Charles Miltitz, a distant relative of Frederick’s, was in the pope’s court. He offered to deal with Luther. The pope agreed to the plan and Miltitz went to Germany. When he arrived, he visited with his friend Spalatin, Frederick’s secretary.
Spalatin blamed Tetzel for starting the indulgence trouble. Spalatin described Tetzel’s unsavoury behaviour and the lies he told about indulgences. Miltitz turned his anger to Tetzel and sent him a message to report to him immediately. Tetzel claimed that traveling would be unsafe for him because Luther’s friends would attack him. He wouldn’t come.
Luther Meets with Miltitz
Miltitz called for Luther to meet with him. Luther came. Miltitz stormed against Tetzel and flattered Luther. He pled with him to heal the wound he had caused to the church.
Luther talked with Miltitz about the indulgence scandal. He told Miltitz that he had tried to speak with Albert about the outrageous indulgence business but had been ignored by him. Remember that Albert was the archbishop who had hired Tetzel to raise money for him by selling indulgences. Luther told Miltitz that the pope had dealt unfairly with him by condemning him without first hearing him.
Miltitz listened. Perhaps because he finally had met with someone who would listen to him, Luther did something that might seem surprising. He offered to make a deal with Miltitz.
The Peace Settlement
These are the promises and conditions Luther offered Miltitz:
- To be silent and let the commotion die away, as long as the church would quit attacking him;
- To write to the pope and apologize for being too fierce and explain that he had been offended by the behaviours of church leaders who had brought shame and ridicule upon the church and that is the reason he spoke out against indulgences;
- To publish an open letter to be read and distributed publicly that he did not mean to attack the church in his writings and that all people should have respect for the church.
But he maintained that he would never retract – take back – his sermons or writings, since they were based on the truth of Scriptures.
Miltitz seemed pleased with this offer and had the terms of the peace agreement written out. Then he and Luther both signed the document.
These were the terms:
- Both parties were forbidden to preach, write or discuss the matter any further.
- Miltitz would immediately tell the pope about the agreement and ask that a bishop would be assigned to look into the affair and identify Luther’s errors.
- If Luther was wrong, he agreed to recant.
- Luther agreed not to do anything that would lessen the honor or authority of the church.
Luther and Miltitz ate dinner together and celebrated the agreement.
After this, Miltitz made a visit to Tetzel and accused him of stealing indulgence money. Tetzel was terrified of what the pope might do to him when he found out. He sunk into a depression and illness.
When Luther heard about Tetzel’s sufferings, he sent him an encouraging letter. But Tetzel, weighed down with fear and bitterness, died soon afterward.
Start of a New Era
In the midst of all these happenings, Emperor Maximilian died January 12, 1519. This event and the threat of wars along the empire’s borders shifted attention away from Luther.
How did he make use of the period of quiet that followed? Find out in the next part of this series.