American Rhetoric: Movie Speech

"Luther" (2003)


Luther's Defense at the Imperial Diet of Worms

Audio mp3 principally delivered by Joseph Fiennes and Jonathan Firth


Church Litigator: Order in the hall. Order! Order!! Martin Luther, are you the author of these writings?

Luther: I am.

Church Litigator: Do you recant what you have written here?

Luther: I cannot renounce all of my works because they are not all the same. [The] first of those books in which I have described Christian faith and life so simply that even my opponents have admitted that these works are useful -- to renounce these writings would be unthinkable, for that would be to renounce accepted  Christian truths.

Girolamo Aleander: He is not here to make speeches -- only to answer.

Luther: The second group of my work is directed against the foul doctrine and evil living of the Popes, past and present.

Emperor Charles V: No!

Luther: Through the laws of the Pope and the doctrines of men, the consciences of the faithful have been miserably vexed and flayed. If I recant these books, I will do nothing but add strength to tyranny and open not just the windows but also the doors to this great ungodliness.

Girolamo Aleander: [To the Emperor] He has condemned himself.

Luther: In the third group, I have written against private persons and individuals who uphold Roman tyranny and have attack my own efforts to encourage piety to Christ. I confess that I have written too harshly. I am but a man and I can err. Only let my errors be proven by Scripture, and I will revoke my work and throw my books into the fire.

Girolamo Aleander: You have not answered the question! You, Martin Luther, will not draw into doubt those things which the Catholic Church has judged already, things that have passed into usage, rite, and observance: the faith that Christ, the Most Perfect Law Giver, ordained; the faith the martyrs strengthened with their blood. You wait in vain for a disputation over things that you are obligated to believe. Now give your answer: "Yes" or "No"?

Church Litigator: Will you recant or will you not?!

Luther: Since Your Majesty and your lordships desire a simple reply, I will answer. Unless I am convinced by Scripture and by plain Reason -- and not by Popes and Councils who have so often contradicted themselves -- my conscience is captive to the Word of God. To go against conscience is neither right nor safe. I cannot and I will not recant.

Here I stand.

I can do no other.

God help me.

Research Note 1: Click for a brief contextual history of the Trial

Research Note 2: Click for an MS Form.doc scholarly account of the actual trial

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