In 1956 there appeared in Germany a Roman Catholic book by F. Richter dealing with two outstanding figures in the history of the Church, namely, Martin Luther and Ignatius Loyola. These two personalities were, in truth, inhabitants of two different worlds, and it is always dangerous to undertake a comparison of two such utterly different historical figures. But they did live in the same period and as such they had a common historical background.
Luther was born in 1483 and Loyola in 1491, and each of them experienced a definite, determining turning-point in his life, which in Luther led to the Reformation of 1517 and in Loyola to the establishment of the Society of Jesus. Luther became the Reformer, and Loyola the founder of the Jesuit order and the leader of the Counter-Reformation.
Both Luther and Loyola were occupied primarily with affairs of the Church, and Richter, the author of the book mentioned, points to the fact that the element of prayer and the reading of Holy Scripture had a large place in the life of both of these great men. And although the author is a Roman Catholic, he acknowledges that Luther had great ideals and ambitions and that he strove for these with remarkable enthusiasm and drive.
However, he does want to picture the antithesis of the two men and, specifically, he wants to defend Loyola over against the many critics who later arose to castigate the Jesuits and their morality, and in the course of his book, therefore, we find Loyola pictured the more brightly, while the shadows often fall over the picture of Luther. For no matter how well Luther may have intended, the conclusion comes to this, that he had destroyed the fundamentals of the Church.
What may have been good in Luther, says Richter, he had ...1
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