Martin Luther Day

It’s 500 years (ignoring the effect of the Calendar Act 1750 and continental equivalents) since Friar Martin Luther sent his Bishop a list of 95 reasons why the Catholic Church shouldn’t sell indulgences. Indulgences are a pay-per-use means of getting off sins and Purgatory and gaining quicker access to Heaven, which generates the standard “progressive” objection that they allow the rich to buy salvation while the poor have to sit in Purgatory for years. (The rich point out that the Scriptures say “it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven” and they therefore need as much help and support as they can get.)

Luther reportedly also attached these reasons (“theses”) to the Parish noticeboard on his church, which happened to be the church door.

None of the laity will have had a clue what the theses were about beyond something regarding the existing controversy regarding indulgences, St Peter’s Basilica, etc., as they were based on detailed interpretations of the Bible which was in Latin and therefore inaccessible. (The inaccessibility being the Point by this stage. Some of it had been translated into English, but Luther lived in Germany where they didn’t speak that much English, and in any event the translator had died and then been dug up and burned at the stake for heresy, which made his books a trifle less available in the ordinary authorised bookshops.) However, the Bishop did know what it was about and told Luther to recant, Luther refused and the Church was tragically obliged to excommunicate him. (He wasn’t burned at the stake, because he got kidnapped by a friendly noble and locked up in the Wartburg Castle until he translated the Bible into German.)

So to commemorate, here are ten things you can put on your parish noticeboard.

  1. The contact details for the vicar;
  2. The contact details for the flower-arranging committee;
  3. A warning about the church being Smartwater protected;
  4. The details of the next service;
  5. The Parish newsletter;
  6. A promotional feature about the good work that the church’s fundraising is doing in Africa;
  7. A further promotional feature about the need to fundraise to stop the 12th-century tower falling off;
  8. An invite for passers-by to enter God’s Home for a moment of contemplation and wider understanding;
  9. An invite to the cake sale next Tuesday;
  10. A long and detailed attack on a specialist and largely unimportant part of Church teachings that causes a major schism in the Church which will still be causing small wars, substantive differences of opinion and general controversy as to whether you were right five hundred years later.