6 (on The New Obedience) I hope that you find these doctrines most catholic and evangelical. Your brother in Christ.

        • Michael Kocian

          Thanks, but we were not discussing personal sins, but serious sicknesses that led to the creation of massive heresies by which others are misled about God. These are not ad hominem in the least. Martin Luther did not asvance truth in Protestantism. Anyone who thinks so is confused.

          • Phil Spomer

            Dear Michael, I challenge you to point out one heresy in the Book of Concord.

        • steven allen

          Christ’s righteous life is not counted, or imputed to us. The life of Christ is given to us (grace). More than unmerited favor, it is Christ indwelling us and conforming us to His life. God callus us holy, and as whatsoever he says is accomplished. So he not only declares us holy, but also makes us holy. This is biblical justification. We are declared, and made just. Not with justice in and of ourselves, but as a fruit of the indwelling of the very life of Christ which transformes us into His image through faith and the sacraments.

  • Kerrick

    Great podcast! And what a fitting choice for the Latin Word of the Week. I’m just discovering your podcasts and I love them! I too wonder how much Martin Luther’s personal “baggage” influenced his thoughts and theology. I would imagine one is obligated to take that into account when thinking of Martin Luther.

  • Thanksforthereformation

    I am interested to see that members of an organization guilty of an epidemic of child abuse feels free to comment on the humility of Luther
    How can you talk of excesses of the past when the ones of the present are just as wicked

    • Paradox

      I obviously need to argue with somebody, or else this would be left alone, as Dr. Taylor rightly did. Maybe I can be forgiven for being impertinent when it’s all over?

      I am interested in the world’s ability to keep a plank in its eye while complaining about a mote. Must be that amazing capacity to change the subject! The truth of the matter is that Protestant churches are generally about as bad, and schools and military institutions are generally far worse about that kind of abuse (though not to children, of course).

  • Mamasita Nini

    Hi Dr. Marshall, while listening to this podcast which I was lead to listen to by two previous podcasts, I had an epiphany. You stated that the 500th Anniversary of Martin Luther’s proclamation will be in the year 2017 and wouldn’t it be wonderful if something powerful happened to turn it around. Well, did you realize that 2017 will also be the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of our Blessed Mother at Fatima in which she stressed the importance of praying the rosary and repentance of our sins? Coincidence, I think not. I strongly feel this is and always has been part of the great plan of God for our salvation. Wouldn’t it be great if you had a podcast connecting great events in religious history, both apparitions of our Blessed Mother and or Jesus, with that of the splitting of religions. Just a thought.
    Thanks for all the informative and most educational podcasts I have heard so far. I feel blessed to have been led to the New St. Thomas Institute and enrollment during your online seminar. Thank you for your kindness and gentleness in teaching. May God be praised now and forever.

  • Kristin Choate

    Now you are going to have to tell us the quote by Luther! It wasn’t fair to tease us like that! 😉