Last Updated 06 Jul 2020

Catholic Response to Reformation

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4. What were the responses of the Catholic authorities in the 16th century to the challenges posed by the Lutheran Reformation? The demand to reform the Roman Catholic Church stretched on for ages. Many people, such as Peter Waldo, John Wycliffe, and Jan Hus criticized the church for its worldliness and believed that one didn’t need direction from the Church, but just needed to read the Bible for guidance. It was from these men that Martin Luther came to the conclusion that faith alone would lead to salvation and you didn’t need to work for it.

Martin Luther appealed to Pope Leo X to correct the abuses of the Church. When that didn’t work, he rallied the people to follow him. His beliefs spread through German states and most of Northern Europe. In response, the Catholic Church assembled the Council of Trent, which defined the Catholic religion and reformed the abuses of the Catholic Church. The Church also established the Jesuits, who spread the Catholic teachings during the Lutheran Reformation. Finally, the Church employed many policing tactics against the Lutheran Reformation.

These responses kept Catholicism a major religion in Europe. Although the conciliar movement was ended by Pope Pius II around the 1450s, the people during the Lutheran Reformation were calling for a general council of the church. Charles the V, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and King of Spain, tried to persuade the Pope to assemble a council because he hope that the church would fix some of the abuses, thus stop people from converting to Lutheranism. However, Francis I, King of France, actively promoted the Protestants in Germany, even though France is a Catholic country.

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He did this because Charles V’s land surrounded France. He wanted Germany to be in a state of argument so that it would be too weak to be a threat to France. While Francis II did this, he also used his influence in Rome to call off any assembly of a council because it would expose the flaws of the Roman Catholic Church. In time, the King of France lost and a council was called to reform the abuses of the Church and establish a statement of the Catholic religion. It began deliberations in 1545 in Trent, in the Alpine border between Germany and Italy.

The Council of Trent reaffirmed many beliefs of the Catholic religion such as it justified that faith and works led to salvation, transubstantiation, purgatory, and the celibacy of the clergy. The council of Trent also declared reforms in monastic orders. It called to correct the abuses of indulgence while at the same time upholding the principle. It also called for bishops to take more responsibilities in their administrative control over their clergy and to make sure they were properly taking care of their own duties. The Council also wanted competent men running their churches, so they set up seminaries to educate the priests.

The decrees of the Council of Trent would have been obsolete if it wasn’t from a new religious seriousness within the Catholic Church. There was much hatred toward the Roman clergy, as shown by the sack of Rome in 1527, where German and Spanish soldiers looted Rome, killed thousands, captured the Pope. Moralist began to speak and there words were heard. New popes, starting with Pope Paul III, regarded his office as a religious force to reform the church. New religious orders were founded on the basis of the new Catholic faith. The Jesuits, the most famous of these orders; it was founded by a Spaniard named St.

Ignatius Loyola. He had a religious experience in 1521, when he was a child before hearing of Luther, and wanted to become a soldier of the church. On this experience, he founded the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). Authorized by Pope Paul III in 1540, the Jesuits were an order less attached to the clergy and more actively involved in the affairs of the world. They believe the Roman Church was a divine institution, and all members had to take a pledge to obey the Pope. The Jesuits were some of the most famous educators of the Catholic world, with around 500 schools in the upper and middle classes.

They combined the faith and religious teachings of the Catholic Church with the etiquette teachings that a gentleman should have. The Jesuits also brought into their teachings the Renaissance humanism found in the Latin classics. The Jesuits were not only teachers of the Catholic religion, but they also acted as a missionary force. They recruited members from all over Europe, especially in areas that were still disputed over which religion to choose. After the initial burst of Protestantism faded, many people wanted to return to the Catholic religion, especially when the Council of Trent corrected the most obvious abuses of the Church.

The Jesuits reconverted most of these people in the areas of Germany, Bohemia, Poland, and Hungary. They also recruited from countries that already turned Protestant, like England, where their goal was to stop Queen Elizabeth I because they believed that the universal church was more important than national independence in religion. The Catholic Church not only reformed and spread its teachings across Europe, but the Church set up laws and police to enforce the Catholic religion. Many books were censored by the Catholic Church. They were trying to suppress the knowledge of “heretics”, the Protestants, from the people.

The Pope had a list published by the Pope called the Papal Index of Prohibited Books. Only individuals with special permission were able to study these books. There were many establishments that enforced the Church’s rules. None was more dreaded than the Spanish and Papal Inquisitions. Although the Spanish Inquisition was originally established to drive out the Jews and the Muslims, it was introduced to all the Spanish-ruled countries in Europe. It was employed against the Protestant movement in the Netherlands. The Papal Inquisition was established in 1514, under the Holy Office, a permanent committee of cardinals.

To Rome, it was a revival of a famous medieval tribunal for the detection and repression of heresy. Both of these Inquisitions employed torture for various tasks. Torture was used for heresy or employed on any person charged with a crime, whether it was in civil and ecclesiastical court. The Spanish Inquisition was harsher than the Papal Inquisition in terms of punishment, people were often burned alive and the Papal Inquisition was all about protecting the faith in all parts of the Catholic world. In 1560, the major powers in Europe were declared Catholic countries, like France, Spain, and Austria.

All the countries that turned to Protestantism were very small countries like the German states and the Scandinavian kingdoms in the north. The biggest Protestant nation was England, but England was still small compared to France and Spain. The reason why Protestantism did not spread is because of the tactics the Catholic Church employed against the Lutheran Reformation. The Council of Trent, the Jesuits, and the police commissions like the Inquisition all helped halt the teachings of Martin Luther and convinced the people to believe in the newer and better Catholic Church.

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