Was Martin Luther Catholic?

by | Dec 4, 2023 | Catholic | 0 comments

We’ve already talked about the Ninety-Five Theses and how the Catholic Church responded to it. So in this article, let’s focus more on its author, Martin Luther, his life, religion, and how he changed the course of Christianity. But before all that, let’s first answer one of the most frequently asked questions about the leader of the Protestant Reformation, which is whether or not he was a Catholic.

Martin Luther was a Catholic and was even ordained to the priesthood. He also studied theology and then later on became a professor of biblical studies. He never intended to break from the church and wrote the 95 Theses for the mere purpose of having an academic debate, specifically on indulgences.

Continue reading to learn more about Martin Luther and why he’s so important in the history of the biggest religion in the world. 

Who Is Martin Luther? 

Martin Luther was a priest, theology professor at Wittenberg University, and religious reformer best known for starting the Protestant Reformation. It all began in 1517 when he published the Ninety-Five Theses, a set of questions and propositions that he wanted to open for debate. 

The 95 Theses, also known as the “Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences”, contained 95 propositions. Most of them focused on indulgences, purgatory, and the Pope’s role in them. Now, to be clear, Luther never intended to defy the church or the Pope, which is why his work had a questioning overall tone rather than being accusing. 

It can’t be denied, however, that there are parts of Luther’s work with an obvious sentiment of reform. The 86th thesis, for instance, states: “Why does not the pope, whose wealth is today greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build this one basilica of St. Peter with his own money rather than with the money of poor believers?” This shows Luther’s disapproval of the church’s and Pope’s practice of selling indulgences to fund the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. 

The other main arguments Luther wanted to point out in his work are:

  1. The Pope doesn’t have authority over purgatory. 
  2. Faith alone, not deeds, would lead to salvation.
  3. Selling indulgences only gives people a false sense of security, which could endanger their salvation. 

If you want to read all 95 of Luther’s theses, click here

Now, as you can imagine, these statements caught the ire of the Catholic Church and saw it as a challenge to its power and authority. 

What Was Martin Luther’s Religion? 

As mentioned, Martin Luther was a Catholic. According to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP), he “threw himself into the life of a monk” and was ordained to the priesthood in 1506. However, he didn’t stop there. He studied and received his Doctor of Theology decree, which allowed him to become a professor of biblical studies at the University of Wittenberg. 

However, when Luther’s “95 Theses” reached Rome, the Catholic Church made him retract his views. Even through many debates, Martin Luther stood his ground. This was seen as a direct challenge to the Church’s and Pope’s authority. 

Aside from refusing to take back his statements, Luther continued to criticize the Church and its practices. So in June of 1520, Pope Leo released a decree condemning Luther’s defiance and accusing him of heresy. In it, the Church also gives him an ultimatum, stating that if he didn’t recant his statements in all his writings within 60 days, then he would be ex-communicated. Furthermore, the decree instructed to have all his works burned in public. All those who will own, read, and publish them have to face ex-communication as well. 

That said, Luther was officially ex-communicated from the Catholic Church. In 1521, he was formally declared a heretic, giving way for the Holy Roman Empire to have him tried and punished. 

Later in his life, Luther allegedly said: “Well, if they’re going to call us Lutherans, I guess I won’t fight that.” This is according to the U.S. Catholic, who added that he knew that it’s a term his enemies called him and that he wasn’t particularly happy with that. 

Why Is Martin Luther So Important? 

To this day, Martin Luther remains to be a significant figure in the history of Catholicism. While it was all accidental, he sparked the Protestant Reformation and forever changed the course of not only the religious but also the cultural, political, and societal landscape in the West. 

Luther and his works brought about the division of Christianity, resulting in the creation of Protestantism. It’s a branch of Christianity that now refers to the many religious groups that separated from the Catholic Church because of differences in doctrine. 

It should be noted that Luther was not the first one to come forward with the beliefs and ideas that shaped Protestantism. He wasn’t the only one who thought about corruption, indulgences, and salvation. However, he did give a louder voice and attention to what many were feeling and thinking at that time. 

To repeat, Luther is an important figure because it is through him that the Reformation was possible. This gave birth to Protestantism, which became one of the major branches of Christianity, alongside the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodoxy. 

What Religion Did Martin Luther Start?

Martin Luther didn’t purposely start another religion. However, his writings did initiate the Reformation movement, which grew beyond his control, and ultimately gave birth to Protestantism. 

To give you a better idea of what this branch of Christianity is, here’s a quick comparison of some of the differences in beliefs between Roman Catholics and Protestants. 

  • For Protestants, Luther made it clear that the Bible or Scripture is the “Sola Scriptura”. This means that Scripture is the supreme authority for one’s faith and practices as a Christian and that it contains everything one needs for salvation and spirituality. On the other hand, Catholics don’t base their beliefs and faith on the Bible alone. Alongside Scripture, they also follow the traditions of the church. 
  • Protestants don’t accept the authority of the Pope. However, for Catholics, the Pope is considered a successor of the apostle Peter, the first head of the Catholic Church and appointed by Jesus himself. 
  • Only men can be consecrated into office and receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders in the Catholic Church. In Protestantism, any believer can become a priest, even women. 
  • The Eucharist or Holy Communion also has different meanings for Catholics and Protestants. In Catholicism, the bread and wine – once consecrated by a priest – become the body and blood of Jesus. Since it embodies Christ, it can therefore be prayed to. But for Protestants, this practice is only a ritual to commemorate Christ’s death and resurrection. 
  • In Catholicism, non-Catholics are not allowed to participate in the Holy Communion. Meanwhile, in Protestantism, anyone who is baptized may share and even lead the Lord’s Supper (what they call the Eucharist). 
  • Catholics have 7 sacraments while Protestants only practice 2, specifically baptism and the Eucharist. 
  • Catholics venerate and pray to saints and revere Mary. However, Protestants reject this. 
  • Lastly, Catholic priests are obligated to be celibate or vow to abstain from getting married or having any sexual relations. On the contrary, the Protestant Church rejects such an obligation. Martin Luther himself, a former monk, married a former nun in 1525. 

 

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About: Maurielle

Maurielle is a content writer who has covered a wide variety of topics, from clothes to children's toys, gadgets, weddings, kayaks, and more. But more recently, she has focused her efforts on writing about her journey as a Catholic, exploring her faith, and strengthening her relationship with God. Raised in a conservative Catholic home, spent her childhood and teenage years in a Catholic school, and got married in a Catholic ceremony, her religion is a huge part of her being. Catholicism has also been the most meaningful and rewarding experience of her life. Today, she writes full-time about Catholicism and religion in the hope to help others understand the Word of God and the teachings of the Church.
<a href="https://walkingcrossroads.com/author/maurielle/" target="_self">Maurielle</a>

Maurielle

Maurielle is a content writer who has covered a wide variety of topics, from clothes to children's toys, gadgets, weddings, kayaks, and more. But more recently, she has focused her efforts on writing about her journey as a Catholic, exploring her faith, and strengthening her relationship with God. Raised in a conservative Catholic home, spent her childhood and teenage years in a Catholic school, and got married in a Catholic ceremony, her religion is a huge part of her being. Catholicism has also been the most meaningful and rewarding experience of her life. Today, she writes full-time about Catholicism and religion in the hope to help others understand the Word of God and the teachings of the Church.

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