"Is that true, or is it just something you read in The Times?": Benedict to "rehabilitate" Luther?

You have to wonder about the source and basis and quality of this article in Times Online “That Martin Luther? He wasn’t so bad, says Pope”. (See also the comment here that deals with Muslims, Galileo and Luther).

Not that it is implausible. It’s just that I can’t find anything to substantiate it at this point. There’s nothing on the Catholic News Channels (Cathnews, Zenit, CNS etc). They’re carrying the story about the meeting between the Pope and Patriarch (see here) and the plans for the Catholic Muslim dialogue (see here), but nothing about Luther. All the stories that I can find on the net are referencing the Times article as the source, so Richard Owen must know something the rest of us (including Vaticanista John L. Allen Jnr) don’t know.

Phil Lawler at Catholic World News has his theories about the reliability of the Times report. They generally seem sound. Certainly the quotes from Kasper appear to be patched together from things he has said and written often in the past on the subject. Note that the only quotation that pretends to be “direct” is the one ““We have much to learn from Luther, beginning with the importance he attached to the word of God.” Kasper has often said this of Protestantism in general when he speaks about an “exchange of gifts” in ecumenical dialogue. Could Owen simply be picking up one of those “commonplace” statements?

Of course, the story is about the Pope’s private “Schülerkreis”, not something on the official magisterial or curial agenda. And suggestions that this has anything to do with “a drive to soften Pope Benedict’s image as an arch conservative hardliner” leave me undecided about whether to laugh or groan. Some journalists STILL don’t get Raztinger, even after three years of constant public magisterium.

Bottom line? I find the possibility that Raztinger should chose Luther as the subject of one of his Schülerkreis meetings more than believable. Only a Times journalist would be surprised by this, given how liberally Ratzinger peppers his writings with asides about Martin Luther’s theology. They have a shared Augustinian basis, and a shared native language and culture. Benedict is perhaps the first pope in history to have studied and taught among and in dialogue with protestants. It makes perfect sense.

The pity of it is that the results of these nostalgic academic love-ins with his former students are rarely published (the Creation and Evolution meeting last year being an exception, but we still haven’t seen that in English). I, for one, would like to see ’em.

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4 Responses to "Is that true, or is it just something you read in The Times?": Benedict to "rehabilitate" Luther?

  1. james hastings says:

    Would Luther rehabilitate Benedict?



  2. Schütz says:

    I would love to see someone knowledgable enough and imaginative enough do a conversation between Benedict and Luther set in the after life. Something like Kreeft’s discussion between Luther and Aquinas. My guess is there are not too many who know both of them well enough to pull it off, however.

  3. Chris Burgwald says:

    Sounds like something you might attempt, David. :-)

  4. Christine says:

    From Catholic News Service:

    Vatican spokesman calls rumors of rehabilitation of Luther groundless

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Rumors that the Vatican is set to rehabilitate Martin Luther, the 16th-century leader of the Protestant Reformation, are groundless, said the Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi. News reports in early March alleged that Pope Benedict XVI was dedicating a planned September symposium with former doctoral students to re-evaluating Luther, who was excommunicated and condemned for heresy. The story “does not have any foundation, insofar as no rehabilitation of Luther is foreseen,” Father Lombardi told the Italian news agency ANSA March 8. Vatican officials said the topic of the pope’s annual summer gathering of former students this year has not yet been decided. Of the two topics under consideration, Luther is not one of them, one official told Catholic News Service.

    I post this only to confirm Amy Welborn’s sage advice to never believe anything one reads in the British press about the Pope.

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