Monday, May 29, 2006

Catholic Apologist Art Sippo on Father O’Hare’s “Facts About Luther”


Ok, so I’m almost president of the Father O’Hare fan club at this point. I probably have written about The Facts About Luther more than anyone. No award waits for me I’m sure (Guinness Book of World Records has not yet contacted me).

Catholic apologist Art Sippo recently commented on The Facts About Luther over on the Planet Envoy boards. I found his comments interesting- and I plan on using them next time a zealous Catholic suggests this book as the definitive in Luther studies. Sippo says some accurate things,-mixed in with nonsense.

Sippo said,

Sadly the book "The Facts About Luther" was written in the mid-19th Century and while it is worth reading, it needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Some of the things it says about Luther are not accurate.”

"Luther gave a lecture on marriage. His notes did not survive but those of one of his students did. Based on that student's notes Luther was accused of some digusting[sic] teachings. It is considered by later historians that this was an inaccurate repesentation[sic] of what Luther taught. Consequently, later biographers did not mention it.

Fr. O'Hare also imputed to Luther certain base motives that I don't think he had. Luther was a bipolar manic-depressive who was virtually psychotic during his periods of mania. His madness was confused for many things during his lifetime including religious zeal, duplicity, fanatacism [sic], inconsistentcy[sic], and possession by the devil. Read Rix for a good discussion of this.

Luther did say some egregious things about marriage and sexuality such as his support for the bigamy of Philip of Hesse and his advice to a woman married to an infertile husband that she seek some willing relative or friend to impregnate her.

Generally, Fr. O'Hare's book is okay, but Rix is infinetly[sic] superior. Marius likewise gives a more accurate rendering of what Luther really acted like than Fr. O'Hare and of how he was perceived by his contemporaries.

I should also mention Fr. Hartmann Grisar's work Luther which is avaialble[sic] in both a five volume detailed study and a one volume condensed version.There is also the magisterial work of Fr. Heinrich Denifle whose 5 volume work Luther and Lutherdom set the standard for Catholic Lutehran[sic] scholarship. He wrote this in German and only one volume was ever translated into English.The works of Frs. Grisar and Denifle are hard to find but well worth reading."


First, I’d like to actually thank Mr. Sippo for not recommending Father O’Hare’s Facts About Luther. He is correct- “The book needs to be taken with a grain of salt” and “Some of the things it says about Luther are not accurate.” And yes, Sippo is correct, “Fr. O'Hare also imputed to Luther certain base motives that I don't think he had.”

Sippo makes a claim I’m not familiar with. He refers to a lecture on marriage given by Luther which was taken down by a student. Most of O’Hare citations on Luther’s view of marriage come from chapter 9. O’Hare draws from multiple sources, so I’m not sure which source he has in mind.

But Mr. Sippo also has made some errors here as well:

Father O’Hare’s book was not written in the “mid-nineteenth century.” The book came out in 1917. To my knowledge, O’Hare didn’t write it decades earlier in the 1800’s and then wait till 1917 to release it.

Perhaps the most outrageous claim from Sippo is “Luther was a bipolar manic-depressive who was virtually psychotic during his periods of mania. His madness was confused for many things during his lifetime including religious zeal, duplicity, fanatacism [sic], inconsistentcy[sic], and possession by the devil.” If there was ever an un-provable assertion, this is it- very reminiscent of Erik Erickson’s psychoanalysis of Luther in his book Young Man Luther (1958). Erickson’s work has been criticized for its poor use of the evidence- of making the “facts” prove 20th Century psychoanalysis rather than doing 16th Century history. Sippo’s claim is also reminiscent of the work done by Hartmann Grisar and Heinrich Denifle (two authors he recommends). I’ve tackled both of these writers here:*The Roman Catholic Perspective of Martin Luther(Part One)*

Grisar was a Jesuit historian who used Freudian psychology to arrive at the assessment that Luther was a monk obsessed with the lust of the flesh and a pathological manic-depressive personality. Luther’s view of justification by faith alone came from his own immorality—that in order to justify his loose life and to excuse his renunciation of the monastic ideal, Luther denied salvation with works. Luther was a neurasthenic and a psychopath. He sees him as the victim of bad heredity, a maladjusted misfit entering the monastic life because of some traumatic experience during a thunderstorm. Grisar argues that Luther was simply a neurotic man who spent his entire life unhappy and guilt-ridden.

Heinrich Denifle compiled some of the worst treatment of Luther ever written. He was a 19th Catholic scholar who held Luther was a fallen-away monk with unbridled lust, a theological ignoramus, an evil man, and used immorality to begin the Reformation. Denifle accuses Luther of buffoonery, hypocrisy, pride, ignorance, forgery, slander, pornography, vice, debauchery, drunkenness, seduction, corruption, and more: he is a lecher, knave, liar, blackguard, sot, and worse: he was infected with the venereal disease syphilis.

Luckily, the books are hard to track down. Grisar’s works can be found via used bookstores for a fairly reasonable price. Denifle though is nearly impossible to track down in English. Sippo says “Denifle whose 5 volume work Luther and Lutherdom set the standard for Catholic Lutehran[sic] scholarship.” This is simply not true. Denifle comes near the end of the destructive Luther scholarship started by Cochlaeus in the 16th Century. Generally, good Roman Catholic historians do not cite Denifle anymore. Even Grisar corrected Denifle on points.

But thanks Art for your comments on O'Hare's book. They will come in handy next time a zealous Catholic says "The best book on Luther is The Facts About Luther..."

3 comments:

FM483 said...

As a communicant member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, I can honestly say that the historic man Martin Luther is seldom quoted. On the other hand, the same verses rediscovered in the 16th century by the Augustinian monk Martin Luther are quoted frequently: Ephesisn 2:8-9, Romans 1:17, and Romans 5:8 - among others. The legacy of Martin Luther that survives to this day is Sola Scriptura - Holy Scripture is the norm and basis for all Christian beliefs - not any historic personage. Roman Catholics, and others, are confused over this basic issue because of their unquestioning allegiance to another man - the pope. Consequently, RCs simply transfer their own thought processes to any Protestant by attacking the historic man Martin Luther. This is an error in their logic. Although I believe that Luther was used by God as an instrument, I also realize that he was a sinner like all men, in need of the Savior. What RCs consistently fail at is recognizing that their church body stands accused of many heresies by the Word of God, not Martin Luther who was merely God's voicepiece. This is the truth: all men and material things fade away but the Word of the Lord endures forever. As a Lutheran I believe we are still in the Reformation. The exact same fallacies and heresies confronted by Luther in the medieval church are alive and well in American Evangelicalism and elsewhere. Mankind can simply not believe the truth of God as spoken in His Word - primarily because of a confusion between Law and Gospel. All religions of the world are works righteousness oriented and have similarities. Only orthodox Christianity is the opposite of commonsense, maintaining that salvation is totally dependent upon the Grace of God from start to finish. This is so difficult for fallen man to comprehend, since even the spiritual discernment of this truth requires the Holy Spirit's enlightenment(1Cor 2:14).

Frank Marron

Peter said...

I see that Art Sippo has replied to James over at Planet Envoy.

Peter

Anonymous said...

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