Forgiving Martin

11 03 2008

Well, it’s been a long time in coming, but it looks as though the big man really is willing to forgive Martin for what he has done in the past. A few years ago many people wouldn’t have believed this to have been possible, but recent pronouncements seem to indicate a thawing of the frosty conditions which have divided Catholics and Protestants for many many years. This comes in spite of the fact that there have been terrible and bloody exchanges of violence between those representing both sides of the divide over a long period.

I’m referring, of course, to Pope Benedict XVI’s recent statements about Reformer Martin Luther. (The other ‘big man’ and Martin story in the press isn’t germane to the purpose of this blog!!).

The Times has reported an apparent rethink on the part of the Roman Catholic church with regard to the great Reformer’s ideas and actions. Traditionally considered a heretic by Rome, it appears that Cardinals are now willing to recognise the validity of Luther’s concerns for reform from within the Church. In a bemusing statement Cardinal Caspar has said: “We have much to learn from Luther, beginning with the importance he attached to the word of God”, adding that Luther ““anticipated aspects of reform which the Church has adopted over time”.

Those cynical of Rome’s intentions are suggesting that such statements may be intended to smooth over relations with Lutherans and other Protestants, in the light of other more derogatory comments made by Benedict with regard to Protestantism during his time as Pope.

What is clear is that Luther’s call for reform in the church has not been ‘adopted over time’. The validity of this assessment depends, of course, on what facet of Catholicism one focuses on, and which continent’s version of Catholicism you have encountered. Luther’s ideas may have been ‘adapted’ but they have not been adopted, and while it is undeniable that Roman Catholicism has changed (and is changing) in some respects it is far from the ideal which Luther eventually had of what a Church is, and how it ought to operate.

Ray Galea’s book, ‘Nothing in My Hand I Bring’ is an excellent introduction to the issues which this latest piece of news brings into the public arena. I reviewed it here, and I would commend it again as a loving analysis of Rome’s dogma, and the very real difference which exists between Protestant and Catholic views of salvation and the Saviour. They are definitely not the same organisation!

How we need to continue to pray for God to move in true reforming, reviving power among those within the Roman Catholic church.

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