Why did Martin Luther leave the Catholic Church?

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Martin Luther (November 10th, 1483, to February 18th, 1546) was a Roman Catholic priest and member of a monastic order who became a founder of the Protestant Reformation.

Luther's original aim was not to leave the Roman Catholic Church but to reform it from within. There were a few initial areas he considered urgently in need of reform. His first quarrel with the Church was over the sale of indulgences. Indulgences were based on the notion that saints had stored up an excess of merit beyond what was needed for their own salvation in a sort of metaphysical treasury of merits and that the Church could dispense these excess merits as "indulgences" to shorten other people's time in Purgatory. So, for example, an adulterer might be able to buy a new roof for the parish church, and in return (in theory) a bishop could ensure that he would not spend time in Purgatory for his sin. Luther believed that this system did not work and was immoral.

After a long dispute with the papacy, Luther was excommunicated and began to build his own theology involving salvation by faith and a more scriptural approach to religion.

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It is important to remember that Martin Luther did not originally want to leave the Catholic Church, he wanted to reform it. As a result, he was forced out of the Church. Luther, a monk and former law student, was appalled at the corruption he saw in the Church. He saw Church leaders living immoral lives and using the religion to increase their wealth. What particularly pushed Luther to speak out was the selling of indulgences. These were payments that Catholics could make to the Church to absolve sin and limit the time they or someone else spent in purgatory. Luther saw this as a blasphemous moneymaking scheme that took advantage of faithful but naive Catholics.

In 1517, Luther publicly stated his complaints against the Church when he posted his "Ninety-Five Theses." In this, he denounced the sale of indulgences and explained the biblical source of salvation. He publicly urged Church leaders to abandon their corrupt practices. This was a dangerous move on Luther's part. Previous reformers had been declared heretics and executed.

The Church ordered Luther to recant, but he refused. At the Diet of Worms in 1521, Luther was excommunicated from the Catholic Church and declared a heretic. Forced out of the Catholic Church, Luther went on to start his own separate denomination known as the Lutheran Church. This new denomination sought to abandon the worldly trappings and the non-biblical tenets of the Catholic Church.

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Martin Luther became dissatisfied with aspects of the Catholic Church after becoming a monk.  He saw corruption and immoral lifestyle choices among leaders in the Catholic Church.  He disapproved of this.  Martin Luther began studying the Bible more closely.  Through his studies, his beliefs experienced a shift.  Martin Luther came to believe that salvation came through faith alone, rather than by following the teachings of the Catholic Church.

In 1517, Martin Luther wrote his 95 Theses in protest of the Pope's approval of the sale of indulgences.  His 95 Theses mainly centered on indulgences.  The Pope needed to raise money, so indulgences were exchanged for alms.  Indulgences were purchased for forgiveness of sins.  It was unusual at this time for people to protest the Catholic Church, which was strong and dominant.  It was especially unusual for someone who had been a monk to protest.  Martin Luther's actions led to the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.

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Explain the reasons that led to Martin Luther's decision to break with the Catholic Church?

Martin Luther (1483-1546) did not seek to break from the Catholic Church;  his concern was to correct what he perceived to be abuses by the church hierarchy, notably the sale of indulgences.  However, after his theological studies he became convinced that one's salvation could be by "grace alone," meaning that the church did not have the monopoly of acquiring the blessed state of heaven.  This, more than the sale of indulgences, got him into trouble since that argument fundamentally undermined church authority.  Refusing to recant his position, he was excommunicated -- he did not break from the church, rather, the church broke from him.

Although others had been critical of the church in times past, the significance of Luther was not simply rooted in his philosophical arguments; rather, by the time he posted his 95 Theses, the printing press had been in use for nearly half a century and literacy was on the rise -- not only did villagers in Wittenberg read his complaints, but also the literate across Europe.  Along with the rise of nationalist sentiments across the remains of the Holy Roman Empire and other old political structures, his arguments, taken up by many others dissatisfied with the status quo of church and state began the "Protestant Revolution."

 

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Explain the reasons that led to Martin Luther's decision to break with the Catholic Church?

There were a couple of major reasons for Martin Luther becoming disillusioned with the Catholic Church.

One of these was the practice of selling indulgences.  The Church would sell people forgiveness for their sins.  Luther did not believe this was something that could be sold.  He believed that a person could only be forgiven their sins by God's grace.

The second comes out of the first.  Luther was concerned about the amount of power given by the Church to its hierarchy.  He did not like the way that each level was set above the other (priests above lay people, bishops above priests, etc) and he did not like the way the lower levels were supposed to blindly obey the upper levels.

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What were some of the issues that led Martin Luther to break with the Catholic Church?

As a Catholic priest, Martin Luther was greatly disturbed by the practice of selling indulgences; also, he was greatly troubled by the structure of the authority of the Church and the power that its hierarchy wielded.

Luther felt that the Church had become corrupt in its power. People were led to believe that if they contributed to the Church, their sins could be forgiven. Luther felt that the Pope had no power from God to absolve people from their sins simply because they transferred money to the Church. In essence, he felt that the Church was stealing from people through the selling of indulgences as well as by making them work on church grounds for free and by forcing them to tithe.

Luther was also disturbed by the hierarchical structure of the Catholic Church which gave great power to the cardinals and bishops over the other members of the clergy. In addition, because the Catholic Church was a political power as well as a religious one, cardinals often had significant roles in secular affairs, as well as within governments. 

Luther's 95 Theses that he nailed to a church door became famous and grew to be one of the most influential figures in European history. Certainly, his writings helped to cause friction within the Catholic Church and initiate the Protestant Reformation.

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