Giovanni de Medici became Pope Leo X in 1513. He was a likable fellow. Charming, a great conversationist and tended to throw lavish parties. He paid for large festivals in Rome, held huge banquets, and undertook extensive hunting parties, some lasting months and having more than a thousand guests. Pope Leo X was talented, well read and a shrewd politician. The only problem with him was his complete lack of piety. One Catholic commentator wrote that Pope Leo X would have made a good pope if only he’d been even a little religious.
Pope Leo X was completely unprepared for what was coming his way.
On October 31, 1517 (only four years into the Pope’s reign) an unassuming German monk posted an advertisement for a debate on certain practices of the church and attached to it his position in the form of ninety-five theses, or points of argument. Martin Luther attacked the corruption and abuses of the Roman church. Pope Leo X responded like an earthly ruler and politician rather than a man of God, carefully shepherding the flock.
Luther’s desire was not to split from the church. He believed that if he appealed to the pope, the earthly leader of the Church of Jesus Christ, that the pope would clean up the church. Pope Leo X couldn’t have cared less about the spiritual health of the church. It was never Luther’s intention to split from Rome. He sought reformation from within and even offered several cease fires in the war of words and ideology. In the end it was the pope who on January 3, 1521 finally excommunicated Martin Luther. Thus the Protestant Reformation was born.
How much different history might have been if someone else had been elected pope or had Giovanni de Medici been more pious.
What Luther meant simply as an invitation to debate on certain pressing topics of his day, God used to shake the complacency out of Christianity.