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Luther’s earliest views of the papacy have been the subject of much discussion, though most treatments have failed to address the role of papal reform in those early writings or its relationship with papal reform efforts in the preceding three-quarters of a century. This essay compares Luther’s writings from the nascent indulgence controversy with the 1459 reform proposal of Nicholas of Cusa (the Reformatio generalis). Cusanus wrote his reform proposal at the behest of Pius ii and focuses his attention on pope and curia, calling the pope to invite visitation of himself so that he might be reformed first. He lays out the rationale that once the pope as “eyes” of the church is reformed, the rest of the Church would follow suit. This argument bears many similarities to Luther’s optimism for papal reform in the writings of 1517 through 1519, including the 95 Theses, their Resolutiones, the response to Prierias, and the appeal to a “better informed” pope. While it is unquestionable that by the time of the Leipzig Debate Luther’s opinions on papal authority and the prospects for reform have taken a new, irrevocable direction, this essay will assess his earlier writings in connection with Cusanus to underscore the common ground they share in their diagnosis of problems within the Roman curia, the possibility of papal reform, and the consequences of that reform for the bene esse of the Church.

In: Nicholas of Cusa and the Making of the Early Modern World
In: Luther at Leipzig
In: Nicholas of Cusa and Times of Transition
In: Nicholas of Cusa's Brixen Sermons and Late Medieval Church Reform
In: Nicholas of Cusa's Brixen Sermons and Late Medieval Church Reform
In: Nicholas of Cusa's Brixen Sermons and Late Medieval Church Reform
In: Nicholas of Cusa's Brixen Sermons and Late Medieval Church Reform
In: Nicholas of Cusa's Brixen Sermons and Late Medieval Church Reform
In: Nicholas of Cusa's Brixen Sermons and Late Medieval Church Reform
In: Nicholas of Cusa's Brixen Sermons and Late Medieval Church Reform