Recently, I read (in this pamphlet) that Martin Luther had some disputes with prominent thomist and Cardinal Thomas Cajetan. why did these two intellignet man not come to an agreement and dispute honestly (or did they)?

In the pamphlet is the story from the side of Luther: are there any documents that speak from Cardinal Cajetan's perspective?

I am intrested in both versions of the story. Are there original texts of what they actually said during their dispute?

Since there are obviously some Protestants and Catholics on this site, I do not care from which "side" you write but I would appricate quotation from original texts from side of Luther and side of Cajetan.

Thank you for any help.

2 Answers 2


I found this paper "Cajetan and Luther: Revisiting the Roots of a Schism" written by Dr. Adam Cooper, a Lutheran pastor turned Catholic, who has a repository of his academic papers here. The paper delves into how Cajetan became very alarmed as he detected (with prophetic insight) the far reaching consequences of Luther's view during the October 1518 conversations. The Extravagante Papal teaching mentioned by the pamphlet is covered in this academic paper along with technical discussion of the treasury of merits. The purpose of the paper is precisely what you are looking for.

From the Introduction:

Like most non-specialist students of the Reformation, my access to the exchange between Martin Luther and Cardinal Cajetan in the city of Augsburg, October 1518, has by and large been limited to Luther’s own account of the event, or else to secondary sources understandably writing with a Protestant bias. Recently, however, I made it my business to read Cajetan himself, who, like other Catholic polemicists, has suffered virtual demonisation in Lutheran folklore. This essay is an attempt to restore some balance to the popular picture of Luther and Cajetan’s exchange in Augsburg by way of an examination of the latter’s own theology as manifest in the documents he wrote at that occasion. My aim is to show that Cajetan’s negative impression of Luther’s theology – taken on its own terms - was not as illfounded, irrational, or unbiblical as is often implied. On the contrary, it will become clear that in Cajetan’s estimation, Luther’s theology represented a radical shift away from mainstream Christian doctrine, and a capitulation to the subjectivist, humanistic tendencies of the nominalist school of philosophy.

In reckoning as much, Cajetan may well have been mistaken. I shall leave that judgement to the reader. Yet it is only by grasping the Cardinal’s deep-seated intuition that Luther’s protestations, embodied in the Ninety-five Theses, threatened the very foundations of a truly efficacious sacramental theology, that we can, to my mind, make sense of the ecclesial breach that followed and recognise, in humility, its fundamentally tragic character. I therefore offer this study as one small contribution to an ongoing conversation in the hope that, in due course, such a breach may one day be righted and the Christ-like prayer of the Roman Pontiff for ‘full and visible communion’ answered.

As for the full text of Luther's letter to George Spalatin mentioned in the pamphlet, this PDF from archive.org contains scholarly footnoted collection of Luther's letter (volume 48) covering those years (warning: large file, 26.2MB, high-DPI book scan, OCR-ed).


The Dominican Cardinal Tommaso de Vio Gaetani Cajetan, O.P. was a Thomist and commentator on St. Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologica.

From his Catholic Encyclopedia entry:

[T]he more serious duty of meeting Luther, then started on his career of rebellion, was assigned to him. Cajetan's theological learning and humane disposition seemed to fit him for the task of successfully treating with the proud and obstinate monk, and Protestants have admitted that in all his relations with the latter Cajetan exhibited a spirit of moderation, that did honour to his lofty character. But neither pleading, learning, nor conciliatory words availed to secure the desired submission. Luther parleyed and temporized as he had done with the Holy See itself, and finally showed the insincerity of his earlier protestations by spurning the pope and his representative alike. Some have blamed Cajetan for his failure to avert Luther's defection, but others like Hefele and Hergenröther exonerate him.

The Jesuit cardinal St. Robert Bellarmine, S.J., was a much more formidable enemy to Luther because St. Robert explicitly mentioned and refuted Luther's arguments in his De controversiis Christianæ Fidei adversus hujus temporis hæreticos (On the controversies of the Christian Faith against contemporary heretics).

cf. "Did reformation leaders throw out the Summa Theologica?"

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