Luther’s Explanation to the Pope

Martin Luther (1483–1546).
Ad Leonem X. Pontificem Maximum, Resolutiones disputationum de virtute indulgentiarum Revere[n]di Patris ac sacrae theologiae Doctoris Martini Luther Augustiniani Vuittenbergensis.
Basel: Johann Froben, 1518. (BRB0165/A)

This first collection of Luther’s writings includes his explanation to Pope Leo X concerning indulgences. Following the publication and distribution of his Ninety-five Theses, Luther believed that his statements had been misinterpreted. In response he composed his Resolutiones disputationum de virtute indulgentiarum. By the time Leo X received this work he had already begun proceedings against Luther; the author’s additional explications did not halt the pope’s formal response and rebuke.  Luther’s expansion of his critical comments, such as the following, were not likely to ameliorate the situation: “In my opinion indulgences are the most worthless of all possessions of the Church and ought to be granted only to the most worthless members. Furthermore, they are neither meritorious nor useful, but what is worse, extremely harmful if they who receive them have no sense of fear. Therefore I feel that such teaching deserves to be cursed and is contrary to the commands of God.”

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Controversies and Critiques, Polemics and Creeds
Luther’s Explanation to the Pope