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date: 18 October 2017

Summary and Keywords

From late 1517 into early 1521 Catholic theologians and church officials examined Luther’s publications for erroneous doctrines and to weigh the gravity of his heterodoxies. Pope Leo X issued on June 15, 1520, the official censure, in Exsurge Domine, of forty-one positions Luther had advanced, under qualifications as “dangerous,” “erroneous,” or “heretical.” The ranking academic body of Europe, the University of Paris, added on April 15, 1521, its Determinatio that Luther was advancing erroneous or heretical positions in 104 positions lifted from his works.

On the way to these judgments, the Dominicans Johann Tetzel, Sylvester Prierias, and Cardinal Cajetan played roles, as did the university theologians of Louvain and Cologne, while Johann Eck contributed significantly to Exsurge Domine. The censures, however, lacked clarity in presenting Luther and his doctrine, since they listed his errant propositions unsystematically and with little precision on their gravity. From them remained the fact of Luther’s condemnation.

German Catholic pamphleteers of 1518–1530 sketched Luther as subverting authorities, both civil and ecclesial. Eck’s handbook of Catholic defenses (1525) added traits of Luther’s revival of Manichaean heresies and opening the doctrinal field to the frenzied Karlstadt, Zwingli, and Anabaptists. Johannes Cochlaeus chronicled Luther’s life and works amply, with readings in the worst light, from which Catholics for centuries were schooled to perceive Luther as ever-changing but thoroughly pestilential in his impact on both church and world.

Keywords: Martin Luther, indulgences, Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses, papal authority, Johann Eck, Johannes Cochlaeus, Tommaso de Vio Cardinal Cajetan

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