Such exploitation of the poor infuriated Luther, and in thesis 45, he decries those who, instead of helping the needy, as Christ commanded for the truly penitent, spent all their spare money on indulgences.
More fundamentally, though, Luther worried that indulgences were a form of cheap grace, a way for people to purchase false security for their souls without truly facing the depth of their sin and repenting from the heart.
So who were these indulgence preachers and why was Luther so upset about them?
The answer sheds light both on the astonishing depth of the corruption in the late medieval church and on the often misunderstood heart of Luther’s protest against it.
In subsequent theses, Luther questioned the ethics of encouraging peasants to buy indulgences rather than give alms or buy food for their family.
He also questioned the authority of the Church to forgive sins, a right that surely belonged to God alone.
, the ringing denunciation of the corruptions of the late medieval church that was to spark the Protestant Reformation.
Luther may or may not have posted them on the church door in Wittenberg (he almost certainly did not nail them, in any case, as later legend would have it), but his dissemination of them on October 31, 1517 marked a turning point not only in Luther’s life but in the life of the whole Christian church.
Ostensibly ordered to help finance the construction of St.
Peter’s basilica in Rome, much of the money actually went into the coffers of Archbishop Albrecht of Mainz.