Martin Luther Tells Nuns OK to Lose Chastity

Ok, so my post title is a little dramatic, but not far from the truth. On August 6th, 1524 Martin Luther writes an open letter to nuns which includes the words:

“Though womenfolk are ashamed to admit to this, nevertheless Scripture and experience show that among many thousands there is not a one to whom God has given to remain in pure chastity. A woman has no control over herself.  God has made her body to be with man, to bear children… He has also ordered man and woman to be in marital union. Suffice it to say that no one needs to be ashamed over how God has made and created him, not having been given the high, rare mercy to do otherwise.”

I can understand why the Catholic church does not care for him even some 500 years later. I can also understand why I find him sometimes frustrating, sometimes embarrassing, and sometimes utterly delightful…

The full letter appears below with the full passages in context translated from the original German.

To Several Nuns
by Martin Luther

From Wittenberg
6 August 1524

Translated from
Briefe aus dem Jahre 1524 No. 733 -756
(Letters of the Year 1524 Nos. 733 – 756)

Weimarer Ausgabe

translated by
Erika Bullmann Flores

To the free nuns, my dear sisters in Christ, written with a
friendly disposition:

Mercy and peace in the name of Jesus Christ our Savior!

Dear sisters, I have received both of your letters and am aware
of your concerns.  I would have answered you sooner if there had
been messengers available, and I also have been very busy.

You are correct that there are two reasons for which life at the
convent and vows may be forsaken: The one is where men’s laws
and life within the order are being forced, where there is no
free choice, where it is put upon the conscience as a burden.
In such cases it is time to run away, leaving the convent and
all it entails behind. If this is your situation, where you are
not freely choosing the cloister, where your conscience is being
forced, then call your friends.  Let them help you escape and,
if the law allows, take care of you or provide for you.  If
friends and parents are unwilling to help, obtain help from
other goodly people, regardless of whether your parents become
angry, die or recover.  For the soul’s well-being and God’s will
are above all, as Christ says (Matth. 10:37): “Anyone who loves
father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me.”

However, if the sisters do allow you to leave, or at least let
you freely read and hear the Word of God, then you must remain
within and join them in their works, such as spinning cooking
and the such, even though you have no confidence in it.

The second reason is the flesh: Though womenfolk are ashamed to
admit to this, nevertheless Scripture and experience show that
among many thousands there is not a one to whom God has given to
remain in pure chastity. A woman has no control over herself.
God has made her body to be with man, to bear children and to
raise them as the words of Genesis 1:1 clearly state, as is
evident by the members of the body ordered by God Himself.
Therefore food and drink, sleep and wakefulness have all been
created by God. Thus He has also ordered man and woman to be in
marital union. Suffice it to say that no one needs to be ashamed
over how God has made and created him, not having been given the
high, rare mercy to do otherwise.  All this you will amply learn
and read and hear proper sermons about when you come out. I have
abundantly dealt with these issues in the book about monastic
vows, avoiding men’s teachings, sermons about
married life, item) in the Postil proven and established as
true. If you read these, you will find enough instruction about
various things, be it confession or whatever.

It is too much to write about here and not al all necessary,
because I am convinced that you will leave the cloister, if one
or both of these reasons pertain to you as you have written.
Once there is freedom in choosing to join an order, anyone who
is so inclined can join. Just so the Counsel of Bern in
Switzerland has opened the most famous Cloister Kînigfelden, and
any maiden can freely leave, remain or move in, and they allow
her to take with her whatever she has brought in. May the Lord
bless you, and pray for me.

Written in Wittenberg,
the day of Sixti Martyris
(Aug. 6) 1524.

Martinus Luther

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