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Cardinal Gerhard Müller | Bishop Athanasius Schneider

September 23, 2019 ( – Two high-ranking prelates of the Catholic Church, Cardinal Gerhard Müller and Bishop Athanasius Schneider, have written strong endorsements of a new German edition of one of the most significant refutations of Protestant doctrine ever penned: the “Defense of the Seven Sacraments,” by English King Henry VIII.

The new translation represents what appears to be the first German edition of the work to be published in almost 500 years. In commemoration of the book’s publication Müller has written an introduction to the work (read full introduction here), calling the Protestant Reformation “contrary to Christ's Will with regard to His Church,” and warning that “the year 1517 cannot be in retrospect a reason for joy.”

Bishop Athanasius Schneider has written an afterword to the book (read full afterword here), praising it as a “theological masterpiece” and noting that Martin Luther, “overturned in a radical manner this Divinely instituted order of the Sacraments and who thus carried out a revolution against the tradition” of the Church.

“The Defense of the Seven Sacraments” is a polemic written against Martin Luther’s rejection of Catholic sacramental doctrine, particularly his redefinition of the sacrament of the Eucharist, and his denial of the existence of five other sacraments. It was written by Henry VIII in 1521, while he was still a strong Catholic, leading the pope to give him the title “Fidei Defensor” (“Defender of the Faith”) a style used by English monarchs ever since.

Henry’s Latin was so excellent that it was admired even by Luther himself, although he expressed his doubts that the king was responsible for it. The work was translated into multiple languages and read widely in Europe. Although Henry later entered into a schism with the Catholic Church, he never repudiated his work, and always maintained the Catholic doctrine of the sacraments in his schismatic Church of England. 

Henry regards Luther as a pawn of the devil, and a deceiver who uses faulty reasoning, lies, and distortions to lead people out of the Catholic faith and to deprive them of the sacraments established by God to convey the grace of salvation.

The endorsement of the work by Müller and Schneider is in sharp contrast to the strongly conciliatory gestures made by Pope Francis towards Lutherans in recent years. Francis has even gone so far as to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the “Protestant Reformation” launched by Luther, for which purpose he erected a statue of Luther in the Vatican. The Vatican has also issued a commemorative stamp of the Reformation with Luther and his follower Philip Melanchthon at the foot of the cross, where the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. John the Apostle are normally depicted.

The German edition of the book, with the original German language introduction and afterword, can be found here.

Luther’s separation from Rome 'contrary to Christ's Will with regard to His Church'

Cardinal Müller’s foreword reminds readers that Protestantism is deeply contrary to the Catholic faith, and that the separation of Protestants from the authority of the papacy is contrary to the will of God.

 “The separation from Rome and the divisions among Christians in the (various denominational) communities – which are fundamentally different with regard to the creed, the sacramental life, and the recognition of the bishops as successors of the Apostles, and as lawful shepherds instituted by Christ – are contrary to Christ's Will with regard to His Church,” writes Müller .

To the contrary, Jesus “founded the Church in her unity, holiness, Catholicity, and apostolicity, built upon St. Peter and his successors, the bishops of Rome,” so that they may be “the perpetual and visible principle and foundation of the doctrinal and communal unity” of Christians.

Müller condemns the idea of a joyful celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, noting that Luther’s doctrines included the condemnation of the pope as the “anti-Christ.”

“The year 1517 cannot be in retrospect a reason for joy over the celebration of the reformatory breakthrough to evangelical freedom and to the ‘liberation from the reign of the pope, the Anti-Christ, over the true church’ through which liberation Christianity only then found its true appearance and its correct identity,” writes Müller, adding that “this historic date should be for all Christians an occasion for penance and for a renewal in Christ.”

Müller notes that the image of Martin Luther as a “reformer” is not an accurate one: “Martin Luther (1483-1546) did not, after all, aim at a spiritual and moral reform of the Catholic Church; but, rather, that he openly provoked a breach with ‘the Church, which is governed by the pope together with the bishops in communion with him’ (Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium 8).”

Luther’s thought was particularly opposed to the Catholic understanding of supernatural grace and its role in salvation.

“Especially his [Luther's] text – in which he pronounced the liberation of the heretofore Church from the ‘Babylonian captivity of the Church’ (1520) under the Church's hierarchy – and from the Catholic concept of Grace to be found in the Church's teaching on the Seven Sacraments, which was in his eyes wrong, proves that there is a completely contrary understanding of the essential questions of salvation and the ecclesial and sacramental mediation of salvation,” writes Müller.

Read: English translation of Cardinal Müller’s introduction to the Defense of the Seven Sacraments

Bishop Athanasius Scheider: 'Luther gave the mortal blow to the Divine sacramental order'

Athanasius Schneider, the German-speaking auxiliary bishop of Astana, Kazakhstan, praises Henry VIII’s work as a “theological masterpiece,” and observes that Martin Luther’s rejection of the Catholic doctrine of the Seven Sacraments is deeply contrary to the tradition transmitted by the Catholic Church since the beginning of Christianity.

Schneider repeats a quote by Henry VIII of St. Bernard of Clairvaux as a “fitting” response to Luther’s doctrines: “The heretics are tearing apart with their poisonous teeth, according to their whims, and in a sort of competition, the Sacraments of the Church as their own mother's heart” (Assertio, cap. 11).

After outlining the sacraments and their purpose of conveying supernatural grace, Schneider notes that Martin Luther “overturned in a radical manner this Divinely instituted order of the Sacraments and who thus carried out a revolution against the tradition which was valid before his time for one thousand and five hundred years, and which pertained to the essential life of the Faith and of the Church.”

“Luther made his own subjective interpretation of the written Word of God as the only criterion, thus rejecting Sacred Tradition, that is to say the unwritten Word of God to which one has to show the same honor and respect as toward the written Word of God (see Second Vatican Council, Dei Verbum, 9).”

As a result, Luther’s “sacraments” are “not Divinely instituted means of the transmission of grace, but, rather, signs or symbols of God's promised grace,” writes Schneider.  “Luther gave the mortal blow to the Divine sacramental order by denying the true sacrificial character of the Eucharist, which he reduced to a meal, which he called the “Last Supper.”  However, the whole life of the Church and of each of the faithful revolves around the sacramentally realized sacrifice at the Cross.”

“The king characterized this attack of Luther in a fitting way with the words of St. Bernard of Clairvaux: ‘ The heretics are tearing apart with their poisonous teeth, according to their whims, and in a sort of competition, the Sacraments of the Church as their own mother's heart” (Assertio, cap. 11).

Read: English translation of Bishop Schneider’s afterword for the New Millennium Edition of the Defense of the Seven Sacraments

Book is antidote to 'ambiguities that reign supreme among Catholics' regarding the sacraments

“In these days of confusion about Holy Communion being given to people living in adultery, as suggested by Amoris laetitia, Henry VIII’s book is a masterly defense of the Sacraments of the Church against the ambiguities that reign supreme among Catholics,” said Raymond de Souza, a Knight of Malta and pro-life activist who commissioned the New Millennium translation into German as well as a new English edition of the work.

“Henry VIII masterly defended the seven Sacraments that Our Lord Jesus Christ instituted for our salvation, and refuted Luther’s heresies in chapter and in verse. The New Millennium English edition quotes the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church over 100 times, to show how Henry VIII was thoroughly faithful to Church teaching five hundred years ago,” De Souza told LifeSite.

“This book is a must in our days for those who have doubts about the sacraments of Marriage, Confession and Holy Communion. Its careful study provides all the arguments to solve the ambiguities of the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Letitia, which has caused great confusion among the Faithful to this day,” De Souza said, adding that the book “has acquired a greater timeliness after a statue of the heresiarch Marin Luther was erected in the Paul VI auditorium in the Vatican.”

Although De Souza has sent the book to Francis, he not yet received a letter acknowledging receipt of the book. He has, however, received a letter of thanks from Queen Elizabeth after sending the book to Buckingham Palace.

Click here to purchase the English translation of the Defense of the Seven Sacraments, by Henry VIII.

Click here to purchase the German translation.