Thursday, November 03, 2016

Martin Luther Advocated the Raping of Nuns?

Rome's defenders are a constant (and seemingly never-ending) source of blog material. The picture to the left comes from the Tweets of "Toronto Catholic":

MARTIN LUTHER - RAPIST. The Vatican is SILENT on Luther's endorsement of the rape of nuns - Holy Saturday,1523

 This statement accompanies their website article at Witness For Church And Pope:

Martin Luther advocated the raping of Nuns ~ how can any Catholic praise him, or this hideous, evil "Reformation"? Jacques Maritain in "Three Reformers", documents Martin Luther's view of women and especially Nuns. The heresiarch was a vicious, sadistic proponent of rape. Like the other "reformers", Luther was a debauched and grossly immoral man. 

After a rape of nuns which took place on the night of Holy Saturday, 1523, Luther calls the citizen Koppe, who organized the exploit, a "blessed robber," and writes to him, " Like Christ, you have drawn these poor souls from the prison of human tyranny. You have done it at a time providentially indicated, at that moment of Easter when Christ destroyed the prison of His own." (Ibid., 40; Weim., IX, 394-395.)

We'll see below there was not a "rape of nuns - Holy Saturday,1523," nor was "the citizen Koppe" a rapist, nor was anyone praised by Luther for being a rapist. Rome's defenders are interpreting the historical account of a group of 12 nuns escaping from the Marienthron Cistercian monastery on April 4, 1523 to be an account of rape. In that group of 12 nuns was Luther's future wife, Katherine von Bora.  Nuns escaping from a monastery is not rape.

Documentation
Witness for Church And Pope cites "Jacques Maritain in 'Three Reformers' " without any indication of edition or page number. Maritain was a Roman Catholic writer, hostile towards both Luther and the Reformation. Maritain has been characterized as being in the tradition of destructive criticism in the vein of Denifle and Grisar (see: Gregory Sobolewski, Martin Luther, Roman Catholic Prophet, p. 28-29).

"Three Reformers" refers to his book Trois Reformateurs: Luther - Descartes - Rousseau (1925). The book was translated into English. The edition I have is a 1947 reprint by Sheed and Ward LTD. The section from Maritain beiong cited is from a lengthy footnote on page 184:
After a rape of nuns which took place on the night of Holy Saturday, 1523, Luther calls the citizen Koppe, who organized the exploit, a "blessed robber," and writes to him, "Like Christ you have drawn these poor souls from the prison of human tyranny. You have done it at a time providentially indicated, at that moment of Easter when Christ destroyed the prison of His own." (Ibid., 40; Weim., IX, 394-395.) He himself was surrounded by nuns thus restored to nature. His Catherine Bora was one of them. It is curious to note that a base contempt for womanhood is the normal price of this war against Christian virginity. "The work and word of God tell us clearly that women must be used for marriage or prostitution." (Weim., XII, 94, 20-22 [1523].) "If women get tired and die of bearing, there is no harm in that; let them die, so long as they bear; they are made for that," (Erl., 20, 84; Weim., X, p. II, 301, 13, Sermon on Marriage, 1522.) And I quote only what can be transcribed.
The "Ibid., 40" cited by both Witness for Church And Pope and Maritain refers to the French edition of Heinrich Denifle's Luther et Lutheranisme Vol. 1, p. 40.  This corresponds to page 23 of the English edition. Denfile states:
Yes, truly, Luther's teachings were their inspiration. They lived, acted, and preached in accordance with them. Luther was the author of the above assembled texts for the violation of the vows, the wiving of priests and monks. He put the words on the prohibition of the vow of chastity into the large catechism. He set up the principle that God imposed an impossible thing upon us, that the (sexual) instinct of nature cannot be resisted, that it must be satisfied. He depicted himself as burning with carnal concupiscence, although some years before he had condemned it and discovered its genesis in the lack of communion with God; he admitted that his own fervor of spirit was decreasing and that he was neglecting prayer. As his teachings were depopulating the monasteries, so he himself furnished the incentive to the abduction of the consecrated virgins, the perpetrator being called by him a "blessed robber," and compared with Christ, who robbed the prince of the world of what was his. (76) He took one of the abducted nuns, put up for sale, as a witness of his gospel, as his concubine, and called her his wife. He severed the bonds of marriage and destroyed its indissolubility by his theory, which in practice found expression in the whoredoms and adulteries so bitterly complained of.
(76) Weim. IX, 394 sq. The rape and abduction of the consecrated nuns was carried out by the burgher Koppe in the night of Holy Saturday, 1523. Luther carried his blasphemy so far, that he wrote to the abductor: "Like Christ you have also led these poor souls out of the prison of human tyranny at just the appropriate time of Easter, when Christ led captive the captivity of His own."
Witness for Church And Pope, Maritain, and Denifle all refer to WA 9: 394-395. This text has nothing to do with nuns, Koppe, or the year 1523. It appears that Denifle made a documentation error in his original German. In the Weimar edition, Luther's letter to Koppe appears in WA BR 3:320-327 ( the quote in question is on page 321). The letter appears to have also been published as a short treatise: Urfach und Antwort, daß Jungfrauen Klöster göttlich verlassen mögen (1523). This text can be found in WA 11:387-400 with the quote appearing on page 394-395 (Denifle apparently meant WA XI, not WA IX). To my knowledge, no complete English translation of this letter / treatise  is available, however, it is scheduled to be included in a future English edition of Luther's Works [6.4 Ursache und Antwort, daß Jungfrauen Klöster göttlich verlassen mögen / Rationale and response, that virgins may piously abandon their convents (1523). Aland 378.WA 11:394-400].

Context



Conclusion
The above text is from Luther's letter to Leonhard Koppe (or Coppe) of April 10, 1523. The reason why Luther wrote this letter was due to the Koppe's help in freeing 12 nuns from a monastery. Martin Brecht explains how the escape occurred,

 In the section of Luther's letter cited above, he does use the phrase "blessed robber" just like Christ was a robber when through his death on the cross he stole from "the prince of this world."  So likewise Koppe  rescued the souls of 12 nuns from the prisons of human tyranny, at an ironic time: right before Easter. I know of no credible historical account that the 12 escaped nuns from the Marienthron Cistercian monastery on April 4, 1523 were raped. The information appears to indicate they were not forcibly removed, but were willing escapees.

Addendum
For what it's worth, I did leave a comment at Witness For Church And Pope, and it was published (correction: now deleted!). In another comment, the author claimed to have seen "Luther's original writings at the Library of Congress years ago," so I stated:


James Swan said...


Above you document your claim "Ibid., 40; Weim., IX, 394-395." Well, there's nothing in your entry that the "Ibid." refers to. Also, "Weim., IX, 394-395" is easily accessible online (without going to the Library of Congress). WA 9: 394-395. Can you show me exactly where this text says what you say it does?

Thanks.

2 comments:

Steve Perisho said...

Maritain cites the translation of Denifle into French by J. Paquier, and, like Paquier, uses the French word "rapt". Denifle had used "Raub". Both words can mean "rape" in the forcibly sexual sense, but more by extension than fundamentally, given that words like "viol" and "enlèvement", "Vergewaltigung" and "Notzucht", would seem to do that more naturally. Thus, "abduction" or "kidnapping" might be more natural, considerations of the meaning imposed by context aside.

James Swan said...

Interesting. Denifle says, "Die raub und die entführung" The English translators of Denifle rendered this "The rape and abduction" as well.