Sunday, December 15, 2019

Luther’s Choice is Ours

When he was challenged by Eck at Leipzig, Luther was accused of being a Hussite because of the positions he held. Since Jan Hus had been condemned for heresy, Luther had three options: 1) To demonstrate that his position was different from the Hussite error and compatible with Catholic teaching. 2) To accept the criticism and modify his position so it was in keeping with Catholic teaching. 3) Reject the judgment of the Church and declare that the Church was in error, not him. Unfortunately, Luther chose the third option, saying “Ja, Ich bin ein Hussite.” Since he obstinately denied the authority of the Church in favor of one in error, Luther chose to side with error over truth.

I don’t doubt that the Protestants reading this article would disagree with this assessment of who was in error. But the Catholic, professing that the Catholic Church is the Church established by Christ and protected by Him, saying that the Church is in error is a denial of Christ’s teaching through His Church. 

Whatever culpability Luther might have had (by all accounts, he was scrupulous and had difficulty accepting his spiritual director’s instruction), we Catholics who pride ourselves on fidelity to the Church needs to recognize that whenever the Church—under the visible headship of the Pope—teaches differently than we prefer, we face the same choices Luther did in Leipzig. We can check to see if our position goes against what the Pope says. We can change our preferences to match the Church. Or we can argue that the Church erred, not us. But remember that to insist that the Church is in error but we are not is a dangerous thing.

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