500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation

Emily Kiemele

This year marks the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, an event is commemorated by Catholics and Protestants alike. Dr. Kevin Vaughan, director of Catholic studies at the College of St. Scholastica, shared information regarding the historical anniversary.

The Protestant Reformation “refers to a wave of reforming movements that began in the 16th century … resulting in the split between Roman Catholic and Protestant forms of Christianity,” said Vaughan.

Although not the only avid supporter of change, Martin Luther is known for starting the reformation on Oct. 31, 1517 by nailing 95 theses – or changes he wanted made to the Catholic church – to the door of the Wittenburg Cathedral.

Vaughan acknowledged Luther’s biggest change to Catholic teaching was “that it is through faith alone that justification is achieved,” meaning that being faithful to God is more pleasing than performing good works to justify faith.

This did not mean that Luther discounted all good works, but rather wanted Christianity to focus on strengthening a relationship with God instead of doing many chores in hopes of impressing God.

“Luther was condemned at the Council of Trent causing an official break between the reformers and the Roman Catholic Church,” said Vaughan This event caused diversion within the Christian religion. There are now many denominations of Christianity within both Catholicism and Lutheranism.

While Vaughan noted he cannot speak for all Catholics, he said, “Officially the Church looks back to the Reformation as a difficult time for Christians.”

Therefore, Catholics do not celebrate but rather commemorate the Reformation.

People all over the world celebrate or recognize Reformation Day, which is Oct. 31, including the pope. Pope Francis went to a joint Catholic-Lutheran commemoration event in Lund, Sweden for the 499th anniversary.

Here at the college this last September, the catholic studies program, St. Scholastica monastery, and the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd hosted “A Journey of Renewal with the Saint John’s Bible: From Conflict to Communion.” Vaughan says this commemorated the 500th anniversary as well as the signing of the Joint Declaration of 1999. The upcoming lecture by John A. Radano will commemorate the Reformation and Joint Declaration as well.