3 Luther Knocks Down the Door 1517 MARTIN LUTHER was tortured by anxiety about his own sinfulness. How, he wondered, could the Vatican promise forgiveness of sins in exchange for donations? Didn't the powers of mercy and redemption belong to God? Finally, on October 31, 1517, unable to contain his skepticism, Luther nailed "Ninety-Five Theses" to the door of the All Saints Church in Wittenberg, Germany. A criticism of papal policy, particularly the selling of "indulgences," the document stressed the inward, spiritual character of the Christian faith. It denounced those who would pay fees to avoid having to embrace the cross and share privately in the suffering of Christ, and it rejected the notion that Church doctrine and canon law have authority approaching that of Scripture. The Vatican quickly moved against Luther for heresy; in 1521 it formally excommunicated him. "Here I stand," Luther said. "I can do no other." Unless convinced of his error through Scripture or evident reason, he would not contradict his own conscience, which was bound by the word of God.
When the Edict of Worms declared Luther a political outlaw, his anticlerical message was taken up by others. As the laity moved against monasteries and their landholdings; as priests began to marry; as princes and other powers allied against the Holy Roman Empire; and as bishops came to be appointed by secular authorities, the Reformation was begun in earnest. Political authority would never again be fully subject to the dictates of a distant clergy, and the map of Europe would be determined by the nationalism that still dominates world politics today.