LUTHER FILM MEAN AND MISLEADING
Jesuit tells of' omissions
S a film, 'Martin Luther' is competently pro duced and well-acted; as history, which it professes to be, it is utterly misleading; as propaganda, it is mean."
This is the verdict of Fr. James Brodrick, S.J., on the much-criticised American him which had its premiere in Cardiff on Monday.
Fr. Brodrick gives his views in a leaflet issued by the Catholic Truth
Society. It is being made available free of charge with the C.T.S. pamphlet "Martin Luther," by H. 0. Evennett, M.A., Fellow of and Tutor in History at Trinity College, Cambridge.
The leaflet is also being sold separately at 3s. 6d. for 100 copies.
"During Hitler's War," says Fr. Brodrick, "the Lutherans and the Catholics in Germany fought shoulder to shoulder against the pagan horrors of Nazism. A true spirit of Christian brotherhood in suffering united the two communions, without it being necessary in any way to blur their doctrinal differences.
"They had their common faith in God, their common love of Christ, their common danger, to kindle to a bright flame their mutual charity.
"The faith, the love, the danger still remain. but, to judge by the film. 'Martin Luther,' the charity, at least on the American Lutheran front, has grown dim.
"Not a German but an American organisation. Lutheran Church Productions, Inc., sponsored the film. . . .
"Dr. Empie [chairman of the company] and his friends who profess to deal only with religious issues give us a long. inaccurate and extremely tendentious sequence on the indulgence question. . . .
"Luther became an Augustinian friar in 1505, and was ordained priest two years later. The film is entirely misleading about those two years and about the five years which followed.
"It 'telescopes' them in the most bewildering fashion for any one even moderately acquainted with the complications of Martin Luther's powerful personality.
"We are shown him almost from the start of his monastic life wrestling desperately with his God, not the Catholic God. but the God of antiCatholic Nominalist philosophy, and
at his first Mass trembling like a man in delirium as he tries to elevate the chalice. That is an utterly false interpretation of the facts. . . .
"Like so much else in the film, the account of Luther's honourable captivity in the Wartburg is an almost unbelievable simplification.
"We are shown him serenely translating the New Testament into German, without, of course, being given any hint that a reasonably serviceable Catholic German version had long been available for anybody who wanted it.
"The generality did not want it, for the simple reason that, in England as in Germany. they could not read their own language.
"The makers of the Luther film devote not a single inch of their celluloid to the fearful spiritual crisis which their hero went through at the Wartburg.
"The devil, in whom Luther believed so whole-heartedly, with whom he wrestled so frequently, who had such a profound influence on his way of thinking. speaking. acting, is. perhaps naturally enough, utterly excluded from the film. He is much too medieval a devil to suit the modern taste.
"Less pardonable is the complete absence of any hint that there was a Peasants' War. and that Luther was heavily involved in it, on the side of the German Princes whom he encouraged to slaughter the mad dogs of rebels mercilessly. Not much of your modern democrat or trade unionist about Martin Luther.
"The Peasants' War, which drowned Germany in blood, and was, at least partly, caused by his inflammatory social and religious teachings, confirmed the Doctor in a view, for years slowly maturing in his mind. that all power, spiritual as well as temporal, in the Lutheran states must be placed in the hands of the Lutheran princes.
"It was this that made Archbishop Temple [Archbishop of Canterbury] and many other responsible people see in Luther a forerunner of Hitler.
"Besides, there was his violent antisemitism. The producers of the film excuse their omission of a sequence on the Peasants' War on the ground that it would have taken too long, but they found room for much more irrelevant things such as woodcuts of the Dance of Death as representing the horribly morbid mentality of Roman Catholics.
"The film ends with the Diet of Augsburg in 1530, leaving the last 16 years of Luther's life unaccounted for.
"This is highly selective and convenient cutting, as it keeps from the screen the most shocking of all Luther's public acts, his condonation of the bigamy of Philip of Hesse.
"The later years of the Reformer were also disgraced by pamphleteering of such a vile character that Lutherans ever since have done their best to forget it."