Book Review: Luther’s True face

Source: District of Asia

Luther’s True face, by Fr. Jean-Michel Gleize, Translated by Mary Molline. édition Łukasz Kluska, Poland 2017. Pp. 158.

October 31, 2017 marks the 500th year anniversary of the famous episode (and birth of protestant revolution), when Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Church of Wittenberg.  Naturally, the revolutionaries have every reason to celebrate.  But what is utterly shocking is that Catholics have joined their celebration.  Pope Francis participated in the 500th anniversary of this revolution.  This ‘is quite simply a scandal’ (p.12).  And why so?  Why is this man’s action simply unacceptable?

‘The much dwelt on cliché of Luther as “an obscure monk who rose from his cell”, one day in 1517 to overturn Christianity is the creation of superficial (19th century) and self-serving (protestant revolution) literature, and couldn’t be farther from the truth’ (p.37).  If so, what is the truth? ‘That is Fr. Gleize’s question.  He asks it very clearly and gives the reader a full taste of the answer and its developments’. (Msgr. Tisser in his forward)

Fr. Jean Michel Gleize is a master theologian of the Society of St. Pius X.  He is a prolific and brilliant writer.  ‘Luther’s true face’ is his latest work (in English).  Originally written in 2006 was reprinted again in 2017. And this edition is now available in English.

In this day of ours, when the true history of this heresiarch seems to be on the wane, even among (should we add particularly among) Catholics, there is an urgent need to recall the ‘real face of this man’.  The author is familiar with the sources and he simply presents the history in an un-emotional manner…

The subject matter of this book is divided into 2 main parts:  His life (chapters 1-5) and his doctrine (chap. 6-12) with an appendix (the encyclical Mortalium Animos). 76 pages are dedicated to the history and 30 to the doctrinal part and this shows the book is primarily interested in giving an historical conspectus of Martin Luther.  Fr. Gleize beautifully weaves the story with many parallelism of real Saints (eg. with St. Thomas (pg. 33, 41), St. Robert Bellarmine (pg. 89) etc.,) This shows this man is totally opposite of the Church’s definition of a saint.

Fr. Gleize recounts not only the history of Luther’s fall, but also analyzes the reason for his fall. The lack of interior life & excessive activism… (pg. 41). Here we can find an very important lesson for all of us.  A few may object to the ‘rigorous judgment’ on the text of la Salette (foot note on p. 76); but what Fr. Gleize holds & teaches is a perfect example of ‘sentire cum ecclesia’.  The translator could have given here the English work of Fr. Poulain.  We also notice the French name of Pope Julius II (for Jules II) is retained (p. 36 & 49).

We all owe a debt of gratitude to the author for providing us with such an amazing work on the true face of Luther.  And the English reader owes an extra debt to the translator, for giving a very readable rendering.  May it find warm welcome among all our priests and laity alike.

Fr. Therasian Babu