Date of Award

Fall 1993

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Roman Catholic attitudes toward Martin Luther (1485-1563) have changed. Whether popular, scholarly, or magisterial, twentieth-century Catholic viewpoints about Luther have generally abandoned a tradition of constant contempt for the German reformer. The alternate perspectives, however, are not nearly as sharply defined or as single-minded. The contemporary Catholic opinion towards Luther is genuinely positive. Today, as will be shown, few would choose the latter of Avery Dulles's options, given at a sermon during the Chair of Unity Octave (a period of prayer for Christian unity held annually from January 18 to 25) in 1965: "What are we to think of Martin Luther? Was he a reformer sent by God to recall the Church to its true vocation or a false prophet impelled by Satan to lead the faithful astray?" Rather, the current state of the "Luther-question" for Catholics remains as it was given in Dulles's subsequent inquiry: "What is the meaning for us today of Luther and the movement which he began?" In order to advance the search for Luther's meaning for Catholics, this study investigates the contemporary Roman Catholic magisterial view of Luther, focusing on the period from the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) through the quincentennial of Luther's birth (1983). In this study, the phrase "Catholic magisterial view" will consistently mean the teachings of the Holy See, i.e., the teachings of the Pope and of the congregations and offices that are under his immediate jurisdiction. While the teachings of local bishops are noteworthy in themselves (for their immediate pastoral intent, their novelty of expression and circumstance, and their consistency with or modification of Roman magisterial positions), the infrequent statements about Luther by diocesan ordinaries are given to express ecumenical interest or to assist in development of ecumenical features by diocesan newspapers rather than for the clarification of long-standing issues in the Catholic perception of Luther's person or work. In fact, these statements have not added to the Roman magisterial image of Luther beyond the repetition of its sentiments...



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