Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A Response to Catholic Apologist Robert Sungenis on Luther Inserting The Word "Alone" In Romans 3:28

I never thought I’d see the day when I’d be given an opportunity to respond to comments from Catholic apologist Robert Sungenis. Here’s a question and response from the CAI June Q&A page:

Question 37- Martin Luther Quotes

Hi Robert;

My name is Peter Porcellato. I have contacted you in the past for apologetcs help and I own some of your works. I just finished reading some of your dialogue with Dr Michael S. Horton titled "Is Justification by Faith Alone?". I came over to see what you had to say with this issue because I was on James Swan's Blog (do you know him?) and have been reading some of his papers refuting Catholic comments about Luther. The reading has shaken me somewhat in that he very compentently reveals the faultiness of Catholic Apologists' research into Martin Luther and shows where they are in error regarding the accusations that they levy against him. I want to provide you with
a link to a paper I just read of his where he offers explanation as to why Luther put the word alone after faith in his Romans translation.

I am a devout Catholic and enjoy being so so please don't think that I am trying to set you up or anthying like that. I respect and admire men such as you, Patrick, Karl, and Scott, but if you guys are taking Luther quotes out of context and are inadvertantly using faulty sources then I must admit that this has me a little flumoxed. Would you mind taking a look at a small sample of his writting? I have posted the link to his paper that I just finished reading. I would ask you to parouse his blog to understand why I take his writting seriously.

I look foreward to your comments

R. Sungenis: Peter, tell Mr. Swan he needs to read my book Not By Faith Alone. In it he will find the following quote from Martin Luther on page 527, which is taken from Protestant Philip Schaff's History of the Christian Church, p. 363:

"Are they doctors? So am I. Are they learned? So am I. Are they preachers? So am I. Are they righteous? So am I. Are they disputors? So am I. Are they philosophers? So am I. Are they writers of books? So am I. And I shall further boast: I can expound Psalms and Prophets; which they cannot. I can translate; which they cannot....Therefore the word allein shall remain in my New Testament, and though all the pope-donkeys should get furious and foolish, they shall not take it out."

Again, Schaff notes Luther's words on p. 362: "If your Papist makes much useless fuss about the word sola, allein, tell him at once: 'Dr. Martin Luther will have it so,' and says, 'Papist and donkey are one thing....For we do not want to be pupils and followers of the Papist, but their masters and judges."

Let’s stop right here and look at the quotes Sungenis is using. Here again is an opportunity to show Peter the “faultiness of Catholic Apologists' research into Martin Luther.” The selective citation offered by Sungenis portrays Luther as maliciously inserting the word “alone” into Romans 3:28. Luther is painted as outrageous- he shows a total disregard for the sacred text, simply making it say what he wanted it to. Frankly, I am shocked that Sungenis would put forth such a bogus method of citation.

Peter, please tell Mr. Sungenis that he needs to actually read the link provided to him. Had he read it carefully, he would’ve seen I used the same quotes from Luther that Sungenis is directing me toward from his book, Not By Faith alone. Rather than direct people to a secondary source (Schaff), I provided a link to the actual text from Luther, his Open Letter on Translating (1530). This letter has been widely available for many years now. In the link Peter provided, I work through the letter, placing Luther’s comments in a context.

The first section of the treatise is actually fairly angry, sarcastic, and humorous. Luther is fed up with his Papal critics. His anger was fueled against them for an ironic reason- they rallied against his translation, while at the same time utilizing it for their own new translations. A strong Papal critic of Luther (Emser) did just that. Schaff points out,

“…And yet even in the same chapter [Romans 3] and throughout the whole Epistle to the Romans, Emser copies verbatim Luther’s version for whole verses and sections; and where he departs from his language, it is generally for the worse.” Source

Luther’s anger is clearly seen in the quotes Sungenis uses. In their context, they show Luther blasting away at his Papal critics. One can almost feel Luther’s anger towards them. They discredited him as a doctor of theology and his academic abilities were above most. Indeed, he had done the work necessary to be taken seriously. His critics criticized his German translation while at the same time stealing it for their own translation- this infuriated him, and rightly so.

But the most troubling aspect of Sungenis’s Luther quotes, is that had he actually read Luther’s Open Letter on Translating, he would have seen that Luther actually goes on to give an explanation of why he uses the word "alone" in Romans 3:28-

I know very well that in Romans 3 the word solum is not in the Greek or Latin text — the papists did not have to teach me that. It is fact that the letters s-o-l-a are not there. And these blockheads stare at them like cows at a new gate, while at the same time they do not recognize that it conveys the sense of the text -- if the translation is to be clear and vigorous [klar und gewaltiglich], it belongs there. I wanted to speak German, not Latin or Greek, since it was German I had set about to speak in the translation.”

Luther continues to give multiple examples of the implied sense of meaning in translating words into German. He then offers an interpretive context of Romans:

So much for translating and the nature of language. However, I was not depending upon or following the nature of the languages alone when I inserted the word solum in Romans 3. The text itself, and Saint Paul's meaning, urgently require and demand it. For in that passage he is dealing with the main point of Christian doctrine, namely, that we are justified by faith in Christ without any works of the Law. Paul excludes all works so completely as to say that the works of the Law, though it is God's law and word, do not aid us in justification. Using Abraham as an example, he argues that Abraham was so justified without works that even the highest work, which had been commanded by God, over and above all others, namely circumcision, did not aid him in justification. Rather, Abraham was justified without circumcision and without any works, but by faith, as he says in Chapter 4: "If Abraham were justified by works, he may boast, but not before God." So, when all works are so completely rejected — which must mean faith alone justifies — whoever would speak plainly and clearly about this rejection of works will have to say "Faith alone justifies and not works." The matter itself and the nature of language requires it.”

Sungenis continues:

"Schaff goes on to say that Luther claimed to add allein to Romans 3:28 for the sake of clarity, but he did not do so for Gal 2:16. Schaff then cites Meyer and Weiss whom he references among 19th century Protestant exegetes who affirm that allein has "no business in the text [of Rm 3:28] as a translation." In John Eadie's The English Bible, p. 292, he cites Coverdale's 19 NT notes in his 1535 edition of the Bible, upon which Coverdale writes concerning Luther's addition of allein to Romans 3:28: "Romans 3:28, Some reade, By faith onely -- Luther. Text is 'through faith' -- Tnydale."

Schaff raises an interesting point. One has to wonder though, exactly what Sungenis thinks it proves. What image of Luther is Sungenis trying to put forth? Sungenis began by presenting out-of-context quotes that show Luther as a raving madman disregarding the Biblical text and inserting words for no other reason than because he wanted to. Now, we see that Luther could’ve inserted ‘allein’ into Galatians 2:16, but did not. This shows…what? Probably Sungenis thinks it proves Luther was inconsistent. But stop and think for a moment. Had Luther actually inserted ‘allein’ into Galatians 2:16, Sungenis would still be criticizing him! If anything, that Luther did not put ‘allein’ into Galatians 2:16 should show that Luther was not trying to maliciously tamper with the Biblical text. His was not the method of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, attempting to “doctor” the text.

But the question remains, why did Luther not insert ‘allein’ into Galatians 2:16? I can only speculate, but I think that understanding Luther’s view of the priority of the New Testament books may shed some light here. Luther considered Romans the heart of the Bible. In other words, the book was the key to all the others. All the other Biblical books were to be interpreted by Romans. Luther says of Romans:

This epistle is really the chief part of the New Testament, and is truly the purest gospel. It is worthy not only that every Christian should know it word for word, by heart, but also that he should occupy himself with it every day, as the daily bread of the soul. We can never read it or ponder over it too much; for the more we deal with it, the more precious it becomes and the better it tastes” [LW 35:365].

In this epistle we thus find most abundantly the things that a Christian ought to know, namely, what is law, gospel, sin, punishment, grace, faith, righteousness, Christ, God, good works, love, hope, and the cross; and also how we are to conduct ourselves toward everyone, be he righteous or sinner, strong or weak, friend or foe—and even toward our own selves. Moreover this is all ably supported with Scripture and proved by St. Paul’s own example and that of the prophets, so that one could not wish for anything more. Therefore it appears that he wanted in this one epistle to sum up briefly the whole Christian and evangelical doctrine, and to prepare an introduction to the entire Old Testament. For, without doubt, whoever has this epistle well in his heart, has with him the light and power of the Old Testament. Therefore let every Christian be familiar with it and exercise himself in it continually. To this end may God give his grace” [LW 35:380]

So, there really was no need to insert ‘allein’ into Galatians 2:16. If one followed Luther’s advise, and became thoroughly familiar with the theology of Romans, when one reads Galatians, one already knows what Paul means.

Sungenis concludes by recommending his book:

"I suggest you get a copy of Not By Faith Alone. I have a whole section on Luther at pages 517-554."

I would suggest that one reads this book like I read books: critically. If you’re a Roman Catholic, don’t be afraid to check the facts. It’s obvious with the quotes used by Sungenis above, his was not an accurate presentation of Luther’s reasoning. I don’t have a problem with anyone being critical of Luther’s insertion of ‘allein’ into Romans 3:28, but at least argue against Luther’s reasoning, rather than misusing a context in order to prove Luther simply inserted the word because he wanted to, devoid of reasoning.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Who were Some Of The Best Scholars at Trent, And What Did They Think Of The Apocrypha?

We all know that the Council of Trent made the official pronouncement on the Canon of Sacred Scripture, and in that pronouncement determinded, once and for all, that the apocryphal books were indeed Sacred Scripture (for Roman Catholics). I’ve always wondered though, what criteria the Council of Trent used to determine which books of the Bible were canonical. Some of the answers I’ve been given are: Trent did not determine the canon, they simply reaffirmed the canon; and: The Holy Spirit determined the outcome of Trent by His presence among this infallible council.

For my response to the first answer, I would direct the interested reader to my link here. I’d like to take a look at the second answer. Now, is the Holy Spirit another way of saying “the majority vote”? If so, where does this precedent come from? Does “the majority vote” go against the opinions of the best scholars at the Council of Trent? What if those who were considered some of the best scholars on the canon at the Council of Trent thought the apocryphal books were not Scripture?

Well, this was the situation. There was a group of scholars at the Council of Trent that were considered fairly knowledgeable on this issue. One particular was Cardinal Seripando. The Roman Catholic historian (and expert on Trent) Hubert Jedin explained “…[H]e was aligned with the leaders of a minority that was outstanding for its theological scholarship” at the Council of Trent.

Jedin is worth quoting at length:
(Seripando was) Impressed by the doubts of St. Jerome, Rufinus, and St. John Damascene about the deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament, Seripando favored a distinction in the degrees of authority of the books of the Florentine canon. The highest authority among all the books of the Old Testament must be accorded those which Christ Himself and the apostles quoted in the New Testament, especially the Psalms. But the rule of citation in the New Testament does not indicate the difference of degree in the strict sense of the word, because certain Old Testament books not quoted in the New Testament are equal in authority to those quoted. St. Jerome gives an actual difference in degree of authority when he gives a higher place to those books which are adequate to prove a dogma than to those which are read merely for edification. The former, the protocanonical books, are "libri canonici et authentici"; Tobias, Judith, the Book of Wisdom, the books of Esdras, Ecclesiasticus, the books of the Maccabees, and Baruch are only "canonici et ecclesiastici" and make up the canon morum in contrast to the canon fidei. These, Seripando says in the words of St. Jerome, are suited for the edification of the people, but they are not authentic, that is, not sufficient to prove a dogma. Seripando emphasized that in spite of the Florentine canon the question of a twofold canon was still open and was treated as such by learned men in the Church. Without doubt he was thinking of Cardinal Cajetan, who in his commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews accepted St. Jerome's view which had had supporters throughout the Middle Ages.” Hubert Jedin, Papal Legate At The Council Of Trent (St Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1947), 270-271
“For the last time [Seripando] expressed his doubts [to the Council of Trent] about accepting the deuterocanonical books into the canon of faith. Together with the apostolic traditions the so-called apostolic canons were being accepted, and the eighty-fifth canon listed the Book of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) as non-canonical. Now, he said, it would be contradictory to accept, on the one hand, the apostolic traditions as the foundation of faith and, on the other, to directly reject one of them.” Hubert Jedin, Papal Legate At The Council Of Trent (St Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1947), 278.
Jedin also documents a group of excellent scholars that stood against “tradition” as being on the same level of authority as scripture:
“In his opposition to accepting the Florentine canon and the equalization of traditions with Holy Scripture, Seripando did not stand alone. In the particular congregation of March 23, the learned Dominican Bishop Bertano of Fano had already expressed the view that Holy Scripture possessed greater authority than the traditions because the Scriptures were unchangeable; that only offenders against the biblical canon should come under the anathema, not those who deny the principle of tradition; that it would be unfortunate if the Council limited itself to the apostolic canons, because the Protestants would say that the abrogation of some of these traditions was arbitrary and represented an abuse… Another determined opponent of putting traditions on a par with Holy Scripture, as well as the anathema, was the Dominican Nacchianti. The Servite general defended the view that all the evangelical truths were contained in the Bible, and he subscribed to the canon of St. Jerome, as did also Madruzzo and Fonseca on April 1. While Seripando abandoned his view as a lost cause, Madruzzo, the Carmelite general, and the Bishop of Agde stood for the limited canon, and the bishops of Castellamare and Caorle urged the related motion to place the books of Judith, Baruch, and Machabees in the "canon ecclesiae." From all this it is evident that Seripando was by no means alone in his views. In his battle for the canon of St. Jerome and against the anathema and the parity of traditions with Holy Scripture, he was aligned with the leaders of a minority that was outstanding for its theological scholarship.” Hubert Jedin, Papal Legate At The Council Of Trent (St Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1947), 281-282.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Discussion With Catholic Apologist Art Sippo on Luther Biographies

Catholic apologist Art Sippo and I discussed which were the best and worst biographies on Luther to read. Needless to say, Dr. Sippo and I agreed on nothing. The conversation shows that Sippo begins with Luther as an arch-villain, and any book that says otherwise is propaganda. The discussion took place on Patrick Madrid's Envoy Forums.

I. On Dialoging With Catholic apologist Art Sippo on Luther Scholarship

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

III. Catholic Apologist Art Sippo on Luther Scholarship and Research (Part 1)

IV. Art Sippo on Catholic Historians Grisar and Denifle and Luther’s Demon Possession (part 2)

V. Using Psychohistory To Interpret Luther (A Response To Catholic Apologist Art Sippo (part3)

VI. Catholic Apologist Art Sippo Takes The Time To Thank Me For My Luther Research

VII. Luther Between God and the Devil: Catholic Apologist Art Sippo on Heiko Oberman

VIII. Catholic Apologist Art Sippo on Roland Bainton's "Here I Stand"

IX. Catholic Apologist Art Sippo on Richard Marius

X. Catholic Apologist Art Sippo on Catholic Historian Joseph Lortz

XI. A Last Look At Catholic Apologist Art's Sippo's View Of Luther Biographies

XII. Art Sippo on Luther Biographies Revisited: Marius on Denifle

Sippo vs Lortz Revisted: Cardinal Ratzinger help Dr. Sippo understand Joseph Lortz

Sippo, Lortz, Ratzinger, and Luther

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Response From Catholic Apologist Mark Shea on "Did Jerome Change His Mind On The Apocrypha?"

Recently I posted a guest blog entry from my friend Ray Aviles:

Guest Blog:Did Jerome Change His Mind on the Apocrypha ?

Ray did a masterful job at taking a look at Jerome's opinion of the canonicity of the apocrypha. His article was strongly critical of Catholic apologist Mark Shea's understanding of this issue. Shea argued that Jerome at first rejected the canonictiy of the Apocrypha, but later changed his mind. Ray proves this was not true. Bookmark Ray's article. It is probably the best thing on this blog.

Mark Shea actually read Ray's article. Someone, unknown to me, wrote him and told him about it. Mark's response is as follows:

"...[F]rom what I read of the critique of my article on the apocrypha in the materials forwarded me, it would appear that I did indeed misread Jerome (not wilfully, as the article suggests, but nonetheless erroneously). That is, it would appear that Jerome, although he did include the deuterocanon in his Vulgate, did so grudgingly and never really bought the idea they should be in the canon of Scripture. That's the breaks. I make mistakes. It does not mean everything I've written is worthless, it doesn't even mean that the central point of my article--that the only authority we have for canonizing Scripture is the Church and not some guy named Ray Aviles--is wrong. But it certainly does mean that St. Paul is emphatically right when he urges us "test everything, hold on to what is good." I'm as prone as the next guy to passing on pseudo-knowledge. So are James Swan and Ray Aviles."[source]

Kudo's to Mark Shea. I'll be adding a link to his blog on my sidebar.

A Last Look At Catholic Apologist Art's Sippo's View Of Luther Biographies

"Mr. Swan claims that he came here it interact with me because I was a Catholic apologist. I must say that I do not believe him. He is on a one-man crusade to defame the critics of Luther and to push forward the work of certain scholars who misrepresent him and who give a favorable report to him. Mr. Swan's agenda is to eliminate from every-one's consideration that long standing tradition which found Luther to be a morally dubious and seriously disordered person who is not worthy of any-one's allegiance." - Catholic apologist, Art Sippo

"Unfortunately, at the moment, one Catholic is repeatedly responding to [James Swan] in ways which qualify for virtually every bad trait so often (sadly) observed in the apologetics sub-community (if defined as "anyone who does apologetics on the Internet")."- another Catholic Apologist 

"Art, we've been through this so many times now, I don't know how else to say it. Please drop the invective and ad hominem and just make your case, critique the other guy's, and move forward with the conversation. All the egregious stuff is just plain unedifying and it has no power to persuade, only provoke."- Catholic Apologist, Patrick Madrid

Some of you have probably wondered when I would shake the dust from my feet and walk away from Catholic apologist Art Sippo. It's been about a month since I first began my attempt to interact with Dr. Sippo. The interaction definately wasn't a "debate", and it barely resembles a dialog. The interaction reminded me more of two lawyers attempting to a control a context. He who controls the context generally comes across better in a disagreement.

After about a month, the discussion found here went about 10 Envoy pages with approximately 175 posts and 2600 views. I contributed 38 posts. My posts were usually long and detailed, and I attempted to pick out only those points I thought were relevant.

I tried to stay focused on what this thread was originally about: Luther and Calvin biographies. This is really the only thing I wanted to discuss, and that only with Art Sippo, or anyone else who has knowledge in this area. I limited myself to this for one reason: time constraints. While it might take Art or one of his supporters 10 seconds to cut and paste something negative about Luther, it takes me a few hours to verbalize a detailed, accurate, historical response. Even with my responses to Art, they took time. It might've taken him two minutes to write something, but each of my posts on Luther biographies took anywhere between 2 to 3 hours. For the most part, I’ve not simply popped over to someone else’s web site and did the ol' cut and paste. I had about 15 books piled on my desk all related to the discussion. Many of the citations I utilized I typed in (very time consuming!) from my own personal collection of journal articles and books, not a web site.

Sippo and I will never agree on any of the "facts" about Luther. The question I’m interested in is "why"? The sources Sippo used (and the sources he disdained) for his information explained a great deal about his perspective- thus rendering any discussion between he and I about the "facts" of Luther’s life an exercise in futility. I've written about many topics on Luther -including some of the issues Art attempted to bully me into veering off into. A partial listing can be found here.

Sippo Repeatedly attempted to discuss Luther’s involvement with the Philip of Hesse bigamy issue: "I want everyone to notice that Mr. Swan has refused to deal with the issue of Luther and the bigamy of Phillip of Hesse. he is still harping on his personal assessment of the works of Rix, Smith, Marius, Denifle, Grisar et al. Sad." I avoided it, not because I’m “scared” of a discussion, but because it was not relevant. I have a brief link on this issue here:

Perspectives of Luther: Luther a Polygamist? - A response to the charge that Luther sanctioned polygamy for political purposes.

My focus though, remained on the sources. Sippo tried repeatedly to dissuade me from this, but if I was going to spend my time with Art, I was determined to try and make it worth my while. In other words, I ignored his repeated tangents and rabbit trails.

Sippo’s particular polemic against the Reformation and Luther is not "particular" at all. One can find countless cyber-discussions about the "evil" Martin Luther. Most of the time, those going against Luther have little or no knowledge of the books written about Luther from which their perspective comes. Sippo is unique, in that he at least had some familiarity with the sources from which his perspective comes.

I knew that a discussion about the sources with Art Sippo is somewhat of an exercise in futility- He didn’t seem to be listening, nor care what I said. He ignored my evaluations in many instances, and attacked the authors I mentioned rather than what they wrote. He defended his champions by hurling invective rather than interacting with my criticisms. In some instances, I have more to say about Art's position, particularly his take on Bainton. Thus, I will be adding to the blog entry here in which I discussed Bainton.

My evaluation of Art Sippo's take on Luther is really an exercise in presuppositional apologetics. Sippo begins with flawed presuppositions, therefore his conclusions are flawed. Sippo’s approach is an extreme version of the majority of pop-Catholic apologetics. Sometimes though, dealing with the extreme is an excellent way to be prepared to analyze those in the same vein that have less intensity.

The original question asked was “I wish to research the lives of Martin Luther and John Calvin, can anyone recommend books on these men?” The person who asked this question disappeared into the depths of cyber space. Hopefully, he has gotten a taste of the difficulties in studying Martin Luther. Luther biographer Richard Marius has rightly noted,

Martin Luther is a difficult and inexhaustible subject…He remains daunting. Luther wrote and talked with almost the regularity of breath, and anyone who sets out to know him well must climb a mountain of his literary output. In the great Weimar edition of his work, in progress for more than a century, we now have some sixty volumes of theological and devotional treatises in Latin and German, fourteen volumes of correspondence, and twelve volumes that include his German translations of and prefaces to the Bible. In addition we have six volumes of his table talk, recorded by students who boarded in the Luther household and wrote down the great mans rambling monologues to sell to printers eager for anything that bore Luther's name. One could easily spend ones own life reading and reading again all that Luther wrote, and all scholars of the man realize soon enough that they cannot read all his work if they are to have any life left to write anything of their own. I am no exception….

Another major and obvious difficulty arises in writing about Luther. For centuries devout scholars, evangelical and Catholic, studied Luther to extol or condemn him. Evangelicals made him a colossus and hero who cleansed the gospel and gave light and freedom to the soul. Catholics portrayed him as demon-possessed, a sex-crazed monk of furious temper, a liar and fraud willing to tumble down the great and beautiful edifice of Catholic Christianity for no better motives than lust and pride. The religious indifference of modern secular culture has cooled these passions, and an ecumenical spirit now prevails in studies of Luther and the sixteenth century.”

Source: Richard Marius, Luther: The Christian Between God and Death [Massachusetts: Belknap Press, 1999, xi-xii].

Marius is indeed correct. It is not only a difficult undertaking to read Luther ad fontes, but reading books about him is just as ominous of a task. Each biographer comes from a particular perspective. The task of the historian is to record the facts as impartially as possible. Many times, they fail miserably at this task. Of course, I don’t believe even the best Reformation historians are completely able to disassociate themselves from their subjects- their opinions spill out into their books. Have they though, presented the facts accurately, or have they made wild speculative interpretations about their subject? This later has been my argument against some of the books on Luther suggested by Dr. Art Sippo.

Sippo And The Psychohistorians

Art Sippo states,

"...all the negative things that are documented by Fr. Denifle, Fr. Grisar, Fr. O'Hare, Preserved Smith, Eric Erickson, Paul Reiter, Peter Weiser, Herbert David Rix, and Richard Marius are all taken out of context."

I never said this, and I asked Sippo twice to show me where. Search through the discussion and you won't find it. What I did argue was Art Sippo relies on psychohistory in his approach to Luther biographies. This approach posits history can be understood by applying the science of psychoanalysis to a historical figure. This view holds that history is more than simply “facts”- it is also the result of psychological forces that drive people to do what they do. Very early on in this discussion, Sippo provided a brief overview of how he saw Luther:

Luther began having serious bouts of depression and poor self esteem around 1509 when he was 26 years old. He would spend upwards of 1-3 HOURS in the confessional everyday obsessing about his internal doubts and rebelliousness. His was an excess of scrupulosity which in his day look pious but in ours would be considered pathological. A religious superior today would identify Luther as psychologically disturbed and he would likely have been started on anti-depressant medications. We could have been spared the whole Deformation if only Fr. Martin had taken some St. John's Wort from an herbalist.

In any case, his bouts of depression got so deep that they sometimes immobilized him. He had these bouts all of his life up until the end. He speaks of them in his autobiographical material where he was so depressed that he couldn't get out of bed.

He became depressed and anxious because he perceived himself as a miserable sinner and God as an overbearing judge waiting to damn him. If you rad[sic] what he writes about these moods, they are classic for depressed patients who never remember anything good and always obsess about what is bad. He felt so strongly about this that he hated God for sitting in judgment on him which made him even more anxious and depressed.”

Sippo’s opinion is speculative at best: he mixes in historical facts and then provides diagnosis’s- this is the way of the psychohistorians. In the case of Luther, they begin fundamentally with the presupposition that Luther did not consider deeply and passionately the holy and perfect God and the dreadful sinfulness of man. They think if you pop some pills you’ll be “normal” and get your “self esteem” pumped up to where it needs to be. Don’t sweat about coming into contact with the perfect and holy God of the universe. Take a pill- you’ll be fine. God is your “buddy”. Isn’t it amazing that many psychohistorians rule out the validity of religious experience, and thus never consider it as a possible psychological explanation? Why? Because psychohistory is the child of atheism.

Those scholars Sippo relies on, and also his own comments about Luther, demonstrate Sippo’s reliance on psychohistory. Sippo's champions are men like Denifle (Luther was a depraved sex maniac), Grisar (Luther was a psychopath), Reiter (Luther was a manic-depressive), Erikson (Luther is best understood via “crisis development). Sippo says: “It seems critically important to Mr. Swan's apologetic for Luther that two things be accomplished: 1) Everybody must ignore any conclusions drawn from the tradition of Luther Scholarship that sees psychopathology as an important factor in the development of Luther's religion.” I have not argued this. I have said that psychohistory is speculative, sometimes it can be interesting, but it is never definitive. That those who have undertaken the arduous task of psychoanalyzing Luther do not agree among each other proves it is unreliable in providing definitive answers.

It is the speculative nature which is the Achilles heel of psychohistory. This is why I referred to it as “guessing” throughout my discussion with Dr. Sippo. Judge for yourself if the books recommended by Art Sippo produced a unified, historically verifiable understanding of Luther, or if they’re... guessing. They all arrive at different psychological conclusions! Further, how can someone do psychology on a dead man? One cannot. It’s bad enough that the “pychologizing” is done on a dead man, but even worse: Luther is now over 500 years old! How can the art and science of psychology be applied to a 500+-year-old dead man? Are there any current living psychologists that ever treated a medieval German man? No of course not. While the findings of psychohistory may be interesting, they’re speculative at best. I’m far too honest to give this approach of psychohistory more merit than it deserves. Thus you, the discerning reader, should likewise be cautious in reading the conclusions of some of the authors recommended by Art Sippo.

Curiously, I wonder what conclusions a psychologist would come to by simply reading Art Sippo’s posts from this Envoy discussion board. Suppose a Psychologist got hold of Art’s 2000 *plus* Envoy posts, and decided to diagnose him. He sees in this very discussion that Art veered off topic and gravitated repeatedly to the subjects of bigamy and Nazi’s, and that he hurled invective at anyone in his way. Why? Is Dr. Sippo hiding a secret “something” about these topics in his own life? Why is he so angry? Is he holding something in he doesn’t want anyone to know about? Now, please, put down your swords, machine guns, and light sabers. I do not for a moment believe that Art Sippo is a Nazi or he longs for two wives. I’m simply suggesting that doing psychology on a person one has never met via what they’ve written is no way to do history either.

Sippo and Catholic Historian Joseph Lortz
Sippo also mentions, that my arguments against him was to prove “The Nazi view of Luther as given by Joseph Lortz must remain inviolate!” I’m convinced that Dr. Sippo doesn’t even understand my well-defined position on Lortz given in the discussion, which I won’t repeat here. I noted my fundamental disagreements with Lortz, and I also noted his generally accepted importance in the role of Catholic research on Luther.

Lortz stands as one of the first Catholic theologians to treat Luther respectfully- and this respect infuriates Sippo. Lortz’s work inspired many other Catholic scholars- thus, I’ve recommended his work for historical significance. Catholics should be aware that there is an entire genre of Catholic writers who are not at all like Father O’Hare or Art Sippo. I have a blog entry on Sippo’s view of Lortz, which I plan on adding to.

I spent on time on Lortz for one reason: the tactic Art Sippo used to discredit Lortz was primarily an example of poisoning the well. Sippo says, “Lortz was a Nazi and as a Nazi he wrote books and papers extolling Luther as a German hero just like his fellow Nazis did. Everyone admits that his was a departure from the traditional Catholic understanding of Luther.” Everyone? No, not everyone. Even Catholic apologist Patrick Madrid found Sippo's argumentation against Lortz flawed. He said to Dr. Sippo:

"...[S]urely you see the exquisite irony in your double claim that James Swan "slander[s] Fr. Denifle and other Luther scholars whose work [he does] not like," and "The only reason [he] like[s] Lortz is because he says some things that [Swan] as a Protestant want a Catholic to say about Luther. But this is bias."You are guilty of exactly the thing you berate him for doing: You have attacked Lortz and his scholarship relentlessly because you don't like his national politics, or his weltanshauung, or his views of Luther, while you uphold other scholars and their conclusions because "they say some things a Catholic wants a Protestant to say about Luther."Art, I hope you'll take your own statement to heart: "It is Luther who is the issue not his biographers."

To prove His point, Sippo took a biographical account of Joseph Lortz, and made it say what he wanted it to. Contrary to Dr. Sippo, Lortz’s life cannot be summed up by the word “Nazi.” He produced no Catholic studies or Catholic scholars that held this, nor did he produce any who completely disregarded Lortz, other than that of a footnote to study Sippo probably never read by Otto Pesch. Sippo says, “Betcha Dr. Pesch's study can give you more references if are inclined to look it up.” In other words, Sippo has no idea what the study says! I’m guessing it probably does what I do: critique and interact with arguments, and note that even those considered in the genre of the “Lortz movement” have moved beyond him. I highly doubt though, Pesch would minimize the importance of Lortz’s studies in Catholic approaches to Luther. When I produced actual statements from Pesch speaking of the importance of Lortz, Sippo completely ignored them. He had to because it refuted his position. Best to ignore it- maybe it will go away.

Dr. Sippo seems to think that current Catholic scholars don’t recognize the importance of Lortz’s work. I strongly suggest Dr. Sippo read the essay by Catholic theologian Patrick W. Carey, “Luther in an American Catholic Context.” From, Timothy Maschke, Franz Posset, and Joan Skocir, Ad fonts Lutheri: Toward the Recovery of the Real Luther: Essays in Honor of Kenneth Hagen’s Sixty-Fifth Birthday (Milwaukee: Marquette Press, 2001). Carey notes what I have all along- Lortz has historical significance in Catholic Luther studies. He notes that Lortz’s books “reversed the picture of Luther created by Denifle and Grisar and presented him as homo religious” (p. 48).

Also, Michael Lukens wrote a detailed article in 1990 entitled, “Lortz’s view of the Reformation and the Crisis of the True Church” (Archiv Fur Reformations Geschicte 81, 1990). Guess what, he doesn’t spend his time searching for in the article: Nazism’s in Lortz’s work. This guy is a specialist in Post-Holocaust Theology and Catholic theological responses and movements within Third Reich. He notes,

Joseph Lortz (1887-1975) ranks as one of the premier Catholic church historians in this century, and that is probably the only statement about him on which there exists general agreement today” (p.20).

“…Lortz was a pioneer in forcing within Catholicism a sharp focus upon the historical causes and development of the Reformation, when the normative posture was to ignore its legitimacy on the basis of Tridentine theological orthodoxy” (p. 30)

Most important, Lukens explains why Catholic historians have moved away from some of Lortz’s point- this though is explained without devaluing his work:

But in Catholicism, the ecclesial establishment found Lortz difficult to deal with, because his work operated within an orthodox arena of ecclesiology while at the same time it raised a host of impermissible historical judgments. As Catholic Reformation historiography matured, the quandary of the Lortz-evaluation has continued but differently. As Lortz's historical contribution continues to draw positive attention, in fact is now credited as pioneering work that spawned a wide and fruitful range of both Catholic and Protestant reform studies, his theological orientation and ecclesial model have been largely dropped, to the effect that, if the thesis here is accurate, the central focus to which Lortz committed himself has been set aside. This may also mean, however, because these confessional loyalties are no longer operating so strongly in Reformation scholarship today, that perhaps we are now ready to decide justHow pioneering Lortz may have been” (p.31).

All I’ve been trying to point out is that Lortz’s work has significance in Catholic scholarship. Sippo touts, “I am not interested in Mr. Swan's chicanery about "sources." The issue is not the "sources" but Luther himself.” Since Sippo can’t be trusted with the “sources”- why should I even bother to discuss Luther with him? He misused Krieg’s Catholic Theologians In Nazi Germany. I defy anyone to get that book and prove Krieg holds Lortz was a lifelong Nazi. Sippo’s probably banking on the fact that no one will get the book.

Final Remarks
I dialoged with Dr. Art Sippo for really only one reason: Dr. Sippo is considered a “Catholic apologist.” Catholic laymen look to him as an authority, particularly with his views on Luther and the Reformation. My opinion after dialoging with Art, is that his opinion should not seriously be considered on these topics. Sippo himself should agree. He stated, “Mr. Madrid himself is just an[sic] another guy with an opinion. So was Lortz. So are you. So am I. Our opinions don't count.” Agreed, I’m just another guy. I am not a Luther expert. Obviously, neither is Art Sippo. However, I write what I do in the hopes that people will actually be motivated either by thankfulness or displeasure to do their own research. Don’t take my word for things. Go get the books, check out what I’ve said. Definitely check out what Art Sippo has said. Check out what everyone says. Be Berean in your studies.

I’m not scared of people checking my facts. Art Sippo is. He says, “By definition, all prot works are heretical. They are untrustworthy and cannot be compared to books written from the perspective of normative Christianity. Catholics need to start from the perspective of truth of the Catholic Faith. If they do so, they have no need of heretical prot misrepresentations.” Of course, Sippo isn’t even consistent with himself, as some of the books he recommends are by people who aren’t even “Christian,” hence not members of “normative Christianity.” He tells his followers, “My challenge to Catholic readers is to read solid Catholic Scholarship on Luther, not the works of the ecumanical fringe.” Yes by all means, keep your heads buried in the sand, according to Dr. Sippo. It’s Lord Of The Flies mentality. It’s Orwellian. It’s the same stupidity that leads cultures and countries to hate and fight each other. By all means, don’t understand what the other side believes. When you find a witch, yell “witch!” and burn her. Don’t ask any questions.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Catholic Apologist Art Sippo on Richard Marius

Catholic apologist Dr. Sippo recommends the work of Richard Marius. He says, “Dr. Marius is a Protestant whose most recent Luther book was published by Harvard University Press in 1999. Why does Mr. Swan not recommend it? Because it does not say what Mr. Swan wants it to say.” Well, if one goes and actually reads the dialog between myself and Sippo, one finds I barely mention Marius through most of the dialog. The reason why Mr. Swan didn’t spend a lot of time on Marius, is because I haven’t read a lot of Marius. Sippo also has repeatedly criticized my book recommendations because they are written by authors who do not represent “normative Christianity” [Read: out of date Catholic scholarship, or modern speculative psychohistory]. Marius is definitely not a Roman Catholic, and I would argue is probably not even a Protestant, though he may claim to be one. Thus, Sippo isn’t even consistent with his own point of view on which books to read.

Sippo directed readers to a much earlier work from Marius- I haven’t commented on it because I haven’t read it. I have though perused his current book from 1999, Luther: The Christian Between God and Death. I don’t really have too much of problem with Marius, as long as those who read his work realize the perspective he comes from. He basically gets the facts straight, though the book doesn’t cover Luther’s entire life.

Marius says his underlying presuppositions to his study on Luther is “essentially non-religious.” From this perspective, he begins with the notion that “Luther represents a catastrophe in the history of Western civilization.” And, “…[W]hatever good Luther did is not matched by the calamities that came because of him” (p. xii) (Marius also lays part of the blame on the Catholic Church as well). Because the Reformation led to wars between Catholics and Protestants, the loss of life was a grave calamity of the Reformation. Humanists are always concerned with preserving humanity, for humanity’s sake. Try applying Marius’s reasoning to Moses: The Jews would have been better off if they stayed in Egypt because they almost all died in the desert wilderness. The Jews that went into the Promised Land exterminated a large number of people. Moses should have been like Erasmus and sought to negotiate more conservatively with Pharaoh. Hence, whatever good Moses did is not matched by the calamities that came because of him… Or consider the early church: instead of giving their lives for their beliefs, they should have negotiated with the Roman government. They should have said, “we’ll bow to Caesar as god, but we don’t really mean it.” Countless lives could have been saved. Thus, whatever good the early church caused by not cooperating with the Roman government is not matched by the calamities they caused.

Marius is also not devoid of psychological interpretation, finding that Luther’s “temperament driven by fear and by the need to conquer it so he could live day by day”(p.xiii) was a crucial aspect of understanding why Luther wasn’t more like Erasmus is in protestations against the Catholic Church. Well, maybe, maybe not. Maybe it was a partial factor. Who knows? It is a speculative point at best.

Art Sippo mentioned Marius was a Protestant. If this is true, I would have to elaborate that Marius is an “essentially non-religious” Protestant. These are his words. Marius calls his 1999 book on Luther written from an “essentially non-religious” perspective. Thus, his book is written from a humanistic standpoint. His concerns in his study of Luther are quite different than either those of Catholics or Protestants, which makes his perspective intriguing. For instance, Art Sippo is on a crusade against Luther and his involvement in the bigamy of Phillip of Hesse scandal. I strongly doubt Sippo will utilize Marius’s book Luther: The Christian Between God and Death, as Marius is fairly sympathetic to Luther and his involvement:

Luther touched briefly on divorce. He hated divorce so much that he would prefer bigamy, he said, though he was not sure that bigamy was right. The notion was not farfetched to anyone steeped in scripture as Luther was. Nowhere in the Bible is polygamy condemned. The patriarchs and kings of the Old Testament had many wives. Paul in the New Testament said that an ‘overseer,’ or bishop, should be the husband of one wife, but he never suggested that the ordinary Christian had to be so limited. Monogamy is a legacy of the Greeks and Romans. By approving bigamy, Luther was concerned to protect a wife from being discarded in a cruel world where a woman required a man to protect her” [Marius, Luther: The Christian Between God and Death, 261].

Luther's views on marriage took into account bodily and spiritual needs. We have noted already his seemingly radical advice on the subject in the Babylonian Captivity and other works. He always stood against divorce, by which a man might thrust a wife defenseless into the world. This opposition to divorce helps explain his consent to the bigamy of Philip of Hesse in 1540. Philip became one of the great champions of Luther's cause. His portrait by Hans Krell in 1525 shows a fine-featured, almost pretty young man. His marriage in 1523 to a daughter of Duke George of Saxony produced seven children. By 1539 he was tired of his wife, and his many adulteries had given him syphilis, a disease rampant in the sixteenth century. He wanted to marry a seventeen-year-old girl. It seemed to him that he could commit bigamy since polygamy runs through the Old Testament and is not forbidden in the New. Luther and Melanchthon reluctantly agreed—so long as the second marriage was kept secret. It was not. The second wife naturally wanted recognition. The scandal broke, and Luther was ridiculed everywhere. Yet his major aim was to protect Philip’s first wife from being thrown to the wolves. If one takes the Bible as the norm of behavior it is hard to see how Luther can be condemned” [Marius, Luther: The Christian Between God and Death, 440].

Art Sippo’s response to my position on Marius is as follows:

Then there is Mr. Swan's attack on Dr. Marius. Marius has written on several religious figures including St. Thomas More and was invited to Belmont College - a Southern Bap1stist[sic] institution in Nashville , TN - in 1998 to give a lecture series on Luther. Marius has studied Luther for almost 30 years and had written a previous book in the mid 1970s that I referred to earlier and still recommend highly. Marius very early in his study of Luther concluded that he was a disaster and that he caused more harm than good. His portrait of Luther is much closer to that of Fr. Denifle than that of Obermann [sic] or Lortz. And Marius tried not to take sides in the religious dispute that marked Luther's career. In this case Mr. Swan castigates Marius for being objective and non-partisan whereas he objected to Fr. Denifles for being too Catholic. So much for Swan's academic neutrality.”

Sippo concludes I attacked Marius! He’s wrong. Note that I said, “I don’t really have too much of problem with Marius, as long as those who read his work realize the perspective he comes from.” Second, Marius’s book is not much closer to Denifle’s book. Recall, Denifle treated Luther as a depraved sex maniac. Marius does not. Third, I never “castigated” Marius for being “objective and non-partisan”. I did note that Marius admitted his perspective was “non-religious”, and this perspective is not devoid of its own bias. Rather than criticize Marius for being a humanist, I noted his perspective made his work on Luther “intriguing”.

Sippo continues:

Marius tells the story from an objective viewpoint, not that of a partisan of either side. Consequently, I find his portrait superior to that of Obermann. Sadly, Mr. Swan only wants you to read the positive material about Luther and not to read anything that is critical of the man.”

The only sad thing is that Dr. Sippo doesn’t read carefully. I didn’t tell people not to read the books by Marius. I also don’t have a problem with people reading anything “critical” about Luther. However, if the “critical" book on Luther tries to prove Luther was a sex maniac (Denifle), or in contact with Satan (Patrick O’Hare), I’d suggest you’re wasting both your time and money.

Sippo continues:

Mr. Swan tries to show that Marius shows some sympathy for Luther implying that I do not have such sympathy, but he's wrong. I do have sympathy for Luther. He was an interesting and complex character. While he had violent antipathy for Catholics and Jews, Luther was always a soft touch for someone in need. His student Karlstadt turned against Luther and became a strident critic. They traded insults several times. but when Karlstadt fell on hard times, Luther took him in and nursed him until his death. If it had not been for wife Katy, Luther would have been economically destitute because of his generosity.

But this does not make Luther correct in his theology, nor does it justify his apostasy or his reprehensible behavior. It is an objective fact that Luther was wrong and his intransigence did great damage to Christendom. Nobody was saved because of Luther. Many went to perdition. That burden lies on his soul.Then Swan makes an oblique attempt to justify Luther's part in the bigamy of Philip of Hesse by pretending that Luther was just trying to protect poor Christian from being divorced and abandoned. That according to Swan is why Luther supported bigamy. It was out of his generous heart. There is only one small problem: neither divorce nor bigamy are compatible with biblical morality

Sippo is definitely out to lunch, somewhere. He’s obsessed with Luther’s involvement with the bigamy of Phillip of Hesse, to the point where he can’t even understand my point. I never directly commented on this issue. I posted the opinion of Marius on this issue, and noted that Sippo would never use Marius’s perspective because it disagrees with his own. In other words, Sippo recommends Marius, but would never agree with Marius on the bigamy scandal. In essence, Sippo proved my point: the perspective of Marius must be considered when one reads his book. Simple as that.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Bad Popes

Recently on a discussion board, someone asked about the book, The Bad Popes. I read this book about five years ago (or maybe longer- I don't remember), and I then wrote this review. I rarely argue against Roman Catholicism by trying to dig up facts about how awful or sinful a particular pope may have been. I choose not argue this way, because the argument against Rome is about Biblical doctrine, not about the personal lives of Popes (or contrarily about the personal lives of Luther or Calvin).

I picked up The Bad Popes by E.R. Chamberlin for two reasons: First, it was cheap. Barnes and Noble had a stack of them for $7.95. Secondly, I was at Barnes and Noble for the specific purpose of buying the pro-Roman Catholic work, Surprised By Truth (Edited by Patrick Madrid, Perhaps at some point I will post my thoughts on this book). Ah, nothing like a little balance to even out one’s thoughts.

The author of The Bad Popes seems to have fairness in mind also: he relied on both Roman Catholic historians as well as Protestant in order to document the history of the papacy (see p.290). When the facts are hearsay, he says so. When the sources may be tainted, he says so. Chamberlin, an English writer, wrote the book in 1969. The book gives historical accounts of (primarily) seven popes from the “critical periods in the 600 years leading into the Reformation” (inside flap). After reading this book, I can see how the Reformation was the eruption of hundreds of years of Papal abuse.

What struck me immediately about the book was its attention to history and its lack of theology. This is not a book of Bible verses pointing to perceived doctrinal Roman Catholic errors. There are no discussions of whether the concept of the papacy is Biblical. There is no discussion about the papacy fulfilling end times prophecy. There is no mention of ex-cathedra statements. There is little or no mention of any comments a Pope has made on the Bible or sacred tradition. The book is history: fascinating at times, while dull at other points. Facts and names fill every page. Had I known that each page would be littered with multiple names, I would have kept notes early on to recall who is who. It’s also easy to get lost in the myriad of battles between the major powers of the day. Having a map of Italy would help, since many of the histories of individual towns and who controlled them takes up major space in this book. If you are looking for a “Let’s bash the papacy” book, this one is not pop-cheap-easy anti-catholic rhetoric. You will have to read, and read carefully.

Primarily, I was struck by the awesome political power of the papacy during this period. War after war, and a vast political machine, while authentic religion takes a secondary role. It sounded like CNN reporting world news at times. The author documents political conflicts between the papacy and just about everybody, and the conflicts were not over things like transubstantiation or free will. Rather, the conflicts over commerce and country: territories and rulers take center stage.

I hesitate to offer a few examples from the book of papal abuse that I found most distressing. Some of these examples I posted on a Roman Catholic discussion board while working through the book, and things did not go well. I am not Roman Catholic, nor do I believe in the papacy. I think the primary battle should be fought in the Scriptures themselves. However, I can only note the tremendous benefit I have had from reading about my Reformed forefathers. They were indeed not perfect, and some did atrocious things also. I have learned that my faith must be in Christ and his gospel, not in Zwingli or Calvin. The difference then, is my Reformed forefathers were not said to be the infallible-God-ordained-head-of-the-church. I have heard one prominent Roman Catholic apologist say “folks- Catholics are responsible for every word the pope utters" (The "folks" part should make it clear who I mean). The abuses of political subterfuge, simony, nepotism, and Papal wars are too numerous and complex to put forth here. Therefore, skim through a few of these minor facts that E.R. Chamberlin offers in passing while documenting the bigger picture. If they bother you, do some research and lets talk about it. I am by no means an expert, you may be. If so, I would be thankful to learn truth from you.

Pope Stephen VII put the corpse of the previous Pope (Formosus) on trial after he had been dead for eight months. Formosus was dragged from the tomb, dressed again in sacerdotal robes, and given council. Stephen VII condemned him, and the three fingers of benediction on the right hand were hacked off Formosus. The late pope was then dragged through the palace, and hurled into the Tiber by a yelling mob.

Stephen VII himself was later strangled. Following this, within 12 months four popes met their demise as political factions struggled to control the papacy.

The Popes from 926-1046 were from the House of Theophylact. Chamberlin documents the legend of Pope Joan, and discounts it as myth. But like some myths, elements of the fiction have been drawn from historical accounts. The women from the House of Theophylact had a grip on the papacy, as it placed there own nominees in papal power. One paved the way for her lover to take the papacy, Pope John X.

Pope John XII is referred to as a Christian Caligula, with charges that he turned the Lateran into a brothel. He and “his gang violated female pilgrims in the very basilica of St. Peter; …offerings of the humble laid upon the alter were snatched up as casual booty”(p.43). Some bishops who dared to take part in a trial condemning John’s abuses came under the rage of this pope. “One had his tongue torn out, his nose and fingers cut off; another scourged; the hand of a third was hacked off”(p.60). John XII is rumored to have been killed by an angry husband who caught the Holy Father in the act, but Chamberlin is cautious to say that perhaps this was perhaps gossip of the day with no verification.

Pope Benedict IX sold the papacy for 1,500 pounds of gold to Giovanni Gratiano. Rumor has it, he wished to cease being pope to marry. The reason he is said to have sold it, is because Benedict, while willing to cease being Pope, was not willing to give up a luxurious lifestyle.

Perhaps the saddest tale of all is the story of Peter of Morone, who became Pope Celestine. He was a “holy man who hung his cowl upon a sunbeam, whose hours of devotions were marked by the tolling of a supernatural bell”(p.79). He lived in a cave high up on Monte Morone. Chamberlin calls him a “simple good man”(83). Celestine, once Pope, longed to be a recluse monk again. He abdicated, and then Boniface VIII stepped in. Boniface feared the followers that Celestine had, so he decided to have the ex-pope arrested and brought back to Rome. Bonfice eventually did capture him, condemned all that Celestine had done as Pope, and imprisoned him for the remainder of his life.

Bonifice VIII was known for simony and nepotism. Bonfice though, countered these charges by holding that, “a pope could not, by definition, commit simony, for he was the church and the church was he and all that it possessed was at his ordering” (p.94). Also known for “witty” speech, Boniface is recorded as saying something like, “Sexual immorality? Why- there is no more going to bed with women and boys than in rubbing one hand against the other” (p.111). He is also to have said, “”A man has as much hope of survival after death as that roast fowl on the dining table there” (p.111), this remark made on a fast day. Chamberlin implies that perhaps Boniface was kidding, yet those writing his every word made sure to include these statements. Boniface is also known for the bull Unam Sanctum which “made explicit what had been implicit: It is necessary for salvation that all human creatures shall be subject to the Roman Pontiff”(p.119).

John XXII was a banker. “He destroyed the little friars who had arisen with their terrible heresy that Christ and his disciples had been poor men, that the amassing of wealth was contrary to his teaching” (p.131).

Clement VI was “a happy, splendid priest with a vast taste for the table, considerable culture, and an indiscreet love of women” (p.132). He “made no secret of his liking for feminine company” (p.132). One contemporary said of him that, “…when he was an archbishop he did not keep away from women but lived in the manner of young nobles, nor did he as pope try to control himself. Noble ladies had the same access to his chambers as did prelates and among others, the Countess of Turenne was so intimate with him that, in large part, he distributed his favors through her” (p. 133).

Urban VI was known as a man with a bad temper. The cardinals at the time thought of him as a madman. To an adviser who doubted his powers to excommunicate one for the mildest misdemeanor he yelled, “I can do anything, anything!” (p. 143). He was said to have physically attacked the cardinal of Limoges in consistory, whereupon many of the cardinals drifted away from Rome. Eventually, a few of the cardinals began devising a plan to remove him from the papacy. Urban was alerted, and had those cardinals “put to the question,” which involved old cardinal Sangro “hoisted to the ceiling three times by the strappado and each time was dropped heavily to the floor” (p.153). Urban, unable to hear Sangro’s screams, directed the examiners to improve their questioning by torturing the old man more severely.

Pope Alexander VI's first mistress bore him four children, and he strove to have those children in power and to also become pope. He was fourty years senior his second mistress.

Pope Leo X offered a profound statement, “How very profitable this fable of Christ has been to us through the ages” (p.223) after an advisor quoted from the gospels.

These are but a few examples from the book. After reading The Bad Popes, it was no wonder that the Reformation occurred. One could spend the whole year reading books on Luther’s life or the sixteenth century, and miss the centuries of corruption that provoked the Reformation.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Catholic Apologist Art Sippo on Catholic Historian Joseph Lortz

Here are some recent words of wisdom from Roman Catholic apologist, Dr. Art Sippo:
"Mr. Swan is like a broken record."
"Get over it, James. You are a cheer-leader for one of the evilest men in history who has led millions into perdition. You should be ashamed!"
"[Catholic historian joseph Lortz] was a Nazi just like Adolph Hitler. Both of them were Luther fans."
"You know, come to think of it, If Mr. Swan rally thinks that being a Nazi doesn't disqualify Fr. Lortz as a Luther expert, why doesn't he go right to the top and advocate the opinions of Adolph Hitler himself!"
"Mr. Swan wants us to believe that a man like Fr. Lortz who held to these "lofty ideals" can be trusted to interpret Luther correctly! Frankly, I would be embarrassed to be associated with him."
"Man you love those Nazis! Who cares about Lortz? He is passe."
In my discussion with Dr. Sippo, I recommended a few different Luther biographies for Roman Catholic laymen to read. My usual procedure is to list a few Catholic and Protestant biographies. I say, read books from both sides. The facts of the Reformation are simply the “facts”- that is, dates, events, etc are simply what they are. However, the context and the interpretation historians use to analyze these “facts” vary.

Some historians are conservative, while others make bold pronouncements and speculative verdicts. I tend to gravitate towards those who are more conservative. That is, those who gravitate more towards letting the facts simply be the “facts” get my attention more than those who speculate, have underlying gripes, or are experimenting in the pseudo-science psychohistory. For lack of better term, I’ll call this second group, liberal historians. Of course, these are broad categories, and do not always capture a particular writer accurately. But in many instances, this distinction works with biographers of Luther.

In my recommendations, I suggested Roman Catholic historian Joseph Lortz’s (1887-1975) two-volume set, The Reformation in Germany (1939). Lortz is credited with being key in the Roman Catholic reevaluation of Luther. Lortz more or less abandoned a 500-year Catholic precedent of vilifying Luther and attacking the “person” Luther rather than focusing on evaluating his theology. Many Roman Catholic writers followed after Lortz in this approach, and have produced some interesting historical evaluations from the Roman Catholic perspective. It should be fairly obvious that in my recommendation, I view Lortz as a conservative historian rather than a liberal historian (as I have defined these terms above).

Now, I am a Protestant, so I assume automatically Roman Catholics are suspicious of any author or book I recommend… they have every right to do... in fact, I encourage it. Go out, get the books I suggest, and prove that there either is, or is not, an underlying slight of hand being pulled in my recommendations. Prove I’m trying to deceive Roman Catholics by my recommendations. Prove that the books I recommend are those that try to whitewash the “real” Luther.

Now if you go to a good college library and track down Lortz’s books, you will find that Lortz is strikingly critical of Luther. While Lortz sees Luther as an honest man, he evaluates him as the victim of his own subjectivism. Isn’t this one of the BIG charges against Protestantism? They typically argue Roman Catholics have certainty while Protestants rely on their own subjective opinions? Well, this is similar to how Lortz evaluates Luther’s theology. Lortz ultimately concludes Luther was rightly declared a heretic by the Roman Catholic Church.

Lortz views Thomism as the only legitimate Catholic theology. Luther being trained in Occamism, was unable to fully understand the scriptures. When Luther attributed error to the Roman Catholic Church, he attributed Occamist theology to her: “Luther rejected a Catholicism which was basically not Catholic.”

Roman Catholic historian Jared Wicks summarizes Lortz’s criticism of Luther:
[Lortz] pointed out extremes in Luther, such as a lack of restraint in fulminating against his opponents. Lortz found in Luther an extravagance ill-befitting a teacher submissive to the word of God. Impulsive in interpreting the Scriptures, Luther distorted the full message of the New Testament by subjective selectivity [link].
Now, stop and ask, why in the world would James Swan recommend a book like this? It is so obviously against Protestant theology, and champions a distressing critique of Luther’s theology. I do so, because at least Lortz is playing the game in the right ballpark. He doesn’t waste his time in speculative psychohistory (a.k.a., “guessing”). He doesn’t waste time in futile discussions as to whether Luther was a depraved sex maniac (Denifle), a psychopath (Grisar), a manic-depressive (Reiter), or best understood via “crisis development” (Erikson). He doesn’t waste his time trying to uncover if Luther was demon possessed (Cochlaeus) or in contact with Satan (Patrick O’Hare).

Lortz spends his time presenting facts and then evaluates them from a Roman Catholic perspective of Rome having the (alleged) fullness of truth. While I strongly disagree with Lortz fundamentally, I can at least appreciate his efforts, and deal with them rationally, theologically, and historically. In my opinion, oftentimes the method is more important than the conclusions.

Catholic apologist Art Sippo though doesn’t share my respect for Lortz’s work on Luther. Dr. Sippo says,
With regard to Lortz, you betray your ignorance. Lortz has been marginalized by Catholic Scholarship over the last 3 decades because of his Nazi sympathies and overly "German" loyalties. No serious scholar Catholic scholar refers to his work anymore. The glowing reviews by the three prots you refer to prove my point. Lortz ignored what had gone before and wrote exactly what Lutherans (and the Nazis who co-opted the Lutheran ministers into their German Church Movement) wanted to hear. I am not surprised that prots would find him congenial.
And also:
Your allegation that mine is a 19th Century view of Luther a damnable lie. The view I support is also that of Preserved Smith, Fr. Hubert Jedin, Paul Reiter, Eric Ericsson, Herbert David Rix, and Richard Marius among others. All of these are 20th Century Scholars. The only "catholic" historians you quote from are a Nazi and an ecumaniac. Sorry. You will get no takers on this board for your 16th Century view of Luther.
Now isn’t this an irony: I have to defend a Roman Catholic historian that I don’t even fundamentally agree with against the charges from Roman Catholic layman / apologist, Dr. Art Sippo. According to Dr.  Sippo, Joseph Lortz was, is, and forever will be a Nazi. Now, that’s indeed a serious charge. But let’s suspend judgment for moment, and evaluate this form of argumentation. Say for instance, I was an expert on neurology, but I was also a member of the Taliban. Does being a member of the Taliban automatically prove that I cannot be an expert on neurology? No, of course not. In the same way, even if Lortz was a lifelong Nazi (he was not), it doesn’t necessarily mean he could not have been an expert on Luther.

When one looks at the life of Lortz, concluding that he should be characterized as “a Nazi” is indeed a twisting of the facts in order to poison the well against him. The facts of the matter are that Lortz had an early involvement with the Nazi party, and he understood it in a flawed idealistic sense. He thought that modernity had been so infected with subjectivism (which gave rise to secularism), that only a government combined with the church could defeat it (Luther was highly responsible for the rise of secularism according to Lortz).

In 1933, Lortz saw the early Nazi party as a vehicle for turning things around. By 1935, Lortz was becoming disillusioned with this. He began rethinking his involvement with the Nazi party, seeing that it would not be the vehicle to eliminate the problem of secularism. It was infected with anti-Christian sentiment, and thus itself was infected with secularism. He continued to distance himself from the Nazi Party, and by 1937 he wanted to cancel his membership in the Nazi party. He was told he could not: no one was allowed to withdraw from the Nazi party.

Note that his books on Luther were written after he intellectually and emotionally had distanced himself from the Nazi party (1939). After the war, the British Military required Lortz to go through a de-Nazification process. After which, he resumed his career in academia. Krieg notes, "For the next three decades, his writings played a significant role in the spiritual and theological renewal that eventually manifested itself in the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio (November 21, 1964)" [Robert A. Krieg, Catholic Theologians in Nazi Germany (New York: Continuum, 2004),56].

Despite this biographical information, Catholic apologist Art Sippo maintains Joseph Lortz was a lifelong Nazi. This is the main reason his work should be avoided. I've asked  Dr. Sippo bluntly: Can you show anywhere in Robert Krieg's Book Catholic Theologians in Nazi Germany (New York: Continuum, 2004) where he asserts and proves Joseph Lortz was, is, and forever will be a Nazi? Did you get this from him, or are you just trying to slander one of your fellow Roman Catholics? Do you believe Lortz lived his entire life dedicated to Hitler, or to the Roman Catholic Church? Please provide documentation if you choose the former. Otherwise, I can only conclude you're making it up as you go along. Also, In answering this question, you may want to re-read Krieg's chapter on Lortz. Review page 80:"Lortz also contributed to the effort of Germans to acknowledge their failure in protecting Jews from Nazi persecution."Now, that's fairly odd behavior for a lifelong Nazi. Dr. Sippo's original reply was incoherent:
Frankly, I am disappointed byut not surprised. I have come to expect this type of nonsense from prots. If I were touting some Nazi's views you would be all over me about it. You obviously are not familiar with how subsequent Catholic Scholarship has dismissed Lortz but it is absolutely necesary for your apologteic against Luther's critics to use Lortz. Well you can't use him. He has been compromised and is of no value to you. A knowledgeable Catholic such as myself will dismiss Lortz and his Nazi credentials makes you suspect. Give it up. Move on. Lortz is trash.
His second response followed along the same lines:
Mr Swan claimed that Lortz had never been a Nazi. Dr. Krieg documents that Lortz in fact WAS was a Nazi. End of story. Mr. Swan was wrong. An apology is due to me.
Mr. Swan has proposed Fr. Lortz as a Luther expert. I refuse to accept that because of his Nazi past and the fact that the consensus of CATHOLIC scholarship is that Lortz did not understanad Luther and misrepresented him. End of story.
Well, possibly Dr. Sippo didn't even understand this basic question. The question asks if the man's entire life can be characterized into the phrase "Nazi." Dr. Sippo has not answered my question, because he can't without admitting his biggest gripe against Lortz is fallacious. Sippo has not shown anywhere in Robert Krieg's Book Catholic Theologians in Nazi Germany where he asserts and proves Joseph Lortz was, is, and forever will be a Nazi, nor did he provide anything as proof for his constant assertion that he was a lifelong Nazi. He ignored the fact that Lortz's book was written after he repudiated the Nazi's. So, we can drop this whole "Lortz is a Nazi" thing- as Dr. Sippo has not in any way, proved that he wrote his books on Luther with Hitler in mind. I harp on this for one reason: Dr. Art Sippo doesn't know what he's talking about. His constant vitriol against "Prots" is not based on reason. If it were, he would be able to prove his assertions.

Dr. Sippo also asserts, “No serious scholar Catholic scholar refers to his work anymore.” He says also,
I dug out my copy of Catholic Theoloigans in Nazi Germany by Robert A. Krieg, a professor from Notre Dame. He had this to say about Lortz on Page 82:
Nevertheless as subsequent studies have shown, Lortz misrepresented Martin Luther's life and ideas. Concerned with stessing Luther's common ground with the Roman Church, Lortz made too little of the reformer's distinct theological orientation and his deliberate decision to break away from Rome. Thus Lortz's theological conviction about a single church led him to minimize significant aspects of Luther's life and thought. Similar to his mistaken view of National Socialism, Lortz forced historical data into a preconceived theory. For this reason, Victor Conzemius has described Lortz's view of church history in general and of National Socialism in particular as "idealism separated from reality."
In response, I would like to post a broader context of Krieg’s words:
Lortz was motivated in his study of Martin Luther by the theological conviction that there was one true church. Because Lortz took seriously Christ's prayer "that they may be one" (John 17:11), he judged that Catholic scholars needed to take a fresh look at Luther's life and thought, thereby questioning the prevailing Catholic view that the reformer was filled with rancor and was unstable. Lortz believed that if the Protestant and Catholic churches were united, they would help to bring about a new epoch in the West—an epoch characterized by the overcoming of secularism and the flourishing of a Christian society. Guided by these religious commitments, Lortz emerged as a Catholic pioneer in ecumenism. Indeed, his Reformation in Germany (which appeared in its sixth German edition in 1982) was, according to Hans Kung, "epoch-making." Nevertheless, as subsequent studies have shown, Lortz misrepresented Martin Luther's life and ideas. Concerned with stressing Luther's common ground with the Roman church, Lortz made too little of the reformer's distinct theological orientation and of his deliberate decision tobreak away from Rome. Thus Lortz's theological conviction about a single church led him to minimize significant aspects of Luther's life and thought. Similar to his mistaken view of National Socialism, Lortz forced historical data into a preconceived theory. For this reason, Victor Conzemius has described Lortz's view of church history in general and of National Socialism in particular as "idealism separated from reality." [Robert A. Krieg, Catholic Theologians in Nazi Germany (New York: Continuum, 2004), 82].
First, Krieg is not arguing that the previous approaches to Luther that Lortz abandoned (Denifle, Grisar, etc.) are worthy approaches. In other words, the previous tendency to vilify Luther and focus on him as a “person” rather than looking at his theology is not being put forth as a good method to do Reformation history. Neither does Krieg affirm the approach of psychohistory. In other words, Krieg doesn’t champion Dr. Sippo’s approach to Luther.

I wouldn’t disagree with the method Krieg uses to say that Lortz misrepresented Luther’s life and ideas. Note, Krieg provides this comment to substantiate this point: “Concerned with stressing Luther's common ground with the Roman church, Lortz made too little of the reformer's distinct theological orientation and of his deliberate decision to break away from Rome. Thus Lortz's theological conviction about a single church led him to minimize significant aspects of Luther's life and thought.” Krieg is not arguing from a psychohistory perspective, or a vilifying perspective. He’s evaluating Lortz as I would: within the realm of a conservative approach to history.I would though, disagree with Krieg’s point that Luther made a “deliberate decision to break away from Rome.” Thus, I would defend Lortz’s theses.

Krieg’s comment, “Nevertheless, as subsequent studies have shown, Lortz misrepresented Martin Luther's life and ideas” is documented with only one study: Otto Pesch, “Theologische Uberlegungen zum ‘subjektivismus’ Luthers,” in Zum Gedenken an Joseph Lortz (1887-1976), ed. Decot and Vinke, 106-149. I haven’t read this study, but it is only one study. Krieg should have provided more than one study to justify his point. Neither can I comment on Pesch’s study, since I haven’t read it. Perhaps Dr. Sippo can provide us with Pesch’s proof, since it was Sippo who brought Krieg into this discussion. I doubt that Art Sippo read this article.

Art Sippo further maintains “If Mr. Swan would read a little more widely in Catholic circles he would find that Lortz is no longer considered a good resource.”

Let’s just continue to point out that Sippo’s only proof for this so far that "Catholic circles no longer consider Lortz a good resource,”is the statement by Robert Krieg that Lortz misrepresented Luther’s life and ideas. I don’t think Krieg ever says that Catholic circles have disregarded Lortz. This appears to be only Sippo's point. Which circles? The circle of serious Catholic historians, or the recent batch of pop-Roman Catholic apologists? Is Dr. Sippo even aware that their is still an entire group of Roman Catholic scholars considered in the vein of the "Lortz school"? How ironic. Seriously, If Art can direct me to any information to substantiate this, I’d be interested. I highly doubt he will, but maybe he'll come through. we'll see.

Lortz’s books have been scrutinized and criticized for years, as are many Luther biographies. I have never denied this. I have maintained Lortz’s books good for Roman Catholics to check out, simply because, as Krieg notes Lortz was “a Catholic pioneer in ecumenism.” As I stated earlier, Lortz is at least playing the game in right ballpark (contrarily, Dr. Sippo is not by his appeal to Denifle and Grisar, etc). I have already stated I disagree with Lortz in some major ways- yet his work stands as an attempt to look at Luther charitably, rather than using hatred and pyschohistory. I would never say Lortz, or any biography is flawless.

Has Sippo ever read Lortz? Does he have his books? Can he direct me to any recent studies from anybody saying that he is, and always will be a Nazi, and this is the reason he should be forgotten? If this is true, Why has the Lortz school of Roman Catholic theologians remained to this day? Are they Nazis as well? Are Catholic scholars Harry McSorley and Jared Wicks Nazis also?

Since Krieg utilized Otto Pesch’s study, and Sippo by default has so far only substantiated his claim with Krieg (who relies on Pesch). Pesch opinion seems to have some bearing on the whole matter. How does Pesch feel about Catholic Luther studies?
Catholic interest in Luther and his theology since the end of the Second World War has developed in such totally unexpected ways, and has produced such surprising results, that the yield of earlier decades can only be considered a prelude or even an aberration, and in any case a phase in the history of theological research which today is obsolete. It is therefore proper to begin a resume of this field with the end of the Second World War.
The situation at that point was, to be sure, dominated by two great works which had appeared at the beginning of or during the war — the history of the Reformation by Joseph Lortz which first appeared in 1939/40, and the three-volume study by Adolf Herte of the influence of Cochlaeus on the Catholic interpretation of Luther. Both works — and that will always be their merit in the history of Catholic theology — initiated a decisive change in the style of Catholic Luther research. While Herte's work provided an examination of conscience which is irrefutable in the sobriety of its documentation, Lortz gave an impetus for future Catholic study of Luther which is still felt today. These works are characterized by the concern to regard and elucidate Luther, his work and his theology in the twofold perspective of church history and biography. Historically, Lortz described, with a previously unknown fairness, the negative aspects of the church's teaching and life in the Middle Ages, and thus proved the necessity and urgency of a thorough-going reform. Biographically, Lortz described the man Luther as a person caught in a deep inner conflict progressively disturbed by the condition of the church, and thus virtually forced to form his new theology and finally to act as a Reformer. Thus Lortz created a basis for fundamentally taking Luther seriously as a religious figure, in spite of all his criticism at specific points. Thus it was possible for him to emphasize the subjective purity of Luther's desire and thereby to transfer an essential part of the guilt for the tragic schism in belief from Luther to the church of the late Middle Ages. This is precisely the change in style which Lortz brought about, (#4) and which has been, in spite of a few later regressions into the old "style", irreversible.
Footnote #4: It is well known that the most important works leading up to Lortz are the defamation of Luther by H. Denifle, Luther und Luthertum, 2 vols., Mainz, 1904/09 (Vol. I. 2nd ed.. 1904), and the pathological interpretations of Luther by H. Grisar, Luther, 3 vols., Freiburg/Breisgau, 3rd ed., 1924/25, and Martin Luthers Leben und sein Werk, Freiburg/Breisgau, 2nd ed., 1927. This pathological interpretation of Luther has representatives today on the Catholic as well as on the Protestant side, such as P. J. Reiter, Martin Luthers Umwelt, Charakter und Psychose. 1 vols., {Copenhagen, 1939/41 ; M. Werner, "Psychologisches zum Klostererlebnis Martin Luthers", Schweizensche Zeitschrift fur Psychologic, Vol. 7, No. 1. 1948, pp. 1-18 ; the articles by R. Weijenborg (cf. footnote 5); E. Grossmann, "Beitrag zur psychologischen Analyse der Personlichkeit Dr. Martin Luthers", Montasschrift fur Psychiatric und Neurologic. Vol. 132, No. 4, 1956, pp. 274-290. It is not so regrettable that this type of interpretation is attempted — if successfully or not is another Question. It is, however, regrettable that the claim is consciously or unconsciously made to have adequately handled a historical and theological problem, and even to have said the last word on it. [Otto H. Pesch, OP, Twenty Years of Catholic Luther Research (Lutheran World 13, 303-304].

Addendum 2018
This blog entry was edited and reformatted January, 27, 2018. The original can be found here. Nothing of any significant substance has changed in this entry from that presented in the former. The original source for Dr. Sippo's quotes is no longer available online. His words were taken from Patrick Madrid's Envoy Forums (no longer extant).