Limits to the Pope’s Power According to Luther’s Theses 5-8 and 13
5. The pope does not intend to remit, and cannot remit any penalties other than those which he has imposed either by his own authority or by that of the Canons.
This means the Pope’s power does not include the power to remit sins, as this is the responsibility of God, who possesses such power. However, the pope or his representatives, has the power to remit only penalties attaching to sin. However, these can only remit penalties, which have been prescribed by the canon law, or those penalties the pope has the authority to impose, and has imposed them. Therefore, the pope cannot remit the guilt attaching to sin itself.
6. The pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring that it has been remitted by God and by assenting to God’s remission; though, to be sure, he may grant remission in cases reserved to his judgment. If his right to grant remission in such cases were despised, the guilt would remain entirely unforgiven.
This means the Pope has no power to remit sins. Only God can remit sins. What the Pope can do here is only to declare to a person that God has remitted their sins. Therefore, when the pope offers the sacrament of penance, he does not effect the penance himself, but lets the penitent know that God has remitted their guilt.
7. God remits guilt to no one unless at the same time he humbles him in all things and makes him submissive to the vicar, the priest.
This shows it is only God, who has the power to remove a person’s sins. The Pope has no power to remove sin. What the Pope can do in this case, is only offer the sacrament of penance, after a person humbles and accepts their sins before the pope. However, the real penance comes from God.
8. The penitential canons are imposed only on the living, and, according to them, nothing should be imposed on the dying.
Canon law, including the penitential laws only applies to the living and not the dead. Therefore, the dead souls in the purgatory are not under the judgement of penitential canons. This means the Pope has no power to remit the penalties owed by the souls in the purgatory, since the penitential laws do not apply to them. Either way, in case the souls in the purgatory have any remorse, this is outside the power of the pope, and there is nothing he can do.
13. The dying are freed by death from all penalties; they are already dead to canonical rules, and have a right to be released from them.
This means when a person dies, they are released from penalties. The canon law then no longer holds them. The dead, by virtue of being dead are entitled to freedom from all penalties, and this release from penalties is owed to God, and not to the Pope. Therefore, the Pope has no power to free the dead from their penalties, as God is responsible for this.
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