“Do you think that Luther really believed that Pope Leo X did not know what the indulgence salesmen were saying?”
From what I understood by reading the Ninety-Five Theses I believe that Luther believed that the Pope, Pope Leo X, did not know about the schemes the indulgence salesmen were manipulating on the Catholic population.
In the Ninety-Five Theses Luther wrote as though he was writing on behalf of the Pope, although from my perspective it looks as though the Pope would want the indulgence salesmen to continue doing what they were doing.
The indulgence salesmen were selling indulgences to people and threatening people that if they did not give money once they die their souls would remain in purgatory for the indefinite future. An excerpt from The Canterbury Tales the Pardoner’s Tale a pardoner, an indulgence salesman, proclaims this:
“All my preaching is about avarice and such cursed things, to make them generous in giving their pence and especially to me. My aim is all for gain and not at all for the correction of sin. I do not care, when they are buried, even if their souls have gone blackberried!”
The pardoner, quoted above, plainly stated that he was not interested in helping a person’s soul get to Heaven. He just wanted to get a sinner’s money for himself.
Seems like a pretty corrupt system to me. I completely understand why Luther was so frustrated with the things being done within the Church.
In Matthew 19, a rich young man asked Jesus what he had to do in order to gain eternal life. Jesus responded that he should follow the commandments. The young man replied that he had done that for all of his life and asked what he still lacked. Then Jesus said, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and follow me.” When the young man heard this he sadly left Jesus’ side because this man was rich and had many possessions.
To me those pardoners and indulgence salesmen were completely going against what Jesus had told the rich young man to do. Maybe the example above is part of how Luther came to the realization that what the indulgence salesmen were doing was very corrupt and terrible.
Now, let’s go back to the first sentence of this essay. By reading the Ninety-Five Theses it appears to me that Luther definitely thought that Pope Leo X had no idea of what all was going on among the pardoners and their doings. But later on when Luther had a better idea of what the whole situation in the Catholic Church was all about Luther believed that the Pope was more interested in the money part of things than the soul saving of his “fellow” Christians.
In conclusion, unfortunately it seems that in the beginning Luther was partly blinded and brainwashed by the traditional Catholic teachings that he had been taught because, it appears to me that when he first wrote the Ninety-Five Theses he believed that the Pope was a man who could do no harm.