AD1517 Holy Father Dopers: What could the pope have done to stop the Protestant movement?

Say you are Pope and Luther just nailed his theses to the door; then is causing trouble.

How can you stop the madness and keep the church as one big happy family?

Repair the Schism with the East?

It’s not like this sort of thing started with Luther, now, did it?

It’s hard to say what might have worked. By the sixteenth century corruption was pretty entrenched in the church hierarchy. There were church leaders, including some popes, who tried to institute reform but their efforts always got thwarted by the majority that had a vested interest in keeping things the way they were. Genuine reform didn’t occur until the shock of the church breaking up convinced a substantial number of Catholic leaders that the problems were serious and had to be fixed.

What are your practical alternatives?

  1. Stop the sale of indulgences in Germany
  2. Call another council, or at least implement the reforms you made at the Lateran Council.

If you’re Leo, though, you’ve honestly got bigger problems than some rogue German monk. Your cardinals are trying to kill you, the Turks are threatening to sweep into Hungary, France is trying to increase its influence in Italy, and you’ve got a family that needs lands and titles.

Just tell the Augustinians to police their monks better, issue a bull saying that people shouldn’t criticize the pope, and send somebody like Cajetan to Wittemburg to poke holes in Luther’s theology…he’s good at stuff like that.

I don’t think you could have done anything.

The fact that there were (as mentioned) prior schisms, and that the protestant movement itself created a vast variety of denominations implies to me that we’d reached a stage where people were going to go off and create their own religious systems and not look to a central authority.

Reform of the church alone isn’t the issue. Its the catalyst. There is a whole lot of dogma being questioned as well. And the Catholic Church was not about to allow “choose your own dogma.”

You arrest Luther and execute him. Or you send him to a monastery somewhere in East bumblefuck. And you do this no later than January 1518, before he starts publishing.

You don’t sit on your fat ass for three years worrying about who is going to be the next Holy Roman Emperor and ignore the situation in Germany.

I’m not sure it would have done much at that point, as Constantinople already fallen, and Russia was too far away to have much influence.

Or just send someone to poke holes in Luther. :wink:

I agree. The church had managed to suppress previous heresies. I think every century had its own heresy, that mever spread beyond its original region.

The difference now was that printing presses made it much cheaper and faster to spread ideas. Luther’s heresy spread faster and farther than the church expected. Then, when it got to the point that the heresy needed to be crushed militarily, the heretics already had enough political support to be able to survive the wars. Protestantism became a political movement as much as a religious one.

To prevent the Protestant movement, the church should have co-opted printing technology as soon as it appeared. The church was the traditional guardian/sponsor of scholarship. It should have foreseen the usefulness of printing and kept it firmly under church control.

And I don’t think that would have been a long term solution. The technology behind the printing press is pretty simple - it would have leaked out and underground printing presses would have been created.

Its a little like dictatorial regimes trying to keep a lid on the internet (including facebook and twitter). It isn’t easy to do (unless, perhaps, you are North Korea and your people still think the printing press is new technology). China has done an OK job of it, but the Chinese still have underground access to a lot more information (if they know how to get it) than the government would like.

Maybe they’d have delayed it 50 years, maybe 100 years. But the Reformation in some form was coming.

I agree. When you look at how many people joined Luther’s movement very quickly, you have to conclude that opposition to the papacy was simmering at the time, and it would have boiled over even if the Church had found some way to silence Luther. The Church heirarchy had lost the will to truly implement the teachings of Christ and virtually everyone from the Vatican to the bishops to the heads of monastaries was only concerned about lining their own pockets. Competition from another Christian movement was the only thing that could possibly force them to get their house in order, and it did.

Add me to this list. I think the only way the Pope and the Catholic Church in 1517 could’ve held off the rise of Protestantism was to be two things they definitely weren’t: reform-minded and at least somewhat tolerant of differences in theological thought (i.e., adopt a “big tent” approach).

Also, Luther was not the first to challenge the Church. Before him, there were dissenters like John Wyclif and Jan Hus who disagreed with the Church’s authority on theological matters. (This recent book, The Great Medieval Heretics, is a good overview of the subject.) The Church usually dealt with such rebels by trying and executing them for heresy. However, in a way they served as theological shock troops so people like Luther–and later Calvin–could succeed where the others failed.

Actually the Catholic Church had been relatively tolerant of divergent views prior to the reformation. There were limits obviously and people could go too far but the church was not typically concerned over minor differences in belief. In fact, one of the big reforms that helped the church survive the reformation was narrowing the limits and creating a much tighter control over acceptable dogma.

Admit Luther was right
Quote Acts 5:39

When God wants to do something nothing and no one is going to stop Him.

So if God wanted the Pope to admit Luther was right, then the Pope would have done so. The Pope did not admit Luther was right.

The conclusion then is that God wanted the Pope to say Luther was wrong.


Since I happen to agree with Luther, implement all of his doctrinal and institutional ideas-salvation by faith, allow the clergy to marry, etc and maybe if I have enough capital, implement Calvin’s ideas too and steal his thunder. Of course the problem will be reactionary Catholics but hey at least I solved the Protestant problem…

So your solution is to surrender to heresy? I don’t think you’d last long as pope. :slight_smile:

One man’s heresy is another man’s orthodoxy. :wink:

Oh, yeah, then we could have a Puritan Pope burning people at the stake for believing in old-fashioned Catholic Xtianity! Because replacing a corrupt old system with an arrogant new orthodoxy is so much better!