On January 3, 1521, Pope Leo X excommunicated the German priest Martin Luther. This meant Luther was no longer a recognized member of the Catholic Church.
 
Months earlier, Luther had written a pamphlet criticizing many aspects of the church, including nepotism, corruption, and the sale of indulgences. Indulgences were grants that could be bought to allow the buyer to escape spiritual punishment for misdeeds. 
 
Luther had been warned that his views may lead to his excommunication, and refused to recant them. After his excommunication, the church demanded he further defend his views at a meeting in Worms, Germany—the so-called “Diet of Worms.” Luther again refused to recant, allegedly saying, “Here I stand. I can do no other.”
 
In spite of his excommunication, Luther remained very popular. His outspoken belief in reform inspired the Reformation. The Reformation split Christianity into Catholic and Protestant (taken from the word protest) denominations. Luther himself organized a new church based on his interpretation of basic Catholic traditions.
 
Today, the Lutheran church is the second-largest Protestant denomination in the world. (Only the Anglican Church has more members.) The countries with the most Lutherans are Germany, Sweden, Ethiopia, and Indonesia.
alleged
Adjective

supposed or presumed.

aspect
Noun

view or interpretation.

Catholic
Adjective

having to do with the Christian denomination with the Pope as its leader.

Christianity
Noun

religion based on the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.

corrupt
Adjective

dishonest or willing to take money for favors.

criticize
Verb

to find fault with something.

denomination
Noun

branch of a church or larger spiritual faith.

excommunicate
Verb

to cut off or expel from a church.

grant
Noun

money given to a person or group of people to carry out a specific project or program.

indulgence
Noun

temporary pardon, issued by the Catholic Church, for punishment due for a sin.

inspire
Verb

to influence to act.

interpretation
Noun

way of understanding an event or set of facts.

misdeed
Noun

illegal or immoral action.

nepotism
Noun

professional favor or preference given to family and friends.

pamphlet
Noun

short publication stapled or folded together.

pope
Noun

leader of the Catholic Church.

priest
Noun

title of religious leader in many faiths.

Protestant
Noun

Christian who is not a follower of Catholic or Orthodox faiths.

punishment
Noun

penalty inflicted for a crime or offense.

recant
Verb

to formally withdraw a statement.

reform
noun, verb

change or improvement of a policy or process.

Reformation
Noun

(16th century) religious movement to reform the Catholic Church and resulting in the formation of Protestant churches.

tradition
Noun

beliefs, customs, and cultural characteristics handed down from one generation to the next.