To what extent was the success of Luther's challenge to the Catholic Church in the years 1517-21 due to the mistakes of those who opposed him?

  • Created by: f_grant
  • Created on: 31-05-19 11:08

Failures of the opposition - Leo X

  • Italian Politics - Preoccupied with Italian politics and the politics of his family - capture of Urbino in a dynastic war. Also trying to thwart his enemies among his cardinals. After a plot to poison him, he executed 1 cardinal and made radical changes within the College of Cardinals. Also anxious about the threat posed by the Turks. Leo X saw the Luther affair as a fight between the Augustinians and the Dominicans, so ordered the Augustinian authorities in Germany to find a solution at their meeting in Heidelburg in April 1518.
  • Domincan and Augustinian rivalry - Papal curia included a number of Dominicans who saw Luther's attack on Tetzel, indulgences and the Pope's power to grant salvation through indulgences as an attack on papal authority. Order sent to Luther summoning him to Rome along with attack written by Prierias in August 1518. Augustinians met in Heidelberg in April 1518 to discuss Luther's ideas - inconclusive debate led to Johann Eck (a Dominican) proposing a debate betweeh himself and a representative of Luther's ideas.
  • Failure of the Papal Response - Response meant that the Church aligned itself to protect some of the aspects of religious practice that had attracted the most criticism. Denial of the need for reform and the attack on Luther led to Luther's further disillusionment and determination to address the problem. Made worse when Pope's representatives would not answer Luther's arguments. Drove Luther further away from the church.
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Failures of the opposition - Debate with Cajetan

  • Luther able to obtain meeting with Cajetan in Germany at the imperial diet August 1518 rather than in Rome - where he was intially summoned to - as Frederick the Wise managed to intervene with the Pope (able to do so as the Pope wanted the support of the Princes for the planned crusade against the Turks).
  • Cajetan represented the authority of the Pope and so did not think it suitable to debate with Luther, as Luther had requested. Met 4 times, all unproductive. Cajetan told Luther in the first meeting that he needed to: recant and revoke his errors, promise not to teach again, refrain from future disruption.
  • Luther insisted on a debate, leading to Cajetan cutting the final interview short. He told Luther that he should not return unless it was to recant.
  • Luther's friends and supporters hustled Luther back to Wittenberg. Cajetan complained to Frederick the Wise that Luther's insistence to debate was insolent. Luther responded that Cajetan had broken a promise to discuss the issue of indulgences.
  • This made Luther question his position even more.
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Failures of the opposition - Debate with Eck July

  • Significant - the first time Luther's ideas had been publically interrogated. Eck Provoked Luther into sounding more radical than he had before, refusing to condemn Jan Hus.
  • Eck challenged Carlstadt, a colleague of Luther's at Wittenberg University. Negotiations to set up debate were lengthy and resulted in a small pamphlet war - Carlstadt commissioned his friend Cranach to draw a cartoon criticising his opponents' beliefs, became very popular befor the debate and made Domincian opponents very angry. 
  • Carlstadt was meant to be the main participant, but Eck drew Luther into the argument quickly - Eck a highly skilled debater. Managed to steer debate towards the authority of the Pope and the degree to which Luther agreed with Jan Hus. Luther admitted that he did not reject Hus entirely and that he favoured the sole authority of scripture rather than believing in the authority of the pope. Crucial and dangerous:
    • Hus had been condemned as a heretic and executed for his ideas. Church would be seen as inconsistent or weak if it did not act similarly towards Luther.
    • Pope's authority was a matter of great debate at the time and secular rulers were trying to increase their own powers. This meant that the pope was defensive about this matter and would be forced to act severely against Luther.
  • Debate seen as a success for Eck. Papal Bull Exsurge Domine came 15th June 1520. 
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Failures of the opposition summary

Luther's ideas were shaped by the responses of others as well as by his own thought and study. When the church rejected his criticisms and supported a series of hostile debates against him Luther became increasingly angry and alienated. 

Started to see deeper problems with the papacy and Church teachings than he had previously. Luther's writings reflected this, and his debate with Eck showed how far he had travelled theologically since 1517.

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Printing Press

  • Vast spread of materials led to the spread of ideas that was not possible with former heretics.
  • Smaller pamphlets were more affordable than books - 1000% increase 1518-24
  • The 95 Theses were quickly translated and spread around the HRE.
  • 1520 pamphlets: 
    • The Address to the German Nobility of the Nation: Sold 4000 copies in 2 weeks. Addressed to princes and Holy Roman Emperor. Asked for full program of reform. No difference between secular and religous authority. Priesthood of all Believers. Called pope the Antichrist.
    • The Babylonian Captivity of the Church: Addressed to the clergy. Rejected belief that clergy were special. Redefined the sacraments and the mass. Sola fide.
  • Established Luther's ideas publicly and caused controversy in the church.
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Protection of Frederick the Wise

  • Secured meeting with Cajetan 1518 in Augsburg rather than in Rome, where Luther had initially been summoned. If Luther had gone to Rome, he may not have come back.
  • Secured Luther's safe passage to the Diet of Worms 1521.
  • Kidnapped Luther after the Diet and took him to Wartburg castle. Hidden there from May 1521 to March 1522. Allowed Luther to complete his translation of the New Testament into German. Also completed commentary on Psalm 68 May 1521 and his ideas on monastic vows Oct 1521.
  • Used his adviser George Spalatin to support Luther
  • Persuaded Charles V to hold Luther's case in Germany
  • Refused to obey the papal bull against Luther
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