Scheduled to be released on the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of the 95 theses is Mitch Pacwa’s The Reformation Project video series. Pacwa was recently on Catholic Answers to discuss the project. He’s looking to do a ten part series on the Reformation from a Roman Catholic perspective.
The host of the interview introduced Pacwa by noting the topic of the Reformation “always lurks in the background of Catholic Answers live.” Indeed he’s correct. Catholic Answers exists to call Protestants back to the Roman church. What they’re doing is trying to undo the Reformation.
Pacwa is concerned that the popular media will hype the upcoming Reformation anniversary by presenting a false view of the Roman Catholic Church. His ten part series will be an attempt to show that the Roman church of the Reformation isn’t quite as bad as is popularly portrayed. They weren’t a powerful juggernaut, nor was there “universal corruption among the clergy” (mp3 clip). “Universal” corruption is a strong description. I would settle for widespread corruption. That can’t be denied.
The most fascinating part of the interview was when a caller asked “In a nutshell, what did cause the Reformation?” (mp3 clip). Pacwa began his response by addressing Luther “the person” as a factor. Every time I’ve thought I’ve heard every calumny against Luther, all I have to do is listen to a Roman Catholic discuss Luther. Pacwa notes “Luther was racked with guilt.” That’s true enough. What was this guilt from? Pacwa explains “he apparently had killed somebody in a duel.” To deal with the guilt of murder and “a legalism within his own personality” caused him to begin “looking at doctrine differently than it had been under the various Catholics prior.” This lead to justification by faith alone by grace alone.
I’ve read many charges against Luther, but that he killed someone in a duel is one I don’t recall, at all. Perhaps it’s a new Reformation factoid I’m not aware of? For instance, a few months ago I read a news report that Luther didn’t enter the monastery after a thunderstorm vow made to Saint Anne. Rather, he was trying to escape an arranged marriage (I’ve looked around for further information on this, and came up with nothing). But as to murder in a duel, that’s news to me. It has been alleged that Luther’s father was a murderer. It’s also been asserted that a reason Luther entered the monastery was grief experienced by the sudden loss of a close friend. This friend was either stabbed in a quarrel or duel. Perhaps Pacwa meant this, or perhaps he’ll argue Luther killed this friend. Well, Pacwa’s got a few years to work all this out. If anyone can verify Pacwa’s claim, please write me.
The other fascinating part of Pacwa’s answer was that the Reformation was also caused by Luther’s denial of free will. For those of us who are Reformed, this answer comes as no shock. Here, Pacwa has hit the nail on the head. If one begins with notion of total depravity, the means of grace will be far different from the system devised by Romanism. I’m hopeful that Pacwa will bring this point out with force. This is the reason why those who typically have the best answers to Roman Catholic claims are the Reformed.
I’m not sure if Pacwa’s Reformation series will have any impact on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Typically, the media doesn’t go looking for documentaries produced from a religious perspective. His series will probably only impact Roman Catholics. My hope is that Mitch Pacwa doesn’t repeat charges against Luther and the Reformation from hundred year old sources. He’s an educated person, so the possibility of accuracy is well within his means.