The Catholic Champion has recently posted, Don't Make Martin Luther's Last Words Your Own! Matthew Bellisario states, "There are some who have said that Luther toned down his anti-papal rhetoric before his demise." Really? I have a lot of Luther related books, and I've never heard this one before. If anything, modern Catholic scholarship (including the Pope) has toned down anti-Luther rhetoric. I've never read any serious treatment of Luther suggesting he became less hostile toward the papacy. If such a sentiment exists, I'd be interested in seeing who said it and why.
Bellisario also states,
Luther also made it a practice to attack early Church Fathers personally as well, making accusations that would make it appear as if he had known them personally. For instance he once said in referring to the great Saint Jerome, "I know no doctor whom I hate so much, although I once loved him so ardently. Surely there's more learning in Aesop, than in all of Jerome" (LW 54, 72) Let us assume that humility was not one of Martin Luther's virtues. In fact if we compare Luther's character to that of the Saints like Jerome we find a stark contrast.
Known them personally? No, Luther never inferred this. The casual quote is from the Tabletalk, and it based on Luther's statements as recorded by Veit Dietrich in the years 1531–1533. It could've been something Luther said at dinner in casual conversation. Here is the text:
No. 445: More Learning in Aesop Than in Jerome Early in the year 1533
“I think Jerome has somehow been saved by his faith in Christ. But God forgive him for the harm he has done through his teaching! I know very well that he has done me much harm. He scolded women and gossiped about other women who were not present. I wish he had had a wife, for then he would have written many things differently. It’s a wonder that in so many books of his there isn’t a word about Christ, although he censures this in his sixth book. I know no doctor whom I hate so much, although I once loved him ardently and read him voraciously. Surely there’s more learning in Aesop than in all of Jerome. If only Jerome had encouraged the works of faith and the fruits of the gospel! But he spoke only of fasting, etc. My dear Staupitz once said, ‘I’d like to know how that man was saved!’ And his predecessor Dr. Proles said, ‘I should not like to have had St. Jerome as my prior!’ ”
So, OK, Luther said some harsh things about Jerome, as well as some very practical criticisms. Does this then mean Luther was not humble? I think not- if Luther's criticisms of Jerome were accurate, then he was simply doing what we should all do- read with a discriminating eye. No writer is (or was) perfect, except for the Holy Spirit. There's only one book with pure accurate truth. The Church Fathers, while saying some good things, also said some bad things. Simply because Rome says Jerome is now a saint, doesn't mean everything he wrote or held was perfect truth (Recall, my RC friends, he wasn't fond of the apocrypha). I don't find anything in the above statement by Luther all that outrageous.
Mr. Bellisario himself says many unkind things about people he's never really met, but acts as if he knows them, so perhaps he should swallow a dose of his own medicine. Let's call out the humble Catholic Champion when he visits this blog. Let's hope now to find a few less insults coming from the keyboard of Mr. Bellisario, based on his own paradigm.
On another front, recently I got involved in a Luther related discussion over at Catholic Answers. I think the person in the discussion has since posted the Forward to the Second Edition of Luther and Lutherdom by Heinrich Denifle, as well as pages 272-295. He also mentions he's going to post the preface to the first edition. According to Gordon Rupp, "the second edition of Luther Und Lutherdom contained some remarkable modifications and omissions, while the editors of the French edition were constrained to add a number of embarrassed footnotes." So whichever edition he posts content from, it'll be from the same poisoned well.
It turns out, the person I dialogued with at Catholic Answers (raumzeitmc2) appears to be Ben M., a regular from DA's combox. That would make a lot of sense to me, as the content from his combox statements are very similar.
Ben says, "I guess Heinrich Denifle could be considered, in some ways, the 'Dirty Harry' of Catholic apologetics. But you know, sometimes - just sometimes - in order to say what needs to be said, one just has to 'tell it like it is!' " Well no Ben, Denifle may be good in other areas, but his work on Luther wasn't so good. Even DA appears to be back down from Denifle-
"I think Denifle goes too far, which was the opinion of Hartmann Grisar, author of the six-volume Luther biography.There are some errors there, but it's not as bad as Denifle makes out."
"Denifle can provide relevant and interesting facts about Luther, just like anyone else (of course), but extreme antipathy to Luther taints his work. I don't think that helps our side in its criticism of Luther. It simply makes Protestants think that we are being irrational out of "hatred" of Luther, etc. And they tune it out.And that ain't good. So in that way I think we shoot ourselves in the foot if we reply on Denifle."
It's odd to actually agree with DA, or rather, have DA agree with me. But Ben wasn't even deterred by DA. If he won't even listen to people on his own side, then well, there's no helping some people. Ben even thinks the Lutheran church is hiding information about Luther:
Here's where Lutherans and the Lutheran church could do much to put away misunderstanding, if only they weren't so afraid of going public domain with Luther's works. And why are they afraid? A number of reasons. 1. Luther's foul language (and what may even be termed at times, his downright filthy language). Now Luther knew better. This is proven by the simple fact that, when he had a mind to (and when not seething with rage against the pope or whomever), he could write and say many beautiful and edifying things. So he cannot plead ignorance. 2. Luther's violent language. For a supposed man of God and a reformer of morals, such language was, is, and always will be out of place. 3. Luther's scandals e.g. Philip of Hesse. 5. Luther's lying, his deceiving. 6. Luther's attacks on his fellow reformers - [Zwingli et al.]
If someone thinks the current set of Luther's Works attempts to hide the these things, it's simply ridiculous, and demonstrates how little of Luther's current published writings Ben has read. There isn't any conspiracy to keep negative facts about Luther hidden. I could list quite a number of writings contained in the LW set that present Luther in a negative light. The set includes Luther's "On The Jews and Their Lies." In the Tabletalk LW volume, they purposely included those sayings that have caused polemics. The set includes Luther's scatological language, scandals, complaints about the people, attacks against Zwingli, etc. I live near a number of libraries, and many of them carry the 55 volume current LW set. To my knowledge, there aren't any Lutheran Illuminati guarding the set so people don't learn the truth about Luther.
Now these and many other such things the Lutherans are afraid will do irreparable damage to the cause of the reformation were they to become widely known. After all, the absurdity and hypocrisy of speaking corruption in the Church when the reformers themselves were taking the lead in such things is, well, you know....
The Lutherans haven't been hiding the facts about Luther. In fact, you can go in to any big chain bookstore and find biographies of Martin Luther that contain all sorts of information about him. In stores like Borders and Barnes and Noble, you can find a chair and read books without paying for them. The Lutherans will not stop you. Similarly, you can find books on line written by Lutherans like this: Luther Examined and Reexamined: A Review of Catholic Criticism and a Plea for Revaluation. I appreciate that any books are free on line. One cannot demand that others give books for free. In regards to Luther's writings, there is a large selection of materials with contexts available. the Lutherans aren't hiding anything. There isn't a 4th secret of Fatima locked away in the Lutheran Vatican in Wittenberg. Luther's Works can also be purchased on a fairly affordable CD ROM. If Rome ever decides that her theologians should post all their books for free on the Internet, perhaps then the Lutherans will follow such a generous example and do the same.