Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to
light, the following propositions will be discussed at Wittenberg,
under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of
Arts and of Sacred Theology, and Lecturer in Ordinary on the same at
that place. Wherefore he requests that those who are unable to be
present and debate orally with us, may do so by letter.
In the Name our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
1. Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ,
when He said Poenitentiam agite, willed that the whole life of
believers should be repentance.
2. This word cannot be understood to
mean sacramental penance, i.e., confession and satisfaction, which is
administered by the priests.
3. Yet it means not inward repentance
only; nay, there is no inward repentance which does not outwardly work
divers mortifications of the flesh.
4. The penalty [of sin], therefore,
continues so long as hatred of self continues; for this is the true
inward repentance, and continues until our entrance into the kingdom of
5. The pope does not intend to remit,
and cannot remit any penalties other than those which he has imposed
either by his own authority or by that of the Canons.
6. The pope cannot remit any guilt,
except by declaring that it has been remitted by God and by assenting
to God's remission; though, to be sure, he may grant remission in cases
reserved to his judgment. If his right to grant remission in such cases
were despised, the guilt would remain entirely unforgiven.
7. God remits guilt to no one whom He
does not, at the same time, humble in all things and bring into
subjection to His vicar, the priest.
8. The penitential canons are imposed
only on the living, and, according to them, nothing should be imposed
on the dying.
9. Therefore the Holy Spirit in the
pope is kind to us, because in his decrees he always makes exception of
the article of death and of necessity.
10. Ignorant and wicked are the doings
of those priests who, in the case of the dying, reserve canonical
penances for purgatory.
11. This changing of the canonical
penalty to the penalty of purgatory is quite evidently one of the tares
that were sown while the bishops slept.
12. In former times the canonical
penalties were imposed not after, but before absolution, as tests of
13. The dying are freed by death from
all penalties; they are already dead to canonical rules, and have a
right to be released from them.
14. The imperfect health [of soul],
that is to say, the imperfect love, of the dying brings with it, of
necessity, great fear; and the smaller the love, the greater is the
15. This fear and horror is sufficient
of itself alone (to say nothing of other things) to constitute the
penalty of purgatory, since it is very near to the horror of despair.
16. Hell, purgatory, and heaven seem
to differ as do despair, almost-despair, and the assurance of safety.
17. With souls in purgatory it seems
necessary that horror should grow less and love increase.
18. It seems unproved, either by
reason or Scripture, that they are outside the state of merit, that is
to say, of increasing love.
19. Again, it seems unproved that
they, or at least that all of them, are certain or assured of their own
blessedness, though we may be quite certain of it.
20. Therefore by "full remission of
all penalties" the pope means not actually "of all," but only of those
imposed by himself.
21. Therefore those preachers of
indulgences are in error, who say that by the pope's indulgences a man
is freed from every penalty, and saved;
22. Whereas he remits to souls in
purgatory no penalty which, according to the canons, they would have
had to pay in this life.
23. If it is at all possible to grant
to any one the remission of all penalties whatsoever, it is certain
that this remission can be granted only to the most perfect, that is,
to the very fewest.
24. It must needs be, therefore, that
the greater part of the people are deceived by that indiscriminate and
highsounding promise of release from penalty.
25. The power which the pope has, in a
general way, over purgatory, is just like the power which any bishop or
curate has, in a special way, within his own diocese or parish.
26. The pope does well when he grants
remission to souls [in purgatory], not by the power of the keys (which
he does not possess), but by way of intercession.
27. They preach man who say that so
soon as the penny jingles into the money-box, the soul flies out [of
28. It is certain that when the penny
jingles into the money-box, gain and avarice can be increased, but the
result of the intercession of the Church is in the power of God alone.
29. Who knows whether all the souls in
purgatory wish to be bought out of it, as in the legend of Sts.
Severinus and Paschal.
30. No one is sure that his own
contrition is sincere; much less that he has attained full remission.
31. Rare as is the man that is truly
penitent, so rare is also the man who truly buys indulgences, i.e.,
such men are most rare.
32. They will be condemned eternally,
together with their teachers, who believe themselves sure of their
salvation because they have letters of pardon.
33. Men must be on their guard against
those who say that the pope's pardons are that inestimable gift of God
by which man is reconciled to Him;
34. For these "graces of pardon"
concern only the penalties of sacramental satisfaction, and these are
appointed by man.
35. They preach no Christian doctrine
who teach that contrition is not necessary in those who intend to buy
souls out of purgatory or to buy confessionalia.
36. Every truly repentant Christian
has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without
letters of pardon.
37. Every true Christian, whether
living or dead, has part in all the blessings of Christ and the Church;
and this is granted him by God, even without letters of pardon.
38. Nevertheless, the remission and
participation [in the blessings of the Church] which are granted by the
pope are in no way to be despised, for they are, as I have said, the
declaration of divine remission.
39. It is most difficult, even for the
very keenest theologians, at one and the same time to commend to the
people the abundance of pardons and [the need of] true contrition.
40. True contrition seeks and loves
penalties, but liberal pardons only relax penalties and cause them to
be hated, or at least, furnish an occasion [for hating them].
41. Apostolic pardons are to be
preached with caution, lest the people may falsely think them
preferable to other good works of love.
42. Christians are to be taught that
the pope does not intend the buying of pardons to be compared in any
way to works of mercy.
43. Christians are to be taught that
he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better work than
44. Because love grows by works of
love, and man becomes better; but by pardons man does not grow better,
only more free from penalty.
45. 45. Christians are to be taught
that he who sees a man in need, and passes him by, and gives [his
money] for pardons, purchases not the indulgences of the pope, but the
indignation of God.
46. Christians are to be taught that
unless they have more than they need, they are bound to keep back what
is necessary for their own families, and by no means to squander it on
47. Christians are to be taught that
the buying of pardons is a matter of free will, and not of commandment.
48. Christians are to be taught that
the pope, in granting pardons, needs, and therefore desires, their
devout prayer for him more than the money they bring.
49. Christians are to be taught that
the pope's pardons are useful, if they do not put their trust in them;
but altogether harmful, if through them they lose their fear of God.
50. Christians are to be taught that
if the pope knew the exactions of the pardon-preachers, he would rather
that St. Peter's church should go to ashes, than that it should be
built up with the skin, flesh and bones of his sheep.
51. Christians are to be taught that
it would be the pope's wish, as it is his duty, to give of his own
money to very many of those from whom certain hawkers of pardons cajole
money, even though the church of St. Peter might have to be sold.
52. The assurance of salvation by
letters of pardon is vain, even though the commissary, nay, even though
the pope himself, were to stake his soul upon it.
53. They are enemies of Christ and of
the pope, who bid the Word of God be altogether silent in some
Churches, in order that pardons may be preached in others.
54. Injury is done the Word of God
when, in the same sermon, an equal or a longer time is spent on pardons
than on this Word.
55. It must be the intention of the
pope that if pardons, which are a very small thing, are celebrated with
one bell, with single processions and ceremonies, then the Gospel,
which is the very greatest thing, should be preached with a hundred
bells, a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies.
56. The "treasures of the Church," out
of which the pope. grants indulgences, are not sufficiently named or
known among the people of Christ.
57. That they are not temporal
treasures is certainly evident, for many of the vendors do not pour out
such treasures so easily, but only gather them.
58. Nor are they the merits of Christ
and the Saints, for even without the pope, these always work grace for
the inner man, and the cross, death, and hell for the outward man.
59. St. Lawrence said that the
treasures of the Church were the Church's poor, but he spoke according
to the usage of the word in his own time.
60. Without rashness we say that the
keys of the Church, given by Christ's merit, are that treasure;
61. For it is clear that for the
remission of penalties and of reserved cases, the power of the pope is
of itself sufficient.
62. The true treasure of the Church is
the Most Holy Gospel of the glory and the grace of God.
63. But this treasure is naturally
most odious, for it makes the first to be last.
64. On the other hand, the treasure of
indulgences is naturally most acceptable, for it makes the last to be
65. Therefore the treasures of the
Gospel are nets with which they formerly were wont to fish for men of
66. The treasures of the indulgences
are nets with which they now fish for the riches of men.
67. The indulgences which the
preachers cry as the "greatest graces" are known to be truly such, in
so far as they promote gain.
68. Yet they are in truth the very
smallest graces compared with the grace of God and the piety of the
69. Bishops and curates are bound to
admit the commissaries of apostolic pardons, with all reverence.
70. But still more are they bound to
strain all their eyes and attend with all their ears, lest these men
preach their own dreams instead of the commission of the pope.
71. He who speaks against the truth of
apostolic pardons, let him be anathema and accursed!
72. But he who guards against the lust
and license of the pardon-preachers, let him be blessed!
73. The pope justly thunders against
those who, by any art, contrive the injury of the traffic in pardons.
74. But much more does he intend to
thunder against those who use the pretext of pardons to contrive the
injury of holy love and truth.
75. To think the papal pardons so
great that they could absolve a man even if he had committed an
impossible sin and violated the Mother of God -- this is madness.
76. We say, on the contrary, that the
papal pardons are not able to remove the very least of venial sins, so
far as its guilt is concerned.
77. It is said that even St. Peter, if
he were now Pope, could not bestow greater graces; this is blasphemy
against St. Peter and against the pope.
78. We say, on the contrary, that even
the present pope, and any pope at all, has greater graces at his
disposal; to wit, the Gospel, powers, gifts of healing, etc., as it is
written in I. Corinthians xii.
79. To say that the cross, emblazoned
with the papal arms, which is set up [by the preachers of indulgences],
is of equal worth with the Cross of Christ, is blasphemy.
80. The bishops, curates and
theologians who allow such talk to be spread among the people, will
have an account to render.
81. This unbridled preaching of
pardons makes it no easy matter, even for learned men, to rescue the
reverence due to the pope from slander, or even from the shrewd
questionings of the laity.
82. To wit: -- "Why does not the pope
empty purgatory, for the sake of holy love and of the dire need of the
souls that are there, if he redeems an infinite number of souls for the
sake of miserable money with which to build a Church? The former
reasons would be most just; the latter is most trivial."
83. Again: -- "Why are mortuary and
anniversary masses for the dead continued, and why does he not return
or permit the withdrawal of the endowments founded on their behalf,
since it is wrong to pray for the redeemed?"
84. Again: -- "What is this new piety
of God and the pope, that for money they allow a man who is impious and
their enemy to buy out of purgatory the pious soul of a friend of God,
and do not rather, because of that pious and beloved soul's own need,
free it for pure love's sake?"
85. Again: -- "Why are the penitential
canons long since in actual fact and through disuse abrogated and dead,
now satisfied by the granting of indulgences, as though they were still
alive and in force?"
86. Again: -- "Why does not the pope,
whose wealth is to-day greater than the riches of the richest, build
just this one church of St. Peter with his own money, rather than with
the money of poor believers?"
87. Again: -- "What is it that the
pope remits, and what participation does he grant to those who, by
perfect contrition, have a right to full remission and participation?"
88. Again: -- "What greater blessing
could come to the Church than if the pope were to do a hundred times a
day what he now does once, and bestow on every believer these
remissions and participations?"
89. "Since the pope, by his pardons,
seeks the salvation of souls rather than money, why does he suspend the
indulgences and pardons granted heretofore, since these have equal
90. To repress these arguments and
scruples of the laity by force alone, and not to resolve them by giving
reasons, is to expose the Church and the pope to the ridicule of their
enemies, and to make Christians unhappy.
91. If, therefore, pardons were
preached according to the spirit and mind of the pope, all these doubts
would be readily resolved; nay, they would not exist.
92. Away, then, with all those
prophets who say to the people of Christ, "Peace, peace," and there is
93. Blessed be all those prophets who
say to the people of Christ, "Cross, cross," and there is no cross!
94. Christians are to be exhorted that
they be diligent in following Christ, their Head, through penalties,
deaths, and hell;
95. And thus be confident of entering
into heaven rather through many tribulations, than through the
assurance of peace.
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