Earlier this week, I heard from friends in Italy about a rumored Vatican postage stamp that would feature none other than the great-grand heresiarch himself, Martin Luther. Unable to make time to dig into it myself — and having heard some trepidation that it was, perhaps, a false report — I let it slip off my radar screen.
Until this afternoon, when I saw that Jan Bentz of LifeSiteNews posted a breaking story on precisely that:
The Vatican office charged with issuing stamps, known as the Philatelic and Numismatic Office, confirmed Tuesday to LifeSiteNews that Luther, who broke away from the Catholic Church in a schism 500 years ago, will be celebrated with a postage stamp in 2017. The office is in charge of the annual commission of stamps, coins, and other commemorative medals.
The Vatican regularly issues such memorabilia for special events, including papal trips and holy years. Honoring Luther and the Protestant Reformation is an unlikely choice, trumping other significant events in the Catholic Church such as the 100-year anniversary of the apparition of Our Lady of Fatima and the 300-year anniversary of our Lady of Aparecida, Brazil.
Major events such as Christmas, Easter, the Holy Year of Mercy, and the World Meeting of Families have also merited a commemorative stamp. In the time before a Papal election, when the seat of Peter is vacant, the Philatelic and Numismatic office issues a “Sede Vacante” stamp.
Usually if individuals are commemorated on stamps they are saints, such as Teresa of Calcutta, John Paul II, and Pope John XXIII, who most recently were honored with stamps.
While the Vatican has in the past collaborated with other national post offices to create stamps that are not of explicitly religious content, such as Charlie Chaplain or the fall of the Berlin wall, the Luther stamp has an undeniable religious connotation linked with much hostility to the Catholic Church.
Having been condemned as a heretic by Pope Leo X in Exsurge Domine (1520), and having leveled his own catalog of vulgar deprecations at Rome, it seemed as though the matter was settled. We didn’t like Luther, and he didn’t like us.
Never underestimate the power of ecumania, I guess.
It seems apropos to quote something from the aforementioned papal bull, which, if one didn’t know better, could almost be describing the current goings on in Rome:
Let all this holy Church of God, I say, arise, and with the blessed apostles intercede with almighty God to purge the errors of His sheep, to banish all heresies from the lands of the faithful, and be pleased to maintain the peace and unity of His holy Church.
For we can scarcely express, from distress and grief of mind, what has reached our ears for some time by the report of reliable men and general rumor; alas, we have even seen with our eyes and read the many diverse errors. Some of these have already been condemned by councils and the constitutions of our predecessors, and expressly contain even the heresy of the Greeks and Bohemians. Other errors are either heretical, false, scandalous, or offensive to pious ears, as seductive of simple minds, originating with false exponents of the faith who in their proud curiosity yearn for the world’s glory, and contrary to the Apostle’s teaching, wish to be wiser than they should be. Their talkativeness, unsupported by the authority of the Scriptures, as Jerome says, would not win credence unless they appeared to support their perverse doctrine even with divine testimonies however badly interpreted. From their sight fear of God has now passed.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.