Saturday, December 17, 2005
The Facts About Luther (Part One)
Well, it only took about week, but a Roman Catholic apologist found my blog. He cordially e-mailed me and asked about on my usage of Father Patrick O’Hare’s book, The Facts About Luther in my paper Did Luther Say "Be a Sinner and Sin Boldly"? .
Funny, upon reflection, I think it was this particular Romanist's website that initially made me aware of Father O’Hare’s book. He had utilized the book for quotes from Luther. Subsequently, (I think after a dialog with me), He pulled O’Hare’s material from his website.
Now the question posed was whether or not I treated Father O’Hare fairly in my paper Did Luther Say "Be a Sinner and Sin Boldly"? . He raised an interesting quote from O’Hare, and I believe it deserves attention, as I have no desire to be unfair to Father O’Hare.
Before I even begin to address this issue, I think it would be helpful for those of you who don’t know about this book to be brought up to speed. Thus, consider this part one: a brief overview of The Facts About Luther. For a more complete review of O’Hare’s book see my paper, The Roman Catholic Understanding of Luther (Part One)
I consider The Facts About Luther one of the worst books on Luther ever written. Used as a strong dose of anti-Protestant prejudice, Roman Catholic laymen frequently refer to this book. This may be the single worst treatment of Luther in print today. This book was published on the 400th anniversary of the posting of the 95 Theses. The intent of the author was to provide a reasonably priced book to English speaking audiences expounding similar sentiments put forth by the hostile Catholic attitudes of Cochlaeus and the great German scholars Denifle and Grisar. The book received favorable reviews from many pro-Catholic publications. The book eventually sank below the surface and went out of print. It would have remained obscure, but the Catholic publisher Tan books resurrected it in 1987 with a new printing. With the rise of the Internet, The Facts About Luther is probably more popular now than it was in 1917. St Joseph’s Communications likewise recommends the book: “This is a popular exposé of Luther's life and work based on Protestant historians. Incredible history, fascinating evidence about Luther, and many important quotes are given.”
The book has wide popularity among Catholics. Numerous pro-Catholic websites give O’Hare’s work tremendous accolades, and cite it frequently. It is not uncommon to engage Catholics in discussion about Luther and hear the words, “Patrick O’Hare says…” or “Martin Luther is quoted as saying in The Facts About Luther…”.
In actuality, The Facts About Martin Luther is a complete vilification. One is left amazed at the earlier claims of fairness and truth the book makes when contrasted with O’Hare’s actual tone and obvious strong hostility that proceeds and develops quickly. One reads page after page of a man controlled by Satan destroying all that he touches. Luther is:
The “pretended Reformer,” with “depraved manners and utterances,” “perversity of principle coupled with falsity of teaching…” (310)
“That he was a deformer and not a reformer is the honest verdict of all who are not blind partisans and who know the man at close vision for what he was and for what he stood to sponsor.” (310)
Luther reasons “out of the depths of his depraved mind…” (311)
“Why, then call Luther a reformer- one who would not in our times be regarded fit to be entrusted with police duty in the worst slums of our cities, much less to be made the presiding officer of a vice purity committee?” (312)
“The serpent’s rattle made itself distinctly heard in his unholy utterances…” (312)
“As a matter of fact, he was openly blamed for his well-known and imprudent intimacy with Katherine Von Bora before his marriage…”(313)
(Directed at Luther):“Out upon your morality and religion; out upon your obstinacy and blindness! How have you sunk from the pinnacle of perfection and true wisdom to the depths of depravity and abominable error, dragging down countless numbers with you!” (313)
“That he was consumed by the fires of fleshly lust he admits himself.” (314)
“Did the corruption of his mind, as is plainly evidenced in his speech, induce to laxity of behavior and lead him to exemplify his teachings in grave moral delinquencies? Corrupt teaching begets corrupt action, and hence it is difficult to believe that anyone holding such principles and ‘consumed by the fires of his unbridled flesh’ could wholly escape in his own case the exemplification of his unhallowed pronouncements.” (316)
“…(T)o deify indecency, decry celibacy and virginity and dishonor the married state, was Luther’s satanic desire and diabolical purpose.” (318)
“The way in which this ‘glorious evangelist’ explains his beastly theories in his course Latin and in his still coarser German is such that it cannot be given here, ‘so full is it,’ …’not only of indelicacy but of gross filthiness.’” (319)
“The thoughts that filled his depraved mind and reflected on the greater part of mankind led him on, after his excommunication, to strive with diabolical energy to eradicate from the people’s hearts the love for and belief in the possibility of chastity outside of wedlock.” (322)
“The evidences of his depravity are so overwhelming and convincing that they are forced to the conclusion that this shameless advocate of brazen prostitution could not be and was not a ‘messenger of the all Holy God.’” (327)
“If a Catholic, especially a Jesuit, had ever played fast and loose with the truth as Luther did, what an outcry, and justly so, would be raised!” (334)
“Katherine Von Bora was only his companion in sin, and the children brought into the world through the unholy alliance were illegitimate children.” (340)
“His wild pronouncements wrecked Germany, wrecked her intellectually, morally, and politically. The havoc wrought directly or indirectly by him is almost without example in history.” (7)
“…(I)t behooves every serious man to know this charlatan for what he was and to learn that he has absolutely no claim to any consideration as a heaven-commissioned agent, as even an ordinary ‘reformer’ or ‘spiritual leader,’ or as in any respect a man above and ahead of the frailties of his age.” (18)
After putting forth the myth that Luther’s father was a murderer, O’Hare insinuates [through a quotation] that “Martin was a veritable chip of the hard old block.” (27)
O'Hare has created a text filled with citations from Luther and both Protestant and Catholic scholars on almost every page. Many times, references are not given. With those references that are given, many are not complete enough to provide any help for the researcher in tracking them down. This seems to not bother TAN publishers all that much, since they have been printing this book for about 15 years. It is indeed an irony that a book that claims to be filled with “facts” isn’t that concerned with making sure its readers have sufficient information to check the truthfulness of those “facts.” A Lutheran friend of mine once made this comment: “propaganda is not effective when proper documentation is given.” With TAN’s version of The Facts About Luther, I cannot help but agree.