On this, the 489th anniversary of the official response issued by Pope Leo X condemning and rejecting the teachings of Martin Luther, we wanted to bring your attention to the documents available on the Book of Concord site under the “Sources and Context” tab on the left sidebar. The 41 points of the Exsurge Domine, the reply by Pope Leo X stating that Luther is teaching falsehoods, are listed below. A bit of history:
October 31, 1517: Luther posts the 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. The Castle Church was used by the university as its “campus church” and as such the door served as a sort of public bulletin board for the academic community. The theses were a proposal for a discussion about the practice of indulgences.
April 1518: The Heidelberg Disputation
June 15, 1520: In the papal encyclical “Exsurge Domine,” Leo X condemns Martin Luther on 41 of counts of heresy, branding him an enemy of the Roman Catholic Church. After the encyclical, Luther’s works were burned in Rome.
January 3, 1521: The time limit expired on November 27, 1520, after the bull had been posted on church doors in Meissen, Merseburg and Brandenburg. After Luther received the original document, he burned it with contempt on Dec. 10, 1520, along with a copy of the code of canon law. On January 3, 1521, the Bull Decet Romanum pontificem officially declared Luther a heretic.
Be sure to read the historical information available in comments on the Exsurge Dominue as well as review the 41 points of contention below:
1. It is a heretical opinion, but a common one, that the sacraments of the New Law give pardoning grace to those who do not set up an obstacle.
2. To deny that in a child after baptism sin remains is to treat with contempt both Paul and Christ.
3. The inflammable sources of sin, even if there be no actual sin, delay a soul departing from the body from entrance into heaven.
4. To one on the point of death imperfect charity necessarily brings with it great fear, which in itself alone is enough to produce the punishment of purgatory, and impedes entrance into the kingdom.
5. That there are three parts to penance: contrition, confession, and satisfaction, has no foundation in Sacred Scripture nor in the ancient sacred Christian doctors.
6. Contrition, which is acquired through discussion, collection, and detestation of sins, by which one reflects upon his years in the bitterness of his soul, by pondering over the gravity of sins, their number, their baseness, the loss of eternal beatitude, and the acquisition of eternal damnation, this contrition makes him a hypocrite, indeed more a sinner.
7. It is a most truthful proverb and the doctrine concerning the contritions given thus far is the more remarkable: “Not to do so in the future is the highest penance; the best penance, a new life.”
8. By no means may you presume to confess venial sins, nor even all mortal sins, because it is impossible that you know all mortal sins. Hence in the primitive Church only manifest mortal sins were confessed.
9. As long as we wish to confess all sins without exception, we are doing nothing else than to wish to leave nothing to God’s mercy for pardon.
10. Sins are not forgiven to anyone, unless when the priest forgives them he believes they are forgiven; on the contrary the sin would remain unless he believed it was forgiven; for indeed the remission of sin and the granting of grace does not suffice, but it is necessary also to believe that there has been forgiveness.
11. By no means can you have reassurance of being absolved because of your contrition, but because of the word of Christ: “Whatsoever you shall loose, etc.” Hence, I say, trust confidently, if you have obtained the absolution of the priest, and firmly believe yourself to have been absolved, and you will truly be absolved, whatever there may be of contrition.
12. If through an impossibility he who confessed was not contrite, or the priest did not absolve seriously, but in a jocose manner, if nevertheless he believes that he has been absolved, he is most truly absolved.
13. In the sacrament of penance and the remission of sin the pope or the bishop does no more than the lowest priest; indeed, where there is no priest, any Christian, even if a woman or child, may equally do as much.
14. No one ought to answer a priest that he is contrite, nor should the priest inquire.
15. Great is the error of those who approach the sacrament of the Eucharist relying on this, that they have confessed, that they are not conscious of any mortal sin, that they have sent their prayers on ahead and made preparations; all these eat and drink judgment to themselves. But if they believe and trust that they will attain grace, then this faith alone makes them pure and worthy.
16. It seems to have been decided that the Church in common Council established that the laity should communicate under both species; the Bohemians who communicate under both species are not heretics, but schismatics.
17. The treasures of the Church, from which the pope grants indulgences, are not the merits of Christ and of the saints.
18. Indulgences are pious frauds of the faithful, and remissions of good works; and they are among the number of those things which are allowed, and not of the number of those which are advantageous.
19. Indulgences are of no avail to those who truly gain them, for the remission of the penalty due to actual sin in the sight of divine justice.
20. They are seduced who believe that indulgences are salutary and useful for the fruit of the spirit.
21. Indulgences are necessary only for public crimes, and are properly conceded only to the harsh and impatient.
22. For six kinds of men indulgences are neither necessary nor useful; namely, for the dead and those about to die, the infirm, those legitimately hindered, and those who have not committed crimes, and those who have committed crimes, but not public ones, and those who devote themselves to better things.
23. Excommunications are only external penalties and they do not deprive man of the common spiritual prayers of the Church.
24. Christians must be taught to cherish excommunications rather than to fear them.
25. The Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter, is not the vicar of Christ over all the churches of the entire world, instituted by Christ Himself in blessed Peter.
26. The word of Christ to Peter: “Whatsoever you shall loose on earth,” etc., is extended merely to those things bound by Peter himself.
27. It is certain that it is not in the power of the Church or the pope to decide upon the articles of faith, and much less concerning the laws for morals or for good works.
28. If the pope with a great part of the Church thought so and so, he would not err; still it is not a sin or heresy to think the contrary, especially in a matter not necessary for salvation, until one alternative is condemned and another approved by a general Council.
29. A way has beeri made for us for weakening the authority of councils, and for freely contradicting their actions, and judging their decrees, and boldly confessing whatever seems true, whether it has been approved or disapproved by any council whatsoever.
30. Some articles of John Hus, condemned in the Council of Constance, are most Christian, wholly true and evangelical; these the universal Church could not condemn.
31. In every good work the just man sins.
32. A good work done very well is a venial sin.
33. That heretics be burned is against the will of the Spirit.
34. To go to war against the Turks is to resist God who punishes our iniquities through them.
35. No one is certain that he is not always sinning mortally, because of the most hidden vice of pride.
36. Free will after sin is a matter of title only; and as long as one does what is in him, one sins mortally.
37. Purgatory cannot be proved from Sacred Scripture which is in the canon.
38. The souls in purgatory are not sure of their salvation, at least not all; nor is it proved by any arguments or by the Scriptures that they are beyond the state of meriting or of increasing in charity.
39. The souls in purgatory sin without intermission, as long as they seek rest and abhor punishment.
40. The souls freed from purgatory by the suffrages of the living are less happy than if they had made satisfactions by themselves.
41. Ecclesiastical prelates and secular princes would not act badly if they destroyed all of the money bags of beggary.