Did Luther Really Split the Church?

Chris Castaldo | October 20, 2016

Editors’ note: Come celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation with us at our 2017 National Conference, April 3 to 5 in Indianapolis. The conference theme is “No Other Gospel: Reformation 500 and Beyond.” Space is filling up fast, so register now. Prices increase after Reformation Day (October 31). 


It’s not uncommon to hear Martin Luther pegged as the man who effectively split the Western Church. Along this line, Bishop Robert Barron remarks in a new documentary, “I think Luther was too polemical, and I think he fell into opposition [too] quickly with the Catholic Church.”

Barron suggests that if Luther were only more patient and cooperative, his reformation might have been avoided, and a Lutheran order of monks may have found a place in the Catholic Church. But is this historical portrait accurate?

Erroneous, False, Heretical

In late 1517, Albert of Brandenburg, archbishop of Mainz, wrote to Pope Leo X concerning Martin Luther’s opposition to indulgence preaching. Upon receiving the letter, Leo employed the expertise of his court theologian, Sylvester Mazzolini Prierias, who in turn examined Luther’s 95 Theses as…

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