There are many reasons why Luther’s ideas were unacceptable to the Catholic Church. One such reason was that Luther’s ideas had a serious impact upon the amount of money that was taken from Saxony by Pope Leo X in the form of indulgences. The money was quite desperately needed to pay off the huge debts that the Archbishop, Albert of Brandenburg had incurred as well as the building of St. Peter’s cathedral in Rome. But because so many of the senior priests were very corrupt and had most likely bought their position within the church solely to make money, the act of buying ones position within the church is called simony.
Also because of the vast amount of greed that was such a problem within the church many priests held far more than just one position in the church so as to gain far greater wealth, the is called pluralism. This was so important because it meant that unlike more pious religious men these men of the church were unlikely to back any reform whatsoever that led to the lessening of their own personal wealth because that was the only reason they were part of the church in the first place.
Luther’s ideas were voiced in 1517 when he pinned his 95-point thesis to the church door in Wittenberg. His main disagreement with the church was the selling of indulgences, particularly the Jubilee indulgence and the promises that were being sold with them that all the buyer’s sins would be forgiven and most controversially the sins of dead relatives so that they might escape the torment of Purgatory. The thing that worried Luther was that the Pope was forgiving sins that he had no right or power to forgive.
This is shown in point 6; “The Pope can remit no guilt, but only declare and confirm that it has been remitted by god… ” This went completely against the Popes supposed infallibility, which he upheld so as to crush any opposition against any of his ideas. Although Luther was not the first to Luther was also worried about the forgiveness of sins to the dead that was in his view completely wrong because sins should only be forgiven if the sinner confesses and is truly sorry and blessed by a priest.
But obviously if one is dead then this would be near impossible and also because Jubilee indulgences were often sold in the market square and other such non-religious places. His views are shown in point 8; “… penitential canons only apply to the living… none applies to the dying” All of Luther’s views told the Catholic community “the purchase of pardons is voluntary, not obligatory” and that many people were actually making it harder for themselves to go to heaven by buying these indulgences rather than as they thought increasing their chances.
Point 32 shows this perfectly; “All those who believe themselves certain of their own salvation because of letters of pardon, will be eternally dammed together with their teachers” As Luther goes on it becomes more and more obvious that overall what he is trying to say is that “Any Christian whatsoever, living or dead, participates in all benefits of Christ and the Church; and this is granted him by god, even without letters of indulgence” and so letters of indulgence were redundant.
Many people in Saxony were buying indulgences left, right and centre because of the worry of what may happen if they did not, but when they heard this, which they invariably did because Luther’s 95-point thesis was translated into German and sent all around the country they found the excuse they had been looking for to stop buying these extortionately priced commodities. Interestingly when Luther first put up the 95-point thesis he did so in Latin, which was the language of the church and so emphasising the fact that his quarrel was with the church.
Although what the Pope first wrote in the “Brief Instruction” was that these Jubilee indulgences should only be administered to people who were truly repentant and had confessed their sins in at least 7 different churches. But as the Pope knew these rules were not adhered to in the slightest and the phrase quoted by Luther mocking the shameful way in which these indulgences were sold and the things that were said by many an unscrupulous merchant in order to sell these indulgences was “It is mere human talk to preach that the soul flies out [of purgatory] immediately the money clinks in the collection box”.
All of these views meant that the collection of money from Saxony was seriously reduced. Luther also questions the power of the Pope with comments such as point 6; “The Pope can remit no guilt, but only declare and confirm that it has been remitted by god… ” and sarcastic comments such as “Christians should be taught that, in granting pardons, the Pope has more need, and more desire, for devout prayer on his own behalf than for ready money” Both of these comments show how Luther thought about the Pope giving pardons and how evil they were.
Luther also had other ideas that he came up with after the 95-point thesis, this included Sola Fide; through faith alone. Which meant that once you were baptised you baptised you were virtually guaranteed a place in heaven because Jesus had suffered on earth so as to secure these places and as long as one had faith one would go to heaven. This was in direct comparison to the Roman Catholic Church, which believed that one had to prove one’s faith by doing good deeds and therefore collecting merits that would allow you to go to heaven.
The Roman Catholic Church also believed fundamentally in the seven sacraments, which the Church believed one had to do to be a good Christian and therefore go tom heaven. These were: Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage, Confession, Death rites, Ordination and Mass Luther believed that only two of these sacraments were really important; Baptism and Mass. Because it was vital to be baptised otherwise it would be near impossible to get into heaven, hence why many children were baptised within the first few days of their life because deaths were very common at birth.
Mass was also very important in Luther’s view but unlike the traditional way in which Mass was received by the Masses where the Priest was the only one who would receive both the wine and the bread while the congregation would only receive one or the other, usually the bread so as to make a distinction between classes, this was known as utraquism. This went completely against Luther’s beliefs because he believed that all Christians were equal and he even went as far as to say that there should be no single head of the church, which would have obviously infuriated the Pope had he not been too busy lining his own pockets.
Another disagreement between Luther and the Roman Catholic Church was that the traditional Church believed that every time the Priest blessed the bread and wine an actual miracle took place and the bread actually turned into Christ’s flesh and the wine into his blood, this view was called transubstantiation. While Luther could not accept his and put forward his own view that the bread just mixed with Christ’s flesh and the wine with his blood and so on another level they were similar, this was called consubstantiation. This infuriated the Church because Luther was now completely undermining their beliefs.
Another of Luther’s views that went completely against the Roman Catholic tradition was Sola Scriptura, which meant that the only scripture that true Catholics should adhere to was the Bible, while the Roman Catholic Church believed that the writings of prior Popes were just as relevant and should be adhered to just like the Bible, but above all, all of these scriptures had to be in Latin and not wasted upon the common people. Luther believed the exact opposite and thought that everyone should be able to appreciate the scriptures’ although he new that this would be largely impossible since only about five percent of the population could read.