PART 9: THE CHURCH TRIES TO SILENCE LUTHER
Many people were glad that Martin Luther had attacked the indulgence business, but others hated him for it. Some of Tetzel’s Dominican friends spread lies about Luther. Emperor Maximilian I heard and believed these lies. He wrote the pope, urging him to do something about Luther. Lies, however, were not needed to get the church to take action against Luther. This “shabby little monk” ha attacked indulgences, one of the church’s biggest money-making activities. Besides, the pope had approved indulgences, so Luther was really attacking the pope!
To make matters worse, Luther had preached a strong sermon about excommunication to prepare the people of Wittenberg if they were threatened with excommunication if they did not buy indulgences. In it he had said that an excommunicated person, if he still had faith in his hear could go to haven. If people began believing this, the church would lose its greatest power over them. Pope Leo X knew that. Now he began to move against the reformer. First, Luther was told to appear in Rom for “examination.” Then the pope changed the orders and told Cardinal Cajetan to arrest Luther. Another order from the pope went to the Augustinian general, Gabriel della Volta. He was told to “quiet that man Luther” before he spread his ideas too far. Luther was in great danger. The Dominicans, his own Augustinian general, a cardinal, the pope, and the emperor were all lined up against him.
God, however, provided Luther with a powerful protector- Elector Frederick the Wise of Frederick thought highly of his professor of religion. Many of his officials, including court preacher George Spalatin, were on Luther’s side, and they spoke well of him to Frederick. The elector was determined that Luther would have a fair trial. Frederick knew that if Luther were ever lured into one of the territories of the opposition and captured, he would never receive a fair trial, so Frederick cleverly stalled all attempts to have Luther travel in areas not under his protection. Since the pope also wanted Frederick’s vote to elect the man he wanted to be the next emperor, he allowed Luther to defend himself before a fair judge in Germany, the pope agreed, and called for a diet to meet in Augsburg. Cardinal Cajetan promised to meet Luther during the diet in Augsburg and to deal with him in a “fatherly manner.”
Luther was very humble before Cajetan, prostrating himself at the cardinal’s feet, and asking forgiveness for waiting to appear until the safe-conduct had arrived. At first the cardinal was friendly with him, but they could not agree. Luther would not recant unless someone showed him from the Bible that he was wrong. Cajetan could not do this. He finally became angry and ordered Luther to leave and not return unless he was ready to recant. On the way back to Augsburg Luther saw a copy of an announcement by the pope. In it the pope had called Luther a heretic. The pope had found him guilty without even hearing his side! Now Luther knew that he could no longer expect fair treatment from Rome.