August 17: 16th Century Dudes Part I: Luther

Wrong Luther.

Today we got Martin Luther, and tomorrow is his contemporary Benvenuto Cellini, so I might do some compare-and-contrast as I go. Cellini, of course, is my favorite, because he is such a titantic individual. Luther is a titantic individual too, but denies it; even though he battles with, well, Satan. Or, to give him his proper Italian name, Satani:
Therefore it must have been the arch-devil himself who said, as we read in the ecclesiastical law, If the Pope were so perniciously wicked, as to be dragging souls in crowds to the devil, yet he could not be deposed. This is the accursed and devilish foundation on which they build at Rome, and think that the whole world is to be allowed to go to the devil rather than they should be opposed in their knavery.
The work that's excerpted today is called "To The Christian Nobility of the German Nation," and it must have been music to their ears, because Luther tosses them the keys:
Since, then, the temporal power is baptised as we are, and has the same faith and Gospel, we must allow it to be priest and bishop, and account its office an office that is proper and useful to the Christian community.
When you are familiar with some of the abuses of the Church (just in tomorrow's excerpt, Cellini is given the income from an abbey just for sculpting good), you can see why Luther hoped the way he did -- the princes can't be worse, he must have thought. But of course it led to great bloodshed, so Luther, as it turned out, was a little naive. Naive, too, his hope for a council to help get everything right:
Councils have often put forward some remedy, but it has adroitly been frustrated, and the evils have become worse, through the cunning of certain men. Their malice and wickedness I will now, by the help of God, expose, so that, being known, they may henceforth cease to be so obstructive and injurious.
Whenever you hear someone say that the solution to some dispute (labor, territorial, what have you), is just "get all the parties in the room and lock the door," I beg of you, be more cynical. Luther hoped the same thing, and hoped, in addition, that all we needed was for the good people to have power and the bad people to be crushed. But he was to be disappointed in both hopes.

Tomorrow, however, we will see why a good German burgher might have gotten so horrified in the first place.

0 comments: