New film wages holy war on "extra Ecclesiam nulla salus'

Michael J. Matt
EDITOR, The Remnant

“Never has a movie bashed the Catholic Church like this one. I loved it.”

Pastor Jack Cascione,
Christian News, Vol, 41, No. 39

This past week I subjected myself to “Luther”, the new film about Martin Luther, starring Joseph Fiennes and Peter Ustinov. I’d seen a trailer for the film which featured a statue of the Blessed Virgin being blown to bits. The film, like its trailer, is as offensive as it is provocative. From an artistic point of view, I’m sorry to say, the film is impressive. The cinematography is easy on the eyes and the acting (especially a riveting performance turned in by 83-year-old Sir Peter Ustinov) is above average. Joseph Fiennes’ powerful portrayal of Martin Luther is as outstanding from the artistic perspective as it is absurd from the historical.

The actor is about as German-looking as Sidney Poitier, and his performance is critically flawed by a general lack of the reckless bravado for which the Father of Protestantism was famous. The new and improved Luther is too much the pretty boy; he has no warts, isn’t fat, isn’t a drunkard, isn’t even foul mouthed (there’s only one scatological reference in the entire film!). Even the reliably liberal Roger Ebert gave “Luther” the thumbs down, complaining in the Chicago Sun-Times that the real Luther wouldn’t have recognized the sanctimonious victim soul portrayed in the new film.

Incidentally, the 1938 classic “The Adventures of Robin Hood” starring Errol Flynn tells the same story sans the Catholic slurs. Both films are schmaltzy, of course, but the corny fable is more entertaining in its original Robin Hood package. Martin Luther is Sir Robin of Locksley (both squeaky-clean heroes have a messiah complex that’s so overblown that the viewer doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry); Pope Leo X is the evil Prince John (both tyrants have an uncanny ability to flat-out revel in the misery of their starving subjects); the Dominican John Tetzel is the sinister Sir Guy of Gisbourne (played by the great Basil Rathbone, Sir Guy is one of the silver screen’s all-time great bad guys); and, of course, Lady Marian Fitzwalter (the former Norman and future Mrs. Robin Hood) is Katerina von Bora (the former nun and future Mrs. Father Martin Luther). In the end, both Martin and Robin are rewarded for having saved the world by winning the hands of their respective heroines, and it goes without saying that they all live happily ever after.

For the historically challenged, “Luther”—like “Robin Hood”—is a true story. Though its anti-Catholic bent is unrelenting, it’s also about as subtle as a freight train, transforming “Luther” into an overdone parody. It’s basically “Batman” with a Bible.

Still, there are plenty of stones hurled at the Church. There’s the pasty-faced corpulent pope, priests in a brothel, a bevy of disturbingly pretty cardinals, peasants lying in the gutter while affluent churchmen race by in golden carriages. The film seems so eager to bash the Catholic Church, in fact, that it overlooks key elements of the story it’s attempting to tell, something even a Washington Times review noted in its October 1st edition:

It would have been edifying, too, to learn why Luther felt so beset by Satan and demons or why he so doubted his salvation—psychological afflictions that at least partly inspired his search for a lenient God in Paul, in tension with the works-emphasizing book of James, which “Luther” downplayed.

Lutherans Love “Luther”

“Luther” is no “A Man for All Seasons”, but our Protestant friends are still pretty excited about. This isn’t surprising since the film was partially funded by Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, a faith-based financial services organization. In the October 13th issue of the normally serious Christian News, Pastor Jack Cascione gushes over “Luther” and the venom the film spews against the Church: “Never has a movie bashed the Catholic Church like this one. I loved it.”

Not to be outdone, James B. Romnes takes up where Pastor Jack left off: “As a Lutheran I would like to see this movie get a universal two thumbs up and gross more than ‘Spiderman.’” Romnes then observes that “the film’s centerpiece is Ralph Fiennes…” No doubt Ralph Fiennes is a terrific actor, but there’s just one problem—he’s not in “Luther”…prompting this writer to wonder if Lutheran film critics should be taken about as seriously as Lutheran scripture scholars.

And the Jewish Reaction?

After all the dust kicked up over Mel Gibson’s film “The Passion of Christ,” one naturally expected that “Luther” would fare similarly at the hands of the ADL and other Zionist groups who’ve been so quick to call for Gibson’s head. After all, when it comes to the Jews, Martin Luther makes David Duke look like Shirley Temple.

Oddly enough, though, the ADL doesn’t seem concerned in the least over the new film’s glorification of the fellow who encouraged John Frederick to expel the Jews from Saxony in 1536. Even our old buddy Rabbi Marvin Hier hasn’t muttered a word of outrage against a film that immortalizes the author of the “Epistle against the Sabbatarians” which savaged German Jews for observing their own Sabbath. No foul is called against the film’s adulation of one who, beginning in 1542, launched a violent attack on the Jews which was “intended to annihilate the hostile Jewry.”1

The anti-Semitic “values” of Adolph Hitler, in fact, appear to have deep roots in the theology of the German Martin Luther, whose hatred of Catholics was eclipsed only by his hatred of Jews. (While Luther was still a Catholic there was no sign of this virulent anti-Semitism. The further he drifted from Mother Church, however, the more hateful his rhetoric against the Jews.)

Don’t take my word for it— read Luther’s tracts “On Shem Hamphoras and the Generation of Christ,” or “On the Last Words of David,” where Dr. Luther makes his impassioned appeal to the authorities to inflict violence upon the Jews. As the Jesuit Father Grisar explains in his masterwork Martin Luther:

Once more he [Luther] raised his voice against that persecuted race [the Jews] in his last sermon at Eisleben, on February 14, 1546: “you rulers,” he said, “ought not to tolerate, but to expel them.” By indirection it was a summons to rise against the Jews.2

Let’s take a few more examples from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. In his tract “The Jews and Their Lies,” Luther displays that characteristic subtlety and nuance for which he would become famous:

Therefore the blind Jews are truly stupid fools…

Now just behold these miserable, blind and senseless people…

Therefore be on your guard against the Jews, knowing that wherever they have their synagogues, nothing is found but a den of devils…

And, finally, advocating a course of action that Adolf Hitler would take pretty seriously 400 years later, Luther writes:

Eject them forever from this country [Germany]. For, as we have heard, God’s anger with them is so intense that gentle mercy will only tend to make them worse and worse, while sharp mercy will reform them but little. Therefore, in any case, away with them!

What we have here is the ultimate Zionist dilemma— a vicious anti-Semite whose global fame stems primarily from his hatred of the Catholic Church….What’s an ADL to do? While “Passion” is dragged up one side of the street and down the other by the ADL, nary an eyebrow is lifted against a film that celebrates one of history’s most notorious anti-Semites. Strange that in this post-Christian era, when an open season on everything Christian has long since been declared, a movie about Our Lord is crucified while a movie about Martin Luther wins critical acclaim. Maybe this isn’t so strange—if Christianity were your primary target, would you go after its biggest critic in history?

“If I am prompted to say: ‘Thy Kingdom come,’ I must perforce add: ‘cursed, damned, destroyed must be the papacy.’”

Martin Luther



Is it possible that Protestantism itself is the Antichrist? The great St. Thomas More certainly thought so. Since Luther had married a Cistercian nun, More observed that the Augustinian monk had “toke out of relygyon a spouse of Cryste” and “that Antecryste sholde be borne between a frere and a nunne.”3 More made frequent references to Luther as the “false prophet of the great Beast.” Indeed, considering the eradication of Christendom that’s been expertly accomplished since the Protestant Revolt, it’s difficult to imagine how the Antichrist could have improved on Luther’s work.

In “Luther” there are scenes in which the man certainly appears to be possessed by demons. He’s seen flailing around his room, shouting at the Devil in the dead of night, crying out unintelligibly… weeping uncontrollably. This is a surprisingly accurate portrayal of Luther who we know was prone to panic attacks and who could not look at a crucifix nor linger near the Blessed Sacrament for more than a few moments.

The film’s vicious attacks on the Catholic Church are themselves satanic, of course. And I’m not just referring to exploding statues of Our Lady or the usual clunkers that unimaginative Protestants have been slow-pitching over the plate for the past five centuries— e.g., the word “indulgence” doesn’t appear in the Bible, ergo preaching indulgences is an abomination (Note to Protestant: Since the word “Bible” doesn’t appear in the Bible, either, does that make the Bible an abomination?), purgatory, the Mass, the papacy, etc., are all unholy inventions of men and, as such, constitute an affront to God. …Yawwwwwn…

No, what is far more Luciferian than these “terrors for children” is the vehemence with which the film attacks one particular dogma by name and in Latin, no less— outside the Church there is no salvation. When extra Ecclesiam nulla salus was savaged in “Luther,” I sat bolt upright in the theater and listened carefully. Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus—the collapse of Christendom and the rise of neo-paganism in the world followed close on the heels of the rejection of this dogma. Luther nailed his rejection of it to the wood of the Cross, standing up as he did to Christ’s Church and Christ’s Vicar… while insisting that he nonetheless remained Christ’s follower.

The last line in “Luther” speaks to this: “Millions of people today worship in churches inspired by Luther’s revolt.” While millions of Catholics worship in a Church founded by Jesus Christ, millions of Protestants do indeed worship outside the Church in heretical sects started by a man who tossed out those parts of the Bible he didn’t like, who burned canon laws he couldn’t hack, who rejected dogmas embraced by every saint, virgin, martyr, and theologian for the first fifteen hundred years of Christianity, and who believed that men’s good deeds have nothing to do with salvation. Yes, Luther, even before Calvin, was the apostle of predestination. For him, man has no free will…which is why he waged his bloody war against good works. In his Assertio omnium articulorum of 1520, Luther explains:

Do you have anything to growl at here, you miserable Pope? For you it is necessary to revoke this article [Leo’s excommunication Bull]. For I have incorrectly said that free will before grace exists in name only. I should have said candidly: free will is a fiction, a name without substance. Because no one indeed has the free power to think good or evil but all things happen by absolute necessity.4

Luther the Anarchist

Essentially, Luther was preaching ecclesiastical anarchy, which in Catholic Europe translated automatically into civil unrest. The result was a bloodbath called the Peasants’ Revolt, which left as many as one hundred thousand dead in the streets. His “liberating” notion that “God made us this way and we have no choice but to sin” released the mob from every civic and moral responsibility. Death and destruction ensued…death of souls, death of bodies, even death of science and the arts. “Where Lutheranism flourishes,” the great humanist Erasmus remarked, “the sciences perish.”

The Duke of Saxony also feared the temporal consequences of Luther’s gospel. He warned Luther that his “doctrine of by faith alone would only make the people presumptuous and mutinous.”5 Events proved the Duke prophetic! Like Erasmus, More, Cajetan, Leo, even a young Henry VIII (who for his defense against Luther was dubbed “Defender of the Faith” by Pope Leo X), the Duke understood that laws are not always as popular as they are vital in an ordered society; that the Catholic Church—the loving mother who knows well the weaknesses of her children—is founded on laws, laws which mandate moral living, laws which are the only barricade that stands between society and chaos…between the soul and damnation.

Luther rejected this notion by saying: No pope, no priest, no Church is above my will. I am already saved…what need have I of laws?

By the nineteenth century, men such as the renowned Satanist, Aleister Crowley, would be taking Luther’s theology to its unnatural end. In Magik, Crowley writes: “Do what thou wilt shall become the whole of the law.” Indeed, the modern world is doing just that. But Luther is the one who put the ball in play. As historian Harry Crocker notes on page 239 of his Triumph: The Power and Glory of the Catholic Church:

[W]ith Luther, a murderer could raise his bloodstained hands to heaven and say, “Thank God I’m a Christian.” If the murderer was one of the “elect”—for Luther believed in predestination—he was assuredly saved. The murderer, in any event, was not responsible for his actions, because Luther, unlike the Catholic Church, denied that man had free will. These ideas of Luther were, as history would show, extremely dangerous.

Erasmus understood this danger right away. His position against Lutheranism is summed up as follows:

If the will of man is not free to choose the good, who will try to lead a good life? Will not everyone find a ready excuse for all sins and vices by saying: “I could not help falling?” What is the meaning of God’s law, if the people for whom it was made cannot obey? The whole legislation of God becomes a farce and a mockery if man has not the power to observe it. How, finally, can God punish or reward those who cannot choose between good and evil, but merely do what they must?6

Herein the great humanist gave the 16th century a glimpse of the twenty-first century’s frightening reality, five hundred years after Luther’s non serviam.

Luther’s Private Judgment

Luther’s overbearing pride would ultimately induce him to denounce Catholics, Jews, fellow “reformers” (i.e., Henry, Zwingli and Calvin) and anyone else in the world with whom he disagreed. He’d become a magisterium unto himself and, as such, exhibited much more egregious judgmentalism than had ever been laid at the feet of a bad pope. Luther was an egomaniac. Who but one with Titanic pride could level the following judgment against the hierarchy of the Catholic Church—the institution which had overseen the civilization of the western world and which was responsible for the greatest works of literature, art, statesmanship, scholarship, poetry, architecture, and theology known to man:

…the true Antichrist is sitting in the temple of God and is reigning in Rome—that empurpled Babylon—and that the Roman curia is the Synagogue of Satan….there will be no remedy left except that the emperors, kings, and princes, girt about with force of arms, should attack these pests of the world, and settle the matter no longer by words but by the sword. Why do we not attack in arms these masters of perdition, these cardinals, these popes, and all this sink of the Roman Sodom which has without end corrupted the Church of God, and wash our hands in their blood?7

Of the Mass of his own priestly ordination, beloved liturgy of his fathers and forefathers, saints and martyrs, for a thousand years, Luther hisses:

I declare that all the brothels…all the manslaughters, murders, thefts and adulteries have wrought less abomination than the popish Mass.

This from one who, by his own admission, was “inspired”—while on his toilet, no less—with the certainty that the Church was the great Whore of Babylon, that four of her seven Sacraments were abominations, as were her priesthood, celibacy, papacy and monastic life. On his toilet, Luther figured it out—all that’s needed is Faith alone…and the laws of Christianity be damned!

“Be a sinner and sin on bravely,” said Luther, “but have stronger faith and rejoice in Christ, who is the victory of sin, death, and the world. Do not for a moment imagine that this life is the abiding place of justice: sin must be committed… sin cannot tear you away from Him, even though you commit adultery a hundred times a day and commit as many murders.”8

Compare these words to similar ones written by the Satanist Aleister Crowley:

Are we walking in eternal fear lest some “sin” should cut us off from “grace”? By no means…Live as the kings and princes, crowned and uncrowned, of this world, have always lived, as masters always live… make your self-indulgence your religion…When you drink and dance and take delight, you are not being “immoral,” you are not “risking your immortal soul”; you are fulfilling the precepts of our holy religion [Satanism]…

Is not this better than [to] go oppressed by consciousness of “sin,” wearily seeking or simulating wearisome and tedious “virtues”?9

Protestantism, Satanism, Freemasonry—these are but brothers-in-arms in the ancient war against the holy Church…a war fomented by disorder.

Luther’s friends readily admitted what his modern-day followers vigorously deny—the “Reformation” was indeed anarchistic. For example, the ex-priest Martin Bucer, who’d benefited from Luther’s moral dispensations where an ex-nun and his vows were concerned, nevertheless admits:

The whole Reformation was one grand indulgence for libertinism. The greater part of the people seem only to have embraced the gospel in order to shake off the yoke of discipline and the obligation of fasting and penance, which rested upon them in popery, and that they may live according to their own pleasure, enjoying their lusts and lawless appetites without control. That was the reason they lent a willing ear to the teaching of justification by faith alone and not by good works, for the latter of which they had no relish.10

It is no wonder that Erasmus (who also advocated reform) would write: “Lutheranism has but two objects at heart—money and women.”11

Today, when Protestantism sanctions divorce, homosexual marriage, contraception, and even abortion in some cases, while still claiming to be Christian, it’s a simple thing to see where the libertarianism of Martin Luther was heading from the moment he uttered: “Here I stand”. As the late Malachi Martin once remarked to the present writer: “The great evil of heretics such as Martin Luther is that, because of them, millions will be damned.”

Saint Thomas More wasn’t quite as diplomatic as Erasmus or Malachi Martin in his own colorful evaluation of the heresiarch. “Martin Luther is an ape,” said the Lord High Chancellor of England, “an arse, a drunkard, a lousy little friar, a piece of scurf, a pestilential buffoon, a dishonest liar.”12 More was certainly not the only sixteenth-century intellectual to hold the German monk in less than high regard….And who could blame him! There are aspects of Luther’s life story that are so preposterous that it’s a wonder anyone took the man seriously. His decision to become a priest, for example, took place literally in a flash, after he’d been nearly struck by lightening: “Help me, St. Anne,” he shouted in fear, as he lay on the ground in the pouring rain. “I want to become a monk.”

After dispensing himself and Sister “Katie” from their sacred vows of celibacy, Luther went ahead and dispensed every husband from his marital vows, as well: “If the mistress of the house is unwilling, let the maid come.” (See Luther’s Sermon De Matrimonio)

According to biographer Stefan Zweig, Luther’s religious awakening took place quite suddenly while he was at Mass one morning. All at once and in front of God and everybody, Luther fell to the floor and began to rave “as if in the grip of demonic possession. ‘Non sum! Non sum!’” (I am not present! I am not present!)13

On this point, at least, we can all agree with Martin Luther—surely, he wasn’t all there.


“Luther” has a lot of fun with the issue of indulgences. The outlandish definitions of indulgences placed on Catholic lips in the film— e.g., indulgences release souls from hell, indulgences are the Pope’s permission to commit sin, unless you buy an indulgence you’ll be damned—are far enough removed from Catholic teaching as to convince the viewer that the film’s script writers were either daft or malicious. Quite simply, an indulgence is the extra-sacramental remission of the temporal punishment due, in God’s justice, to sin that has been forgiven, which remission is granted by the Church in the exercise of the power of the keys, through the application of the superabundant merits of Christ and of the saints, and for some just and reasonable motive.14

So maligned have been indulgences and, by extension, the popes who preached them, that the Catholic Encyclopedia has a special section under “Indulgences” called: “What An Indulgence Is Not”. There we read the following:

To facilitate explanation, it may be well to state what an indulgence is not. It is not a permission to commit sin, nor a pardon of future sin; neither could be granted by any power. It is not the forgiveness of the guilt of sin; it supposes that the sin has already been forgiven. It is not an exemption from any law or duty, and much less from the obligation consequent on certain kinds of sin, e.g., restitution; on the contrary, it means a more complete payment of the debt which the sinner owes to God. It does not confer immunity from temptation or remove the possibility of subsequent lapses into sin. Least of all is an indulgence the purchase of a pardon which secures the buyer’s salvation or releases the soul of another from Purgatory. The absurdity of such notions must be obvious to any one who forms a correct idea of what the Catholic Church really teaches on this subject.15

In “Luther,” this dead horse is kicked to the point of absurdity. For example, the film’s portrayal of a leering, Fu Manchu-type Johann Tetzel (superbly overplayed by Alfred Molina), busying himself with the fleecing of widows and orphans, is almost too droll to be offensive. The inspiration for it could only have come from those Protestant superstars such as Jim and Tammy Baker or Oral Send-me-$8million-or-the-Lord-will-call-me-home Roberts. The logical corollary is that if charlatans in her ranks were reason enough to reject the Catholic Church then, well surely Protestantism today must be vigorously rejected due to that army of televangelists who make Johann Tetzel look like Mother Teresa.

Serious scholars have long since tried Tetzel and found him innocent of the spurious charges Martin Luther leveled against him. In “Luther,” for example, the charge of preaching irreverently concerning the Virgin Mary (Luther’s invention), is once again hurled at Tetzel. “I can release the soul,” hisses Tetzel in the film, “of a man who violated the Virgin Mary, if only he’ll buy this piece of paper…this indulgence.” Long ago, scholars refuted and dismissed this as slander, as the Catholic Encyclopedia explains:

The charge made by Luther in his seventy-fifth thesis, that Tetzel had preached impiously concerning the Blessed Virgin, and repeated in Luther’s letter to Archbishop Albrecht (Enders, I, 115) and in most explicit terms in his pamphlet “Wider Hans Worst”, was not only promptly and indignantly denied by Tetzel (13 Dec., 1518), declared false by official resolution of the entire city magistracy of Halle (12 Dec., 1517), where it was claimed the utterance was made, but has now been successfully proved a clumsy fabrication (Paulus, op. cit., 56-61).16

Tetzel is not a canonized saint, of course. He may have been overzealous in his assigned task of preaching Leo’s indulgence. But, especially when compared to the heretical notions and lewd living of so many of his Protestant accusers, Tetzel was above serious reproach. As the Encyclopedia explains, there is no moral blemish on his character:

If Tetzel was guilty of unwarranted theological views, if his advocacy of indulgences was culpably imprudent, his moral character, the butt of every senseless burlesque and foul libel, has been vindicated to the extent of leaving it untainted by any grave moral dereliction.17

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of many high profile televangelists today. Surely, Tetzel had nothing on Reverend Jimmy Swaggart, for example, who, aside from a messy scandal involving a woman of ill repute, once declared that Mother Teresa would burn in hell for failing to accept Jesus as her personal savior. Speaking of the good Reverend, who could forget this whopper: “If I do not return to the pulpit this weekend, millions of people will go to hell.” And Tetzel was nuts? Please!

So preoccupied is “Luther” with telling scary stories about a boogeyman named Tetzel that it forgets to explain how the sale of indulgences justified Luther’s denial of the Church’s dogmas on transubstantiation, the Papacy, Purgatory, the Mass, and all the Sacraments but three! What the sale of indulgences had to do, exactly, with Luther’s war on the Blessed Virgin Mary, intercessory prayers to the Saints, and a whole host of Christian doctrines that every Church father, theologian, philosopher and saint from Augustine to Cyprian to Aquinas would have died for…is anyone’s guess.

For fifteen hundred years Christians believed that the Church was founded by Christ on the rock of the Papacy. The fathers and doctors of the Church down through the ages—without whom there would have been no Christianity for Luther to “reform”— would have shed their blood rather than deny that the Church was founded on Peter and that the popes were his successors. In Luther’s own day, possibly the most brilliant mind in Europe and the second most powerful figure in England—Sir Thomas More—willingly mounted the scaffold and gave his head to the executioner rather than deny this reality.

Nevertheless, this childish film insults the intelligence of its audience by asking them to believe that, merely because of overzealous indulgence preachers, the Papacy was rightly to be condemned as bogus and the Catholic Church denounced as the great Whore of Babylon!

In his rage against the Church, Luther was simply raging against Christianity as it had existed for well over a thousand years. His rage led to the founding of a new church, in fact, which has been dividing and re-dividing itself ever since. Today, there seem to be nearly as many Protestant denominations as there are Protestants, all divided—not over mere trifles—but over the morality of rudimentary moral issues such as abortion, homosexual marriage, and contraception. Without a visible head, canon law, and a priesthood, Protestantism exists today in a permanent state of theological pandemonium.

Thomas More used the Greek term “anarchos” to describe it. He believed that the “whole great change of European consciousness in the sixteenth century was due to the hatred that they [Protestants] bear to all good order and the great hunger they have to make [everything] disordered.”18 More regarded Lutherans as “daemonun satellites” (“agents of demons”) who had to be stopped before they brought civilized society to ruin. In his book, The Life of Thomas More, Peter Akroyd explains:

This was no longer a time for questioning, or innovation, or uncertainty of any kind. He [More] blamed Luther for the Peasants’ Revolt in Germany, and maintained that all its havoc and destruction were the direct result of Luther’s challenge to the authority of the church; under the pretext of “libertas” Luther preached “licentia,” which had in turn led to rape, sacrilege, bloodshed, fire and ruin.19

Down With Celibacy!

In “Luther,” no bones are made of the fact that the Father of Protestantism was incapable of living up to his own vows of celibacy. After falling in love with Sister “Katie,” Luther encourages his brother priest Ulrich to follow suit and “choose from the nuns, as there are still one or two unclaimed.” At this point, the film takes a rather odd detour down what might be called Penny Lane.

A casually dressed Luther and his brother priests appear lounging in a garden where “Katie” von Bora and her nuns are tiptoeing through the tulips and singing love songs to the “boys”. The “rebel,” the “genius,” the “liberator”—Dr. Luther—is seen all smiley-faced and silly, even making goo-goo eyes at “Katie.” Since Sister “Katie’s” attire already includes a far-out headband, the only thing missing from the extraordinarily schmaltzy scene is a daisy in a gun barrel. During this most peculiar interlude, Martin and Katie become John and Yoko. Imagine that!

Incredibly, in the very next scene, the following profundity is placed on the lips of the great doctor: “Most days I’m so depressed I can’t get out of bed.” That woke me up. It was almost as funny, in fact, as another howler uttered earlier on in the film by Pope Leo X to the great Giacomo de Vio—Cardinal (St.) Cajetan—Superior General of the Dominicans, champion of the Fifth Lateran Council, papal legate in Germany, statesman who helped secure the elections of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and Pope Adrian VI, the man whose commentaries are published with the pontifical editions of the Summa. It’s at this intellectual giant that a chubby-faced Leo shouts: “I’m tired of you, Cajetan, always missing the big picture!”

By this point, I was practically on the floor… tears of laughter streaming down my face. How a serious Protestant could look at such rot and not shake his head in embarrassment is beyond me. But it’s also well beyond my ken how anyone can look at the spectacle that was the founding of Luther’s “church” and not be reduced to fits of laughter.

Translating the Bible

Protestants always enjoy telling each other that the Devil stirred up Catholic Popes to “pull with violence the holy Bibles out of the people’s hands.” This may make good copy but, historically, it’s utter nonsense! Even Luther himself debunks it when he casually admits that, upon his entrance into the Augustinian monastery, a Bible was quite unceremoniously handed over to him for his own private use.

It is a known fact that from the time of the invention of the printing press to the beginning of Luther’s studies at the University of Erfurt, more than 100 editions of the Bible had already been published.20 Considering the physical size of the Bible as well as the high cost and laborious process of printing, the rapid publication of those hundred editions is tantamount to our posting it on the Internet today. In other words, as fast as they could be printed, Bibles were made available.

Even Lutheran scholars are beginning to leave this lame horse in the barn. In an article by the late Professor Rietschel, a luminary of Lutheran Church, published in the Protestant Realencyclopadie, edited by Professor Hauck, we read the following: “If one considers the whole period of the Middle Ages, there is no question of any general prohibition of Bible-reading for the laity.”21

The melodramatic scenes in “Luther” of the reformer feverishly translating the Bible “for the people,” are dramatizations of a five-hundred-year-old fairy tale for adults. The undeniable fact remains that, had it not been for those Catholic Popes and Catholic monks whom Luther so enjoyed reviling with his mighty pen, there would have been no Bible for him to translate. The Catholic Church preserved Holy Scriptures just as surely as she preserved the Seven Sacraments and doctrine from the earliest days of Christianity, down through the Middle Ages and on into the modern era.

Luther’s Last Laugh

Perhaps some will protest that we’ve been too hard on Dr. Luther, and that his well meaning spiritual descendents in our day surely mustn’t share his anathemas. I have no desire, were it somehow within my power, to condemn baptized Lutherans to eternal hellfire. As the Church has always taught, we must leave such judgments to God. But, when considering how Protestantism came into being—in protest (protestant) of Christ’s Church and in defiance of His vicar—it seems foolhardy to presume that all good Lutherans are guaranteed eternal bliss. If I cannot say as much about myself or my beloved wife, family and friends who are Catholic (and who are, as Christ advocated, trying to “work out” their salvation by the “sweat of their brow”), how can I say it of these poor souls who’ve been robbed of the grace of Christ’s Sacraments and who languish outside His Mystical Body?

Protestants are not “pious Hindus” living on that proverbial desert island. They know Jesus Christ; reason tells them where His Church is and where it is not. They cannot stand behind the shield of invincible ignorance. We must pray for them, then, as we must recognize our own sacred duty before God to commit ourselves entirely to their conversion to the only true and sure means of salvation known to man—the Holy Catholic Church, outside of which there is no salvation.

If our critique of “Luther” seems unduly harsh, consider what the man wrote of us:

I will curse and scold the scoundrels until I go to my grave, and never shall they hear a civil word from me. I will toll them to their graves with thunder and lightening. For I am unable to pray without at the same time cursing. If I am prompted to say: “hallowed be Thy name,” I must add: “cursed, damned, outraged be the name of the papists.” If I am prompted to say: “Thy Kingdom come,” I must perforce add: “cursed, damned destroyed must be the papacy.” 22

And, yet…and yet…the author of such hate might be given the last word. The modern Catholic Church over the past forty years has implemented many changes designed to transform the Church into something pleasing to Protestant eyes. Those statues—so detested by Protestants—have been smashed; that altar—so reviled by Luther—has been fashioned into a table that would make Cranmer proud; belief in the Real Presence is rare enough in 2003 as to bring a smile to Calvin’s lips. There is talk of lifting Luther’s excommunication; there are rumors of Protestant “martyrs” being canonized. As the horrific priest scandals illustrate, this false ecumenism is the forerunner to ecclesiastical chaos.

Luther once boasted that if his new gospel would be but preached for two years, “pope, bishops, cardinals, priests, monks, nuns, bells, bell-towers, masses…rules, statues and all the riff-raff of the Papal government will have vanished like smoke.”23 Well, Luther was wrong—it took longer than two years; almost five centuries were required before priests, nuns, bells, Masses, rules and statues began to vanish like smoke from the Catholic Church.

Luther’s boast is coming to fruition—the Catholic Church is being Protestantized. World wars rage, millions of souls languish in religious indifferentism, generations of babies are slaughtered in the womb….Clearly, “popery” is dying, and when it’s cold in the ground—when that “light on the hill” goes out— what will then stand between the world and chaos? Is St. Pius V again waiting in the wings to save the world by saving the Church? Who can say! What is clear is that after five centuries of Protestant assaults, the human element of the Catholic Church appears to be acquiescing….

Listen…you can almost hear Luther laughing.


In the spirit of true ecumenism, let us conclude this essay with a beautiful description of the Catholic Church as penned by the Protestant minister Rev. T. B. Thompson of the Plymouth Congregational Church in Chicago some years ago. Truer words than these have rarely been written:

It must be admitted in all fairness that popular ignorance, superficial knowledge and malicious slander have in many instance misrepresented the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. To contemplate her history is to admire her. Reformation, wars, empires and kingdoms have been arrayed against her. After all these centuries she stands so strong and so firmly rooted in the lives of millions that she commands our highest respect. As an illustration, she is the most splendid the world has ever seen. Governments have arisen and gone to the grave of the nations since her advent. Peoples of every tongue have worshipped at her altars. The Roman Catholic Church as stood solid for law and order. Her police power in controlling millions untouched by denominations has been great. When she speaks, legislators, statesmen, politicians and governments stop to listen, often to obey. In the realm of worship, her ministry has been of the highest. In employing beads, statues, pictures and music she has made a wise and intelligent use of symbolism. Her use of the best in music and painting has been the greatest single inspiration to those arts, and her cathedrals are the shrines of all pilgrims.24


1 Hartmann, Grisar S.J., Martin Luther His Life and Work, (The Newman Press, 1953) p. 543
2 Ibid.
3 Akroyd, Peter, The Life of Thomas More, (Doubleday) p. 310
4 Sungenis, Robert A., Not By Faith Alone (Queenship Publishing Compay), p. 448
5 Durant,Will, The Reformation: A History of European Civilization from Wyclif to Calvin: 1300-1564 (MJF Books, 1985), p. 404
6 Msgr. O’Hare, The Facts About Luther (TAN) p. 263
7 Durant, p. 404
8 Catholic Encyclopedia, Encyclopedia Press, 1912, entry for Martin Luther.
9 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis – The Book of the Law, www.skepticsfile.org
10 Quoted by Msgr. Patrick F. O’Hare, The Facts About Luther (TAN), p. 91
11 Ibid.
12 Ackroyd, Peter, The Life of Thomas More (Doubleday) p. 230
13 Ibid. p 224
14 Catholic Encyclopedia, see “Indulgences”, newadvent.org
15 Ibid.
16 Ibid.
17 Ibid.
18 Ackroyd, Peter. The Life of Thomas More. p. 68
19 Ibid. p. 248
20 Thurston, Herbert, S. J., No Popery, p. 168, Roman Catholic Books, Fort Collins, CO
21 Ibid.
22 Ibid.
23 O’Hare, The Facts About Luther, p. 218
24 Ibid. p. 151