The person on trial
The person on trial was Martin Luther. Luther was a German theologian and a leader of the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther was born to a Saxon miner on November 10, 1483. Luther considered the July 1505 incidence where he narrowly escaped a thunderstorm strike a divine call, which made him start living a profound Christian life (Linder 2).
Luther’s actual legal charges
The church accused Martin of heresy, an act that was condemned by the Catholic Church. Martin Luther was answerable to three charges associated with heresy, which he allegedly spread through his books. First, Luther challenged the absolute authority of the Pope over the church (Linder 3). According to Luther, the Pope exercised excessive authority that caused exploitation of the peasant people. One of Luther’s evidences concerning pope’s authority was the defectiveness in authorization and teachings of the indulgences (Linder 5).
Second, Martin Luther opposed the way sacraments were performed in the church. The only sacraments that Luther accepted were Baptism and the Eucharist. Luther criticized penitence because he maintained that salvation occurred through a person’s faith; giving credit to sacraments would mean failure to honor God. Luther did not agree with the act of forgiving people’s sins by the priests because he maintained that God was the only source of forgiveness (Linder 7).
Third, Martin Luther wanted all doctrines and dogmas of the church that were not biblical to be discarded. Luther questioned the primacy of the church in Rome and the sources of its power to excommunicate church members. Luther wrote several books criticizing these features and addressed them to the members of the Catholic Church. Ecclesiastical officials convinced Charles V. that Martin Luther was threatening the existence of the Catholic Church. The church officials requested for the condemnation of Luther from the Roman Emperor in order to protect the authority of the Church and the Pope. The Emperor invited Luther to the Diet meeting to answer the legal charges concerning his books and hearsay messages (Linder 19).
The main players in the case
The principal participants in Martin Luther’s case included Emperor Charles V., Archbishop Jonh Eck, Giroliano Aleandro, Prince Frederick and the Germany peasants. Emperor Charles V. had written a letter to Martin Luther, inviting him to the Diet meeting at worms to answer charges about heresy. Archbishop Jonh Eck acted as a judge and questioned Martin Luther about the content of his books (Linder 17). Giroliano Aleandro was a bishop, and his role in the case was drawing up and propose the denunciations of Martin Luther that were embodied in the Edict of Worms. This Edict declared Luther a heretic and banned possession and reading of his books. Prince Frederick seized Luther while he was on his way home and hid him in Wartburg Castle. The Germany peasants supported Luther and wanted to hear the course of the case.
Historical events that led up to Martin Luther’s charges
Martin Luther vowed to begin a Christian life after narrowly escaping a thunderstorm strike near his hometown. The seniors at the Erfurt Monastery impressed him and he decided to learn the bible to become a priest. Luther earned a degree in Biblical Studies and received the ordination in the year 1507 before beginning to offer theology classes at the Augustinian institution (Linder 2). Luther’s criticisms of the Catholic Church began in 1510 when he travelled to the Eternal city as one of the intermediaries in resolving the church disputes. Luther realized that the clergy performing holy duties in Rome were unskilled, incompetent, and suspicious (Linder 3). Motivated to understand the exact actions of the church, Luther joined Wittenberg University and earned a Master’s degree in Bible Studies. This enabled Luther to review the holy bible that was the source of his religion.
The epistles of Paul made Martin Luther develop a negative attitude towards the customs of Catholic Church. One of Luther’s skeptical views of the church was heavy reliance on selling indulgences to raise revenues. This was worsened when Pope Leo X began a campaign for raising funds to build a basilica at St. Peter’s in Rome (Linder 5). The bishops bought various indulgences and retained a portion of the raised funds. The Bishops also falsely promised their indulgence vendors the remittance of their sins. Luther opposed the forgiveness of sins by the priests and Bishops; he argued that forgiveness came from within a person and no human being had the power to forgive sins. Luther prepared an opposing letter in response to the indulgences selling campaign. The letter contained ninety-five theses that questioned the power of the pope for releasing people from purgatory (Linder 7). The pope summoned Luther to a gathering to stop further influence of his messages on the members of the Church. Luther’s arguments received attention from the public and some older audience. Luther wrote and published a series of controversial books as a strategy of enhancing the spread of his messages. One of his books, The Babylonian Captivity, was controversial and criticized the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church (Linder 22). The pope and church officials viewed Luther’s books as threatening the church and causing confusion among the congregation. Pope Leo X excommunicated Luther because he failed remove the forty-one sentences included in his Theses (Linder 12). Luther wrote an Appeal to Caesar and reached Emperor Charles V, who tore it up and trembled on it. The emperor invited Luther to the Diet meeting at Worms to answer legal charges with regard to his books and heresy.
Critical considerations for the Upcoming Cases
The accused should be afforded time to explain the events that led to the alleged crime. Judges should not limit the accused to the closed-ended questions that require a “yes” or “no” answer. The trial scene should have adequate space to accommodate all interested parties. The judges need to understand the state laws, religious laws, and cultural customs of the people instead of limiting themselves to one set of doctrines. The trial should be done in the morning when people’s emotions are stable because they can reason accurately.
Linder, Douglas. “The Trial of Martin Luther: An Account.” Famous Trials, n.d 2010. Web. 23 September 2013. (http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/luther/lutheraccount.html)