RAO Luther cover

Luther and His Progeny

500 Years of Protestantism and Its Consequences for Church, State, and Society

John C. Rao

In October 2016, in Lund, Sweden, Pope Francis met with Lutheran church leaders to inaugurate a year of commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the posting of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses in 1517, the first salvo in his rebellion against the Catholic Church. What was the nature of that revolution of half a millennium ago? Upon what new trajectory did it launch human history? What were its hidden consequences? And why does Pope Francis’s proposed rapprochement of Catholic and Lutheran churches matter?

In the twelve essays contained in this volume—based upon lectures delivered at the 2016 Roman Forum Summer Symposium on Lake Garda, Italy—the authors assess the impact of Luther’s novel theological and philosophical doctrines on faith, political theory, law, ethics, economics, and science—as well as his role in the devastation of Christendom and the creation in its place of the contemporary secular culture of the West. Acknowledging that the Reformation is not “the sole cause of the social problems of modernity” but rather “one major cause in a chain of causes,” the authors nevertheless make it abundantly clear that there is “nothing about Luther and his Protestant rebellion that we should celebrate.” With essays from John Rao, Chris Ferrara, Brian McCall, and eight others, Luther and His Progeny is a signal contribution toward understanding the full import of the Protestant revolt.

Praise for Luther and His Progeny

Luther and His Progeny exploits the advantage of 500 years’ hindsight as it critiques the multiple dimensions of Luther’s break with Christendom—a break not only from the Roman Church and its hierarchical-sacramental system, but more fundamentally from the rich and complex harmony of Catholic tradition in theology, metaphysics, anthropology, and social relations, particularly in the economic and political structures inherited from the centuries of faith.
 Armed with stout scholarship, the authors dare to stake out positions thoroughly unfashionable in an age of feel-good ecumenism tempted to paper over the radical nature of Luther’s thoughts and intentions. We are led to see, from a variety of viewpoints, how Luther’s uncatholic errors have been absorbed into the thinking of modern Westerners, and—what is both surprising and tragic—into the mentality of Catholics.”

— PETER KWASNIEWSKI, author of Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis

“This is a tremendous collection of papers on Luther, examining the consequences of his attack on the Church—and of the Protestant Revolt in general—from theological, political, cultural, legal, and even scientific angles. The articles, based on talks given at the Roman Forum conference, are fluent and accessible to both general readers and specialists.”

— JOSEPH SHAW, Chairman of the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales

“A brilliant collection of essays examining Martin Luther’s role in the dissolution of medieval Christendom and his influence on subsequent developments. Anyone who wants to understand the long decline from the Catholic Middle Ages to the secular present will find a wealth of insight in this book.”

— PATER EDMUND WALDSTEIN, O.Cist.

“This collective work is characterized by clear, unambiguous writing—above all concerned for the truth—put to the service of a common desire to pinpoint not only the thought of Luther, but still more the profound nature and chain of logical consequences flowing from it. It is an initiative of special timeliness in an age of great confusion.”

— BERNARD DUMONT, chief editor of the quarterly Catholica

“One can agree or disagree with some of the ideas set forth—there is no monolithic view—but beyond question the reading of these pages will help readers reflect on the events that occurred 500 years ago but continue to shape many of the central elements of modern post-Christian society. It is, therefore, a book that should not be missed.”

— JOSÉ LUIS WIDOW, Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez, Chile

About the Author

John C. Rao

John C. Rao obtained his doctorate in Modern European History from Oxford University in 1977. He worked in 1978–1979 as Eastern Director of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute in Bryn Mawr, PA, and is now Associate Professor of European History at St. John’s University in New York City, where he has taught since 1979. Dr. Rao is also director of the Roman Forum, a Catholic cultural organization founded by the late Professor Dietrich von Hildebrand in 1968. He writes for numerous French, German, Spanish, and Italian journals. Perhaps the most important of his works are Americanism and the Collapse of the Church in the United States (Roman Forum Press, 1995), Black Legends and the Light of the World (Remnant Press, 2012), and Removing the Blindfold (The Angelus Press, 2014), a discussion of Catholics rediscovering their own heritage in the post-French revolutionary era.