Martin Luther’s Hate Speech

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When I mean hate speech, I mean hate speech.  I’m not speaking of it in the vague liberal, progressive, politically correct sense of the term, but in the actual definition of the term.  Luther despised Catholics and Jews.

As much as Catholics annoyed Fr. Martin Luther, Jews apparently got under his skin much more.  Legend goes that he had a severe case of diarrhea after eating matzah dumplings and afterwards believed the Jews tried to poison him.  Historically speaking he became enraged after the Jews at large did not convert to Lutheranism.  He himself stated this on how to treat the Jews.

” First, to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. … Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed. For they pursue in them the same aims as in their synagogues. Instead they might be lodged under a roof or in a barn, like the gypsies.” (On the Jews and Their Lies)

A little known fact is that Kristallnacht ended on Luthertag (Luther’s birthday) which was a national holiday in Nazi Germany.  Adolf Hitler praised Martin Luther for his love of the German nation and opposition to the Jews.  On that day, the Nazis stormed into Jewish homes, shops and synagogues, destroying them.  The founder of the Reformation did not think much less of the Catholic clergy.

“How much greater the need is here to put into stocks, chains, and prisons the pope, cardinals, and the whole Roman See, who have not become raving mad in the usual way, but who rage so horribly that at one time they want to be men, at another women, and never know at any one time when their mood will strike them. We Christians should nevertheless believe that such raving and lunatic Roman hermaphrodites have the Holy Spirit and are the heads, masters, and teachers of Christendom!” (Against the Roman Papacy, an Institution of the Devil)

I do have to wonder: is this a man the Vatican wants to celebrate, especially when they are attempting at interfaith dialogue with the Jews?

Sure, the Catholic Church has her share of anti-Jewish bigots, but the Church’s theology is not founded on such theology and anti-Jewish propaganda was a political ploy.  Most Catholic clergy opposed the oppression and especially the violent treatment of Jews.  Saint Gregory I wrote, “Now, the Jews dwelling in Naples have registered a complaint with Us, … let them enjoy their lawful liberty to observe and to celebrate their festivities, as they have enjoyed this up until now” (Letter to Paschasius).  Callixtus II wrote this in his famous encyclical.

“[The Jews] ought to suffer no prejudice… For We make the law that no Christian compel them, unwilling or refusing, by violence to come to baptism.  But, if any one of them should spontaneously, and for the sake of the faith, fly to the Christians, once his choice has become evident, let him be made a Christian without any calumny… Too, no Christian ought to presume…to injure their persons, or with violence to take their property, or to change the good customs which they have had until now in whatever region they inhabit.   Besides, in the celebration of their own festivities, no one ought disturb them in any way, with clubs or stones, nor ought any one try to require from them or to extort from them services they do not owe, … If anyone, however, shall attempt, the tenor of this degree once known, to go against it…let him be punished by the vengeance of excommunication, …” (Sicut Judaeis)

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Doctor of the Church, wrote extensively extorting Christians not to molest Jews, but to leave them and their property alone: “The Jews must not be persecuted, slaughtered, nor even driven out” (Letter to Eastern France and Bavaria).  One of the most controversial parts of the Crusades was the so-called Peasants’ Crusade; though not an official crusade ever called for; it was a peasants response before the First Crusade, but since peasants owned little  to nothing they could not finance their journey to the Holy Land and so they justified their violence against Jews in the Rhine valley in stealing their possessions; Peter the Hermit and many other Catholic prelates acted fiercely, even threatening excommunication on the culprits of the Rhineland massacre.

No doubt these same saintly figures would rebuke Luther for his ferocious jihad against the Jews and no wonder Luther would rebuke them.  He seemed to link Catholics and Jews just as Hitler did.  The idea was that the Jews, basically the progenitors of Catholics, installed their own idolatry, corruption, materialism, greed, and hatred of the “true Christians” in the Catholic Church.  After all, Luther did say “Muhammad and the pope have already neglected it, becoming not much better than the Jews” (On the Jews and Their Lies, pt. X). 

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