1517 Martin Luther nails ninety-five theses to
the Cathedral door condemning the Thirty Years' War giving rise the the
Refomation and the Protestant Church.
"The Roman Catholic have, with
great adroitness, drawn three walls round themselves.
pressed by the temporal power, they have affirmed and maintained that the
temporal power has no jurisdiction over them, but, on the contrary, that the
spiritual power is above the temporal.
Secondly, if it were proposed to
admonish them with the Scriptures, they objected that no one may
interpret the Scriptures but the Pope.
Thirdly, if they are threatened with a council, they pretend that no
one may call a council but the Pope.
Thus they have stolen our three
rods and intrenched themselves behind these three walls, to act with all the
wickedness and malice, which we now witness.
If a little company of pious Christian laymen were taken
prisoners and carried away to a desert, and had not among them a priest
consecrated by a bishop, and were there to agree to elect one of them, born in
wedlock or not, and were to order him to baptize, to celebrate the mass, to
absolve, and to preach, this
man would as truly be a priest, as if all the bishops and all the popes had
That is why in cases of necessity every man can
baptize and absolve,
which would not be possible if we were not all priests.
great grace and virtue of
baptism and of the Christian estate they have quite destroyed and made us
forget by their ecclesiastical
It is, indeed, past bearing that the spiritual law should
esteem so highly the liberty, life,
and property of the clergy, as if laymen were not as good spiritual Christians,
or not equally members of the Church.
Whence comes this great
difference among equal Christians?
Simply from human laws and
It is a wickedly devised fable, they cannot quote a single
letter to confirm it, that it is for the Pope alone to
interpret the Scriptures or to confirm
the interpretation of them.
Though they say that this authority
was given to St. Peter when the keys
were given to him, it is plain enough that the
keys were not given to St. Peter alone,
but to the whole community.
They must needs acknowledge that there are
pious Christians among us that have
the true faith, spirit, understanding, word, and mind of Christ.
for their boasts of their authority, that no one must oppose it, this is idle
No one in the Christian Church has any
authority to do
harm, or to forbid others to
prevent harm being done.
There is no authority in the
Church but for reformation.
Therefore if the Pope wished to use his
power to prevent the calling of a free council, so as to prevent the
reformation of the Church, we must not respect him or his power; and if he
should begin to excommunicate and
fulminate, we must despise this as the doings of a madman, and,
trusting in God,
excommunicate and repel him as
best we may.
usurped power is nothing; he does not possess it, and he is at once overthrown
by text from the Scriptures.
Let us now
consider the matters which should be treated in the councils, and with which
popes, cardinals, bishops, and all learned men should engage themselves day
and night, if they follow Christ.
Let us rouse ourselves, fellow
Germans, and stand in awe of
God more than man, that we be not answerable for all the poor souls that
are so miserably lost through the wicked, devilish government of the Roman Catholic, and that the
dominion of the devil should not grow
day by day, if indeed this hellish government
can grow any worse, which, for my part, I can neither
conceive nor believe.If this
resembles the poverty of Jesus and St.
Peter, it is a new sort of resemblance.
The see of
robbery at Rome is unwilling to
wait for the benefices to fall in one after another by means of the Pope's
month; and in order to get them into its insatiable maw as speedily as
possible, they have devised the plan of taking living and benefices in three
First, if the incumbent of a free living dies at Rome or on
his way thither, his living remains for ever the
property of the see of Rome, or
I rather should say, the see of robbers, though they will not let us call
them robbers, as though no one has ever
heard or read of such robbery.
Secondly, if a "servant" of the Pope or of one of the cardinals takes a
living, or if, having a living, he becomes a "servant" of the Pope or of a
cardinal, the living remains with Rome.
Who can count the "servants" of
the Pope and his cardinals, seeing that if he goes out riding, he is attended
by three or four thousand mule riders, more than any
For Jesus and Saint
Peter went on foot, in order that their vice regents might indulge the better
in all manner of pomp.
Thirdly, whenever there is any dispute about a
benefice; and this is, I think, well nigh the broadest and commonest road by
which benefices are brought to Rome. For where there is no dispute numberless
knaves can be found in Rome who are ready to scrape up disputes, and attack the
living wherever they like. In this way many a good priest loses his living, or
has to buy off the dispute for a time with a sum of money.
benefices, confiscated by right or wrong of dispute, are to be forever the
property of the see of Rome. It would be no
wonder, if God were to
rain sulphur and fire from heaven and cast
Rome down into the pit, as God did formerly to Sodom and Gomorrah.
is the use of a Pope in the
Kingdom of Christ, if
the only use made of his power is to commit these supreme villainies under his
protection and assistance?
princes and sirs, how long will you
suffer your lands and your people to be the prey of these
Pope has built a special house for this fine traffic the house of the Datarius
Thither all must come that bargain in this way, for prebends
and benefices; from him they must buy the glosses and obtain the
right to practice such prime
In former days it was fairly well at Rome, when justice had
to be bought, or could only be put down by money; but now she has become so
fastidious that she does not allow anyone to commit villainies unless he has
first bought the right to do it with
If this is
not a house of prostitution, worse than all houses of prostitution that can be
conceived, I do not know what houses of prostitution really are.
excerpt from Martin Luther's Address to the Christian Nobility of the German
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