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95 Theses, Continued

6. The pope himself cannot remit guilt, but only declare and confirm that it has been remitted by God; or, at most, he can remit it in cases reserved to his discretion. Except for these cases, the guilt remains untouched. My comment: Did you catch that "declare and confirm"? This is fully-formed Protestant denial of the sacramental economy right here. On the contrary, the necessity of Holy Orders given in apostolic succession is because grace must be mediated through the Church. Even in extraordinary cases, God's mercy has an ecclesial dimension.

7. God never remits guilt to anyone without, at the same time, making him humbly submissive to the priest, His representative. My comment: God does not "make" anyone do anything. If Luther is denying the possibility that contrition may be imperfect, (that is, from fear of punishment) or even non-existent, and that the priest has the right and the duty not to absolve in the latter case, he's flatly wrong.

8. The penitential canons apply only to men who are still alive, and, according to the canons themselves, none applies to the dead. My comment: Frankly, I have no idea what this complaint is. It feels like he's laying the groundwork to deny Purgatory altogether.

9. Accordingly, the Holy Spirit, acting in the person of the pope, manifests grace to us, by the fact that the papal regulations always cease to apply at death, or in any hard case. My comment: This is exactly backwards. It is precisely in a "hard case" that the Pope has his full power as Vicar of Christ.

10. It is a wrongful act, due to ignorance, when priests retain the canonical penalties on the dead in purgatory. My comment: If a priest ever actually said this, he's wrong. Maybe Luther should have been in the parish catechizing, instead of lecturing the Pope. Never mind. With theology like in (6), the faithful wouldn't know anything.


You might want to comment on the Heidelberg Disputation Theses instead (from 1518). While the 95 theses are better known, the latter better encompass the whole of Luther's theology, including his biting attack on Biel. It'd be interesting to try to critique Luther from the only shared common ground (Scripture).

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