There was much hullabaloo over a London Times story this week over the purported ‘Vatican” rehabilitation of Martin Luther of all people. The Times suggests that the Vatican will issue a formal statement and the end of an informal conference declaring that Luther was not, in fact, a heretic. Ummm, I don’t think so. Phil Lawler has two words for those who might be inclined to believe the Times, Caveat Emptor.

( – “Pope Benedict is to rehabilitate Martin Luther,” announces reporter Richard Owen in the eye-catching opening phrase of his story in the London Times.

Reports that appear in the Times often find their way into other news stories. That is unfortunate, because the Times has a track record of sensational and misleading coverage of Vatican affairs. This story provides one more example.

Here are the facts that Owens supplies:

* In the Ratzinger Schülerkreis, the informal seminar that Pope Benedict holds each year with his former theology students, the topic for discussion at this year’s August session will be Luther’s teaching and influence.
* Cardinal Walter Kasper (bio – news) says: “We have much to learn from Luther, beginning with the importance he attached to the Word of God.”

Can one logically conclude, from those two facts, that the Pope will “rehabilitate” Luther? No; not even close.

Cardinal Kasper certainly must be taken seriously. As president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity he plays a key role in ecumenical dialogue. But Richard Owen is not reporting on an initiative taken by Kasper’s office; he says that the Pope will issue a statement at the conclusion of an informal seminar.

Ordinarily these summer seminars do not result in formal statements, much less papal policy statements. Yet the Times story leads readers to believe that this year’s session will end with a very important declaration of Church teaching. Moreover, several months before the conversation between the Pope and his old students even begins, Owen tells us what conclusions that seminar will reach.

Owen cites “Vatican insiders” to buttress his prediction that Pope Benedict will find Luther innocent of heresy. But who are these insiders, and where is the evidence for their remarkable prediction? You won’t find those questions answered in the Times story.

Apparently there are lies, damned lies, and the London Times.

Read the rest here.