I am not just any ordinary person that could be found off the streets but a qualified professor who is able to think deep into certain theological issues. My purpose is to be engaged in the in-depth study of theology and generate scholarly debates. With such a credible amount of knowledge in this field of study, I should not be considered a heretic. Let me explain to you, Sir, the rationale behind my 95 Theses, which is basically my attack on the sale of indulgences. My duties as a professor of theology had led me into the serious study of the writings of the apostle Paul as well as the Psalms.
It was during this period of my preparation that I found what I had always been seeking for. Prior to this, I had always been troubled by the issue of how people’s souls could be saved. I was obsessed with religion and worried about my own salvation. I came to realize that should God save men and women through his gift of faith, what then were the used of indulgences? I came to realize that the sale of indulgences to ordinary people by papal agents constitutes a form of corruption and would be seen as detrimental to the image of the Church.
This is an important and pressing issue especially at a time when the image of the Church had been tarnished by a series of bitter fighting between the Pope and the Emperor. I do not wish to see the papal authority as being labeled a corrupt organization in the name of God. This was basically what I sought to rectify and bring to the attention of the Pope the existence of such a problem. I was appalled that papal agents are persuading credulous men and women to purchase an indulgence. These people are easily tricked by the sales techniques of indulgence sellers, believing that they could buy pardon and that their sins could hence be lessened.
I felt very strongly towards this issue and decided to make my views heard to the higher papal authorities. I had written my theses in Latin, a language of the elite and not the commoners, for I had wanted a scholarly debate over this issue. Hence, I had absolutely no intention of causing a general debate over the issue of indulgences. I had hoped for a comprehensive reform from within the church authorities. Although making my points very clear, I tried to avoid any forms of direct attack on the papal authority. My theses were written in a very respectful tone, for I wish not to offend the papal authority.
All along, I was instead targeting only John Tetzel for selling indulgences and was under the impression that the Pope had no idea of what Tetzel was doing. I had faith in the Pope that should he had known of the tricks being used to sell indulgences, he would rather let St. Peter’s fall to the ground rather than build it with such contaminated money. 9 I had never imagined in my wildest dream that the Pope would also be involved in such a controversy. It really disheartened me when I came to realize this at a much later time. I had only sent copies of the theses to my friends in Nuremburg as well as the Catholic theologian Johannes Eck.
I had never thought it would have gone out of hand. Had it not been the printing press which had swiftly printed the theses that my friends had sent them to, the issue would not have gotten out of control. I hereby declare again that I had not meant for any public or general debate over the indulgence issue. I did not wish to stir up any major controversy in the church. This was the main reason over which I chose to post my theses in Latin, for it was a language which few know of. I stress that I had intended to open a scholarly debate over this issue, since I am a professor of theology.
I suspect that my teachings had instead been used to promote certain political ends and interests by the papacy and the ambitions of Frederick the Wise. It was Albretcht of Brandenburg who had pushed the panic button and sent copies of my theses to Rome. The Inquisition, who were staffed mainly by Dominicans picked up this issue and began to investigate it. However, I felt that it was an unfair investigation for the very person whom I was attacking, John Tetzel, was a Dominican and he was allowed to join in the investigation! Naturally the Dominicans would take the side of their own people and pass a biased judgment.