Important to re-read…
Important to re-read…
Disputation of Doctor Martin Luther on the power and efficacy of Indulgences
October 31, 1517
Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed at Wittenberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology, and duly appointed Lecturer on these subjects at that place. He requests that those who are unable to be present and debate orally with us, may do so by letter.
In the Name our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
1. Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said "Repent", willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.
2. This word cannot be understood to mean the sacrament of penance, that is, confession and satisfaction, which is administered by the priests.
3. Yet it does not mean inward repentance only; for there is no inward repentance that does not produce outwardly various mortifications of the flesh.
4. The penalty [of sin], therefore, continues so long as hatred of self continues; for this is the true inward repentance, and continues until our entrance into the kingdom of heaven.
5. The pope has neither the will nor the power to remit any penalties other than those which he has imposed either by his own authority or by that of canon law.
6. The pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring that it has been remitted by God and by assenting to God's remission; though, to be sure, he may grant remission in cases reserved to his judgment. If his right to grant remission in such cases were despised, the guilt would remain entirely unforgiven.
7. God remits guilt to no one whom He does not, at the same time, humble in all things and bring into subjection to His representative, the priest.
8. The penitential canons apply only to the living, and, according to them, none applies to the dead.
9. Therefore the Holy Spirit acting in the person of the pope manifests grace to us, because in his [the pope's] decrees he always excludes the dead and cases of hardship.
10. Ignorant and wicked are the actions of those priests who impose canonical penances on the dead in purgatory.
11. This changing of the canonical penalty to the penalty of purgatory is quite evidently one of the tares that were sown while the bishops slept.
12. In former times the canonical penalties were imposed not after, but before absolution, as tests of true contrition.
13. The dying are freed by death from all penalties; they are already dead to canonical rules, and have a right to be released from them.
14. The imperfect piety and love of the dying brings with it, of necessity, great fear; and the smaller the love, the greater is the fear.
15. This fear and horror is sufficient in itself alone (to say nothing of other things) to constitute the penalty of purgatory, since it is very near to the horror of despair.
16. There seems to be the same difference between hell, purgatory, and heaven as there are between despair, almost-despair, and the assurance of safety.
17. The horror of souls in purgatory should grow less and love ought to increase.
18. It seems unproven, either by reason or Scripture, that they are outside the state of merit, that is to say, of increasing love.
19. Again, it seems unproven that they, or at least that all of them, are certain or assured of their own salvation, though we may be quite certain of it.
20. Therefore by "full remission of all penalties" the pope means not actually "of all," but only of those imposed by himself.
21. Therefore those preachers of indulgences who say that by the pope's indulgences a man is freed from every penalty and saved are in error;
22. Indeed he cannot pass on to souls in purgatory any penalty which canon law declares should be paid in this life.
23. If it is at all possible to grant to anyone the remission of all penalties whatsoever, it is certain that this remission could be granted only to the most perfect, that is, to very few.
24. Therefore it must be the case that the greater part of the people are deceived by that indiscriminate and highsounding promise of release from penalty.
25. The power which the pope has, in general, over purgatory, is just like the power which any bishop or curate has, in particular, within his own diocese or parish.
26. The pope does well when he grants remission to souls [in purgatory], not by the power of the keys (which he does not possess), but by way of intercession.
27. There is no divine authority for preaching that so soon as the penny jingles into the money-box, the soul flies out [of purgatory].
28. It is certain that when the penny jingles into the money-box, gain and avarice can be increased, but the result of the intercession of the Church is in the power of God alone.
29. Who knows whether all the souls in purgatory wish to be bought out of it, as in the legend of Sts. Severinus and Paschal.*
[*This legend tells of two saints who were willing to remain in torment in purgatory to suffer for others.]
30. No one is sure that his own contrition is sincere; much less that he has attained full remission.
31. The man who sincerely buys indulgences is as rare as the man that is truly penitent; that is, such men are most rare.
32. They will be condemned eternally, together with their teachers, who believe themselves sure of their salvation because they have letters of pardon.
33. Men must be on their guard against those who say that the pope's pardons are that inestimable gift of God by which man is reconciled to Him;
34. For these "graces of pardon" concern only the penalties of sacramental satisfaction, and these are appointed by man.
35. It is not according to Christian doctrine to preach and teach that contrition is not necessary for those who intend to buy souls out of purgatory or to buy confessional licenses.
36. Every truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without letters of pardon.
37. Every true Christian, whether living or dead, has part in all the blessings of Christ and the Church; and this is granted him by God, even without letters of pardon.
38. Nevertheless, the remission and participation [in the blessings of the Church] which are granted by the pope are in no way to be despised, for as I have said, they are the declaration of divine remission.
39. It is most difficult, even for the very best theologians, to commend to the people the abundance of pardons while at the same time encouraging true contrition.
40. True contrition seeks and loves penalties, but generous pardons only relax penalties and cause them to be hated, or at least, furnish an occasion [for hating them].
41. Papal pardons should be preached with caution, lest people falsely think they are preferable to other good works of love.
42. Christians should be taught that the pope does not intend the purchase of pardons to be compared in any way to works of mercy.
43. Christians should be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better work than buying pardons;
44. Because love grows by works of love, and a man becomes a better man; but by pardons he does not grow better, only escapes penalty.
45. Christians should be taught that he who sees a person in need, and passes him by, and then purchases pardons, purchases not the indulgences of the pope, but the indignation of God.
46. Christians should be taught that unless they have more than they need, they are bound to keep what is necessary for their own families, and should by no means squander it on pardons.
47. Christians are to be taught that the buying of pardons is a voluntary matter, and not a legal requirement.
48. Christians should be taught that in granting pardons the pope needs and desires their devout prayer for him more than the money they bring.
49. Christians are to be taught that the pope's pardons are useful only if they do not put their trust in them; but altogether harmful, if they lose their fear of God because of them.
50. Christians should be taught that if the pope knew the exactions of the pardon-preachers, he would rather that St. Peter's church be reduced to ashes than be built up with the skin, flesh and bones of his sheep.
51. Christians should be taught that it would be the pope's wish, as it is his duty, to give of his own money, even though the church of St. Peter might have to be sold, to many of those from whom certain hawkers of pardons cajole money.
52. The assurance of salvation by letters of pardon is useless, even though the commissary, or indeed even though the pope himself, were to stake his soul upon it.
53. They are enemies of Christ and of the pope, who forbid the Word of God to be preached at all in some Churches, in order that pardons may be preached in others.
54. Injury is done the word of God when, in the same sermon, an equal or a longer time is spent on pardons than on this word.
55. It must be the intention of the pope that if pardons, which are a very small thing, are celebrated with one bell, with single processions and ceremonies, then the Gospel, which is the very greatest thing, should be preached with a hundred bells, a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies.
56. The "treasures of the Church," out of which the pope grants indulgences, are not sufficiently spoken of or known among the people of Christ.
57. That they are not temporal treasures is certainly evident, for many of the vendors do not grant such treasures freely, but only collect them.
58. Nor are they the merits of Christ and the Saints, for even without the pope, these always work grace for the inner man, and the cross, death, and hell for the outward man.
59. St. Lawrence said that the treasures of the Church were the Church's poor, but he used the term in accordance with the custom of his own time.
60. Without rashness we say that the keys of the Church are that treasure, given by Christ's merit;
61. For it is clear that the power of the pope is of itself sufficient for the remission of penalties and of reserved cases,
62. The true treasure of the Church is the Most Holy Gospel of the glory and the grace of God.
63. But this treasure is naturally most odious, for it makes the first to be last.
64. On the other hand, the treasure of indulgences is naturally most acceptable, for it makes the last to be first.
65. Therefore the treasures of the Gospel are nets with which they formerly desired to fish for men of wealth.
66. Now, the treasures of the indulgences are nets with which they fish for the wealth of men.
67. The indulgences which the preachers cry as the "greatest graces" are in fact truly such only when they promote financial gain.
68. Yet they are in truth the very smallest graces compared with the grace of God and the piety of the Cross.
69. Bishops and curates are bound to receive the commissaries of papal pardons, with all reverence.
70. But they are under greater obligation to watch closely and listen carefully lest these men preach their own imaginings instead of the commission of the pope.
71. He who speaks against the validity of apostolic pardons, let him be anathema and accursed!
72. But he who guards against the lust and license of the pardon-preachers, let him be blessed!
73. The pope justly thunders against those who, by any means, contrive the injury of the traffic in pardons.
74. But much more does he intend to thunder against those who use the pretext of pardons to contrive the injury of holy love and truth.
75. It is folly to think that the papal pardons are so powerful that they could absolve a man even if he had committed an impossible sin and violated the Mother of God.
76. We say, on the contrary, that the papal pardons are not able to remove the very least of venial sins, so far as its guilt is concerned.
77. It is said that even St. Peter, if he were now Pope, could not bestow greater graces; this is blasphemy against St. Peter and against the pope.
78. We say, on the contrary, that even the present pope, and any pope at all, has greater graces at his disposal; specifically, the Gospel, powers, gifts of healing, etc., as it is written in 1 Corinthians 12.
79. To say that the cross emblazoned with the papal arms, which is set up [by the preachers of indulgences], is of equal worth with the Cross of Christ, is blasphemy.
80. The bishops, curates and theologians who permit such assertions to be spread among the people will be held accountable for it.
81. This unbridled preaching of pardons makes it difficult even for learned men to defend the respect due the pope from false accusations, or even from the astute criticisms of the laity;
82. For example: — "Why does not the pope empty purgatory, for the sake of holy love and of the dire need of the souls that are there, if he can redeem an infinite number of souls for the sake of miserable money with which to build a Church? The former reasons would be most just; the latter is most trivial."
83. Again: — "Why do funeral and anniversary masses for the dead continue to be said? Why does the pope not return or permit the repayment of the endowments founded on their behalf, since it is wrong to pray for those now redeemed?"
84. Again: — "What is this new piety of God and the pope, that for money they allow an impious man who is their enemy to buy out of purgatory the devout soul of a friend of God, when they do not allow that pious and beloved soul to be redeemed without payment for pure love's sake or because of its need of redemption?"
85. Again: — "Why are the penitential canon laws long, which in actual fact and practice are long obsolete and dead, now satisfied by the granting of indulgences, as though they were still alive and in effect?"
86. Again: — "Why does not the pope, whose wealth is today greater than the wealthiest of the wealthy, build just this one church of St. Peter with his own money, rather than with the money of poor believers?"
87. Again: — "What is it that the pope dispenses to people, and what participation does he grant, to those who have a right to full remission and participation because of their perfect repentance?"
88. Again: — "What greater blessing could come to the Church than if the pope were to do a hundred times a day what he now does only once, and bestow on every believer these remissions and participations?"
89. "Since the pope seeks the salvation of souls rather than money by his pardons, why does he suspend the indulgences and pardons granted before now, since these have equal efficacy?"
90. To repress these arguments and scruples of the laity by force alone, and not to resolve them by giving reasons, is to expose the Church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies, and to make Christians unhappy.
91. If, therefore, pardons were preached according to the spirit and mind of the pope, all these doubts would be readily resolved; indeed, they would cease to exist.
92. Away, then, with all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, "Peace, peace," where there is no peace!
93. Blessed be all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, "the cross, the cross," where there is no cross!
94. Christians are to be exhorted that they be diligent in following Christ, their Head, through penalties, deaths, and hell;
95. And thus be confident of entering into heaven rather through many tribulations, than through the assurance of peace.
The 95 Theses of Martin Luther
Note: The Latin version is here numbered to correspond to the English translation.
Disputatio pro Declaratione Virtutis Indulgentiarum.
D. Martin Luthers
Amore et studio elucidande veritatis hec subscripta disputabuntur Wittenberge, Presidente R. P. Martino Lutther, Artium et S. Theologie Magistro eiusdemque ibidem lectore Ordinario. Quare petit, ut qui non possunt verbis presentes nobiscum disceptare agant id literis absentes. In nomine domini nostri Hiesu Christi. Amen.
1. Dominus et magister noster Iesus Christus dicendo `Penitentiam agite &c.' omnem vitam fidelium penitentiam esse voluit.
2. Quod verbum de penitentia sacramentali (id est confessionis et satisfactionis, que sacerdotum ministerio celebratur) non potest intelligi.
3. Non tamen solam intendit interiorem, immo interior nulla est, nisi foris operetur varias carnis mortificationes.
4. Manet itaque pena, donec manet odium sui (id est penitentia vera intus), scilicet usque ad introitum regni celorum.
5. Papa non vult nec potest ullas penas remittere preter eas, quas arbitrio vel suo vel canonum imposuit.
6. Papa non potest remittere ullam culpam nisi declarando, et approbando remissam a deo Aut certe remittendo casus reservatos sibi, quibus contemptis culpa prorsus remaneret.
7. Nulli prorus remittit deus culpam, quin simul eum subiiciat humiliatum in omnibus sacerdoti suo vicario.
8. Canones penitentiales solum viventibus sunt impositi nihilque morituris secundum eosdem debet imponi.
9. Inde bene nobis facit spiritussanctus in papa excipiendo in suis decretis semper articulum mortis et necessitatis.
10. Indocte et male faciunt sacerdotes ii, qui morituris penitentias canonicas in purgatorium reservant.
11. Zizania illa de mutanda pena Canonica in penam purgatorii videntur certe dormientibus episcopis seminata.
12. Olim pene canonice non post, sed ante absolutionem imponebantur tanquam tentamenta vere contritionis.
13. Morituri per mortem omnia solvunt et legibus canonum mortui iam sunt, habentes iure earum relaxationem.
14. Imperfecta sanitas seu charitas morituri necessario secum fert magnum timorem, tantoque maiorem, quanto minor fuerit ipsa.
15. Hic timor et horror satis est se solo (ut alia taceam) facere penam purgatorii, cum sit proximus desperationis horrori.
16. Videntur infernus, purgaturium, celum differre, sicut desperatio, prope desperatio, securitas differunt.
17. Necessarium videtur animabus in purgatorio sicut minni horrorem ita augeri charitatem.
18. Nec probatum videtur ullis aut rationibus aut scripturis, quod sint extra statum meriti seu augende charitatis.
19. Nec hoc probatum esse videtur, quod sint de sua beatitudine certe et secure, saltem omnes, licet nos certissimi simus. 20. Igitur papa per remissionem plenariam omnium penarum non simpliciter omnium intelligit, sed a seipso tantummodo impositarum.
21. Errant itaque indulgentiarum predicatores ii, qui dicunt per pape indulgentias hominem ab omni pena solvi et salvari.
22. Quin nullam remittit animabus in purgatorio, quam in hac vita debuissent secundum Canones solvere.
23. Si remissio ulla omnium omnino penarum potest alicui dari, certum est eam non nisi perfectissimis, i.e. paucissimis, dari.
24. Falli ob id necesse est maiorem partem populi per indifferentem illam et magnificam pene solute promissionem.
25. Qualem potestatem habet papa in purgatorium generaliter, talem habet quilibet Episcopus et Curatus in sua diocesi et parochia specialiter.
26. Optime facit papa, quod non potestate clavis (quam nullam habet) sed per modum suffragii dat animabus remissionem.
27. Hominem predicant, qui statim ut iactus nummus in cistam tinnierit evolare dicunt animam.
28. Certum est, nummo in cistam tinniente augeri questum et avariciam posse: suffragium autem ecclesie est in arbitrio dei solius.
29. Quis scit, si omnes anime in purgatorio velint redimi, sicut de s. Severino et Paschali factum narratur.
30. Nullus securus est de veritate sue contritionis, multominus de consecutione plenarie remissionis.
31. Quam rarus est vere penitens, tam rarus est vere indulgentias redimens, i. e. rarissimus.
32. Damnabuntur ineternum cum suis magistris, qui per literas veniarum securos sese credunt de sua salute.
33. Cavendi sunt nimis, qui dicunt venias illas Pape donum esse illud dei inestimabile, quo reconciliatur homo deo.
34. Gratie enim ille veniales tantum respiciunt penas satisfactionis sacramentalis ab homine constitutas.
35. Non christiana predicant, qui docent, quod redempturis animas vel confessionalia non sit necessaria contritio.
36. Quilibet christianus vere compunctus habet remissionem plenariam a pena et culpa etiam sine literis veniarum sibi debitam.
37. Quilibet versus christianus, sive vivus sive mortuus, habet participationem omnium bonorum Christi et Ecclesie etiam sine literis veniarum a deo sibi datam.
38. Remissio tamen et participatio Pape nullo modo est contemnenda, quia (ut dixi) est declaratio remissionis divine.
39. Difficillimum est etiam doctissimis Theologis simul extollere veniarum largitatem et contritionis veritatem coram populo.
40. Contritionis veritas penas querit et amat, Veniarum autem largitas relaxat et odisse facit, saltem occasione.
41. Caute sunt venie apostolice predicande, ne populus false intelligat eas preferri ceteris bonis operibus charitatis.
42. Docendi sunt christiani, quod Pape mens non est, redemptionem veniarum ulla ex parte comparandam esse operibus misericordie.
43. Docendi sunt christiani, quod dans pauperi aut mutuans egenti melius facit quam si venias redimereet.
44. Quia per opus charitatis crescit charitas et fit homo melior, sed per venias non fit melior sed tantummodo a pena liberior.
45. Docendi sunt christiani, quod, qui videt egenum et neglecto eo dat pro veniis, non idulgentias Pape sed indignationem dei sibi vendicat.
46. Docendi sunt christiani, quod nisi superfluis abundent necessaria tenentur domui sue retinere et nequaquam propter venias effundere.
47. Docendi sunt christiani, quod redemptio veniarum est libera, non precepta.
48. Docendi sunt christiani, quod Papa sicut magis eget ita magis optat in veniis dandis pro se devotam orationem quam promptam pecuniam.
49. Docendi sunt christiani, quod venie Pape sunt utiles, si non in cas confidant, Sed nocentissime, si timorem dei per eas amittant.
50. Docendi sunt christiani, quod si Papa nosset exactiones venialium predicatorum, mallet Basilicam s. Petri in cineres ire quam edificari cute, carne et ossibus ovium suarum.
51. Docendi sunt christiani, quod Papa sicut debet ita vellet, etiam vendita (si opus sit) Basilicam s. Petri, de suis pecuniis dare illis, a quorum plurimis quidam concionatores veniarum pecuniam eliciunt.
52. Vana est fiducia salutis per literas veniarum, etiam si Commissarius, immo Papa ipse suam animam pro illis impigneraret.
53. Hostes Christi et Pape sunt ii, qui propter venias predicandas verbum dei in aliis ecclesiis penitus silere iubent.
54. Iniuria fit verbo dei, dum in eodem sermone equale vel longius tempus impenditur veniis quam illi.
55. Mens Pape necessario est, quod, si venie (quod minimum est) una campana, unis pompis et ceremoniis celebrantur, Euangelium (quod maximum est) centum campanis, centum pompis, centum ceremoniis predicetur.
56. Thesauri ecclesie, unde Pape dat indulgentias, neque satis nominati sunt neque cogniti apud populum Christi.
57. Temporales certe non esse patet, quod non tam facile eos profundunt, sed tantummodo colligunt multi concionatorum.
58. Nec sunt merita Christi et sanctorum, quia hec semper sine Papa operantur gratiam hominis interioris et crucem, mortem infernumque exterioris.
59. Thesauros ecclesie s. Laurentius dixit esse pauperes ecclesie, sed locutus est usu vocabuli suo tempore.
60. Sine temeritate dicimus claves ecclesie (merito Christi donatas) esse thesaurum istum.
61. Clarum est enim, quod ad remissionem penarum et casuum sola sufficit potestas Pape.
62. Verus thesaurus ecclesie est sacrosanctum euangelium glorie et gratie dei.
63. Hic autem est merito odiosissimus, quia ex primis facit novissimos.
64. Thesaurus autem indulgentiarum merito est gratissimus, quia ex novissimis facit primos.
65. Igitur thesauri Euangelici rhetia sunt, quibus olim piscabantur viros divitiarum.
66. Thesauri indulgentiarum rhetia sunt, quibus nunc piscantur divitias virorum.
67. Indulgentie, quas concionatores vociferantur maximas gratias, intelliguntur vere tales quoad questum promovendum.
68. Sunt tamen re vera minime ad gratiam dei et crucis pietatem comparate.
69. Tenentur Episcopi et Curati veniarum apostolicarum Commissarios cum omni reverentia admittere.
70. Sed magis tenentur omnibus oculis intendere, omnibus auribus advertere, ne pro commissione Pape sua illi somnia predicent.
71. Contra veniarum apostolicarum veritatem qui loquitur, sit ille anathema et maledictus.
72. Qui vero, contra libidinem ac licentiam verborum Concionatoris veniarum curam agit, sit ille benedictus.
73. Sicut Papa iuste fulminat eos, qui in fraudem negocii veniarum quacunque arte machinantur,
74. Multomagnis fulminare intendit eos, qui per veniarum pretextum in fraudem sancte charitatis et veritatis machinantur,
75. Opinari venias papales tantas esse, ut solvere possint hominem, etiam si quis per impossibile dei genitricem violasset, Est insanire.
76. Dicimus contra, quod venie papales nec minimum venialium peccatorum tollere possint quo ad culpam.
77. Quod dicitur, nec si s. Petrus modo Papa esset maiores gratias donare posset, est blasphemia in sanctum Petrum et Papam.
78. Dicimus contra, quod etiam iste et quilibet papa maiores habet, scilicet Euangelium, virtutes, gratias, curationum &c. ut 1. Co. XII.
79. Dicere, Crucem armis papalibus insigniter erectam cruci Christi equivalere, blasphemia est.
80. Rationem reddent Episcopi, Curati et Theologi, Qui tales sermones in populum licere sinunt.
81. Facit hec licentiosa veniarum predicatio, ut nec reverentiam Pape facile sit etiam doctis viris redimere a calumniis aut certe argutis questionibus laicorm.
82. Scilicet. Cur Papa non evacuat purgatorium propter sanctissimam charitatem et summam animarum necessitatem ut causam omnium iustissimam, Si infinitas animas redimit propter pecuniam funestissimam ad structuram Basilice ut causam levissimam?
83. Item. Cur permanent exequie et anniversaria defunctorum et non reddit aut recipi permittit beneficia pro illis instituta, cum iam sit iniuria pro redemptis orare?
84. Item. Que illa nova pietas Dei et Pape, quod impio et inimico propter pecuniam concedunt animam piam et amicam dei redimere, Et tamen propter necessitatem ipsius met pie et dilecte anime non redimunt eam gratuita charitate?
85. Item. Cur Canones penitentiales re ipsa et non usu iam diu in semet abrogati et mortui adhuc tamen pecuniis redimuntur per concessionem indulgentiarum tanquam vivacissimi?
86. Item. Cur Papa, cuius opes hodie sunt opulentissimis Crassis crassiores, non de suis pecuniis magis quam pauperum fidelium struit unam tantummodo Basilicam sancti Petri?
87. Item. Quid remittit aut participat Papa iis, qui per contritionem perfectam ius habent plenarie remissionis et participationis?
88. Item. Quid adderetur ecclesie boni maioris, Si Papa, sicut semel facit, ita centies in die cuilibet fidelium has remissiones et participationes tribueret?
89. Ex quo Papa salutem querit animarum per venias magis quam pecunias, Cur suspendit literas et venias iam olim concessas, cum sint eque efficaces?
90. Hec scrupulosissima laicorum argumenta sola potestate compescere nec reddita ratione diluere, Est ecclesiam et Papam hostibus ridendos exponere et infelices christianos facere.
91. Si ergo venie secundum spiritum et mentem Pape predicarentur, facile illa omnia solverentur, immo non essent.
92. Valeant itaque omnes illi prophete, qui dicunt populo Christi `Pax pax,' et non est pax.
93. Bene agant omnes illi prophete, qui dicunt populo Christi `Crux crux,' et non est crux.
94. Exhortandi sunt Christiani, ut caput suum Christum per penas, mortes infernosque sequi studeant,
95. Ac sic magis per multas tribulationes intrare celum quam per securitatem pacis confidant.