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Family and Friends is my everyday journal. Captain's Log is where I pontificate on religion and politics.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The issue--indulgences

Enter stage left the villain: John Diez or Tetzel. He was given the commission by the Church of Rome to raise money in the Holy Roman Empire with indulgences. The purpose was to rebuilt the Basilica of Saint Peter. Tetzel was a con-man of the first mark. He had a traveling troop with guards, wagons of tables, chairs and other props, and casks to be filled with coin. In each village or town he would set up shop in the square and on a pedestal preach that for only a few coins all the people's sins could be forgiven in the past, present and future. He then preached about the pain and agony of their deceased loved ones suffering in Purgatory and if they really loved them they would buy an indulgence for them too.
Here is an example of an indulgence:

May the Lord Jesus Christ have pity on thee ___________ and absolve thee by the merits of His holy passion! And I by virtue of the Apostolical power that has been confided to me, absolve thee from all ecclesiastical censures, judgements and penalties which thou mayst have incurred; moreover, from all excesses, sins, and crimes that thou mayst have committed, however great and enourmous they may be, and whatsoever cause, were even reserved for our most holy father the pope and apostolic see. I blot out all the stains of inability and all the marks of infamy that thou mayst have drawn upon thyself on this occasion. I remit the penalties that thou mayst have drawn upon thyself on this occasion. I restore thee anew to participate in the sacraments of the Church. I incorporate thee afresh in the communion of saints , and re-establish thee in the purity and innocence which thou hadst at thy baptism. So that in the hour of death, the gate by which sinners enter the place of torments and punishments shall be closed to thee, and, on the contrary, the gate leading to paradise of joy shall be open. And if thou shoulst not die for long years, this grace will remain unalterable until thy last hour shall arrive,
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen.
Friar John Tetzel, commissary, has signed this with his own hand.

This backfired on Tetzel once. A Saxon nobleman mentioned he wished to take revenge on someone and wondered if an indulgence would let him get away with it. For 30 pieces of silver he was given an indulgence. As Tetzel was leaving the city the nobleman and his retainers beat Tetzel and stole his chest of coin. When Tetzel took him to court the man pulled out his indulgence and was set free.

Numerous princes and electors in the empire were dismayed at the fleecing of their peasants and draining their economy dry, but felt powerless against the Church.

Enter stage right the hero: Marin Luther.
Wittenberg was only four miles from the border, so many of the people in the area bought indulgences. While hearing confessions Luther encountered a problem. After the person confessed he told the person they must stop what they were doing. 'Sin no more.' The person then replied, I don't have to I have an indulgence.
Luther was incensed at this immoral document which would allow people to commit crimes and go unpunished and led them to believe they would go to heaven purchased by a few coins.
This is what decided him to challenge the doctrine of indulgences. When he left the steps of Pilate's staircase (mentioned in previous post). He broke with penance and indulgences for salvation. For the just shall live by faith, became his focus of salvation.
He wrote down his 95 theses and nailed them to the doors at the cathedral of Wittenberg. All 95 articles attacked the doctrine of indulgences. That was his focus, he did not want to split the church. He did want to challenge the Pope's authority. He wished to debate the issue and hoped by this to end such an evil practice.

My next post will cover the different councils Luther attended on the issue. 

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