Another Catholic Reappraisal of Luther

The Catholic Church would “today deal with such a provocation in a different and a better way”, according to Bishop Franz-Joseph Bode of Osnabrück.

According to this story run by Ecumenical News International, he was speaking in regard to the 16th Century challenge presented by Martin Luther,

Unfortunately, however, you don’t get to replay history. Both the Lutherans and the Catholic Church have moved on since 1546, the year of Luther’s death. In some ways they have grown closer together, in other ways they are further apart than ever before. Certainly the issues have changed. The doctrine of Justification, on which the Lutherans based their initial objections to the Church of Rome, is perhaps not such a hot issue any more (except at a level that only very well trained theologians would be able to argue). On the other hand, issues such as those surrouding the priesthood, piety, sacraments, ethics and governance separate the two groups more than ever.

The good Bishop Bode does suggest one point, however, where the two Confessions can say – or should say – a joint “Amen” with an added “Alleluia!”:

The focus on Christ, the Bible and the authentic Word – are things that we as the Catholic Church today can only underline,” said Bode. He noted that especially with the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church has been able to understand and address in a new way Luther’s thought and his esteem for the Word of God.

Certainly we have seen this strongly in this current pontificate, an Augustinian like the Reformer, the first German pope since the reformation, and certainly the first pope to have ever seriously read and studied Luther’s writings (in the original language, no less).

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