There is a myth that since the time of the conversion of the Roman Empire to Christianity in 313 A. D. until the Reformation that the Catholic Church lived in relative peace. This myth is false; the Church was constantly under attack. Heresies, Islam, and other less organized pagans always had the Church busy fighting on the side of Truth.
From 300 A. D. to 600 A. D.
, the Church was affected with the heresy of Arianism. The heresy caused many men and many clergy to be led astray. After the Church’s battle with Arianism, Mohammed and his new religion, Islam, rose to power and overwhelmed most of the Orient. Islam and Christianity were at war with each other since Islam’s creation up until the Reformation. Between battles with Islam, pagans from Scandinavia and Mongols from Asia tried to battle Christian Europe, but they were less organized and easily defeated. Christian unity was incredibly strong for the first twelve hundred years of its existence because the Christians were always defending their faith against an outside opponent.
There was not time for any internal dissention, everyone got along because they had an attitude of “we” verse “them.” Since a Christian was a Christian, it didn’t matter their theology or how they lived their life, or how the Church lead its people. As long as a person was not Islamic or from another outside group, everyone got along. But, after the twelfth century, the pressure from outside forces that Christianity was fighting against diminished. With no need for strong Christian identity, heresy and dissention began to pop up throughout Christendom. For example, the Albigensian movement, they had a belief in a doctrine of a dual godhead.
Thesis: Despite the fact that there are many similarities and differences between Islam and Christianity, both religions are significant in today’s society, which is reflected in the grand number of followers each has amassed. I. Similarities between Islam and Christianity A. The “messenger” angel Gabriel B. Message delivered of one God C. Creation and Judgment D. Concept of ...
There was a good god and an evil god. This heresy spread through much of southern France before it was extinguished. After the extinguishing of the Albigensian heresy, there was a time of piece for about eighty years. From 1220 A. D.
to 1300 A. D. Europe lived in a full Catholic society. The whole of Europe was under one belief and one spiritual head. Heresy and revolt started to creep in to European society starting in the fourteenth century.
Small spiritual revolts started appearing for the first time. The most notable movements were the movement by Wycliffe and at the very end of the century the Hussite movement. Wycliffe who died in 1384 is considered the “morning star” by some Protestant historians because to some people his movement is the beginning of the Reformation. His movement though strong, was short and only affected a small part of Europe.
John Huss and the Hussites of Bohemia were another strong spiritual movement that started about almost exactly one hundred years before Martin Luther. The Hussite movement was also a strong movement, but was very nationalistic. The Bohemians joined Huss not out of theological beliefs, but out of national pride. The ground was prepared for a catastrophe by the end of the fourteenth century, but still no fatal course made the Reformation inevitable (Belloc 14).
By the time of the start of the Reformation the doctrinal novelties of Wycliffe, Huss, and others had already faded away.
Many generations had already passed by before Luther’s first protest. The two hundred years before the Reformation were not a growth in new doctrines, but the weakening of the moral authority in the temporal and spiritual organization of the Church (Belloc 15).
Though there were spiritual revolts in the fourteenth century, there were many Catholic spiritual triumphs going on at the same time. There was the rise of the great monastic Orders of St. Francis and St. Dominic and the philosophy and theology of St.
To what extent was the papacy successful in asserting its dominance over the Western Church? The extent to which the papacy asserted dominance over the Western Church has been greatly disputed amongst historians. Certain historians would argue that there is little to suggest that the pope had control from inside other than papal reform to prevent unrest and, would argue that in fact the real ...
Thomas. One of the most detrimental causes of the weakening of the papacy was the unnatural migration to Avignon. For centuries, Europe was use to the conflict between the papacy and the empire. The emperor was the head of lay power and the pope was the head of spiritual power. The papacy eventually won the battle, but at high costs. The papacy heavily taxed Europe, especially England (Belloc 16).
With the empire fallen, the papacy had full control over the temporal and spiritual fields. Since there was no supreme lay power, Europe began looking to the next highest power, which was France. With the pope now living in Avignon the papacy turned into a local power. Avignon was not technically part of the king’s dominion, but the papacy was nominally subject to the king.
The papacy became part of the French monarchy and was consumed by French nationalism. The French papacy which lasted for seventy years from 1307 to 1377 A. D. had its share of anti popes occasionally rise, but European common loyalty was always given to the pope at Avignon (Belloc 16).
The problem of Avignon and what caused the weakening of the papacy’s authority was being under the rule of the French king.
Europe was use to a supreme head of the empire. The French king did not have the name or the authority of an emperor. The French king had no more power than any other king in Europe. He had no more authority to influence the papacy than any other king. With the rise of nationalism throughout Europe, other countries felt that the papacy was French and not universal, so the full authority of the pope throughout Europe was severely weakened. To remedy the situation at Avignon the pope moved back to Rome.
The move was supposed to strengthen the power of the pope, but that did not happen. What happened next was the Great Western Schism from 1377 to 1407 A. D. The forty years of the schism permanently hurt the authority of the pope.
After the schism was settled, it still took another thirty years and the accession of Nicholas V to the papacy before power was unanimously given back to the Bishop of Rome (Belloc 18).
It was over one hundred and thirty years since the first removal of the papacy to Avignon. Until less that a lifetime before the Reformation Christendom lived under a divided and increasingly despised papacy (Belloc 18).
Religion and faith dominated virtually every aspect of life during the middle Ages. However, the Church’s influence suffered greatly during the later part of this age of faith. Many historians hold that the Medieval Church was a landmark of corruption. This view is often used to explain the decline and fall of the Church and the success of Martin Luther’s reformation. It depicts the ...
The prime condition for a united Christendom is a single, powerful head and that had disappeared. During the papacy’s time in Avignon, the Black Death tore though Christendom. One third to one half of all the clergy and religious died.
Whole monastic communities were wiped out. Bishops and their priests were all dead. The clergy and religious never fully recovered. The new clergy that were ordained were not educated, illiterate, and unfit for the position they held.
They did not have the respect for the sanctity of the office. The Black Death also caused a rise in nationalism which was not a help to the papacy at Avignon. The Black Death is the beginning of the Reformation; Europeans began to voice their disgust and anxiety about the Church. They cried for, “A Reform of Head and Church (Belloc 27).” After the Black Death came the crystallization of religion (Belloc 24).
The Church’s official life hardened out of measure.
The Church used to be elastic and fluid, the Church is a living organism. The hardening of religion was from an exaggeration of routine and precise rule. The exaggeration and precision led to many abuses in the Church. Dues and Taxes were exacted out of mere precedent. Unnecessary taxes were taken even when the use for that tax was over. The Church also suffered from plurality with the holding of two offices.
The last lifetime was a period of eighty years between the Great Schism and the Reformation (Belloc 22).
The last lifetime was a time of great mental revolution. New learning and new expanded experiences shook people’s faiths because everything they thought to be true around them was changing. Sudden new discoveries caused people to question what they believed.
A man born in 1430 and living to old age would have seen an expansion of geographical knowledge far beyond their imagination. He would have heard about the turning of the Cape of Great Hope and a new way to India, colonization all over the world, and the fact that the Earth was round. He would have seen an increase in study of ancient literature, the printing press, and growth in vernacular literature. He also would have seen a change in the art of war, in which only national governments would be able to afford, and he would have seen the last bits of feudalism being swept away. Humanism, the study of antiquity, was prevalent throughout Europe. Humanism bred contempt for the medieval past and had thoughts of a glorious future.
'Revelation, n. A famous book in which St. John the Divine concealed all that he knew. The revealing is done by the commentators, who know nothing.' 1 The book of Revelation, the only apocalypse among the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, has always occupied a marginal role within the field of Biblical interpretation. Its bizarre visions of beasts, dragons, plagues, and cataclysms have ...
Since the Church was a part of the medieval past, the humanists dreamed of a future without it. Humanism did bring about a lot of skepticism into Europeans minds. The pride of humanism was at issue with the Christian faith. Humanism’s critical examination of legends, such as the Donation of Constantine and the unauthentic Decretal’s of Mercator, which parts of it supported papal power, tangled up doctrine with legend (Belloc 23).
Humanism had no patients for truth lurking in legend. The lifetime before the Reformation also brought about an increased study of scripture.
The Old Testament, Talmud, and the Jewish arguments against the Faith were known to many. The New Testament was the test of scholarship and known by heart (Belloc 28).
Islam was also on the heels of Europe during the time before the Reformation. There was the fall of Constantinople and the conquering of Greece.
All these forces caused a breakdown in European morals. The papacy should have used this time as an example for reform and repaired its authority, but the papacy ended up losing more authority instead. The condition of the papacy worsened from 1447 to 1517 A. D.
For centuries the papacy was politically weak, but morally strong. That changed with the accession of ten popes during the last seventy years. Nine of the popes were actual significant, Pope Pius III died twenty six days into his pontificate. Nicholas V was the first pope; he was the first undisputed, un persecuted, and absolute monarchal pope.
Nicholas was a very learned, cultured man, and also very pious. Calistus II was a Spanish pope and full of the Catholic spirit. Pius II was marred by an irresponsible youth; he had illegitimate children while a priest. But, he matured into a great scholar of history. Paul II was a worldly pope, but had no grave moral offenses while pope. Sixtus IV was of poor origin.
He was not politically active and very worldly. He acted like a prince of the day. He was involved with the first great scandal, his nephew Cardinal Ria rio plotted against Florence. Innocent VIII had an illegitimate family born to him before he took Orders. The problem was that he patronized them like a royal family.
The Protestant Reformation Many ideas of the Renaissance like humanism, individualism and secularism stimulated a strong critique of the church's policy and the clergy's behaviour. Many people regarded it as a scandal that the catholic church sold indulgences. Indulgences were documents, stamped by the church which could reduce your sins. People who bought indulgences believed that this document ...
The most famous of these popes is Alexander VI who rose to power in 1492. He was the pope when the people of the Reformation were old enough to receive a lasting impression. He was pope for eleven years and in those eleven years he did all matters of harm. He was elected though bribery and wealth; he became pope by one vote, his own. Politically he was a good candidate; he helped the Jews while Chancellor of the Papal States.
The worst actions came from his son, Caesar Borgia whose only virtue was courage. Caesar was born to Alexander when Alexander was a Cardinal. Alexander had no sanctity of the office he held. Julius II and Leo X were also of not great harm, except the selling of the indulgence for building St.
Peters. Both Julius and Leo were worldly men and acted very much like Italian princes. The popes were not seen anymore as universal shepherds, but as princes of Rome. The popes failed to carry out the greatest task of Christendom at the time, the fighting of the Turks. It was not necessarily the popes’ fault though because the kings and princes throughout Europe would not listen to the pope’s call. Pius II even led a crusade himself because he couldn’t find anyone to take charge.
He ended up dying on the battle field. Four forces moved together to cause the Reformation (Belloc 34).
The first is the weakening of moral disciple of the clergy, their plurality and worldliness, lack of sexual morals, heavy taxation, and the problems of the papacy. The second is the weakening of the moral disciple of the laity particularly the rich. The rich became very greedy and would do anything to get more money. They saw the Church as having a lot of money and they wanted it.
The third force was the increased indignation at the failure of the official Church to reform. The fourth force and the strongest force was the hatred of the Catholic Faith. The church was constantly seen as restricting man always and always being in man’s life. The Church was always at issue with pride, ambition, and desire. Most importantly was the Church’s claim to absolute authority and universal moral dominion. This hatred was confined to a small few in Europe, but it was potentially present in large numbers.
The Protestant Reformation: What it was, why it happened and why it was necessary. The Protestant Reformation has been called "the most momentous upheaval in the history of Christianity." It was a parting of the ways for two large groups of Christians who differed in their approach to the worship of Christ. At the time, the Protestant reformers saw the church- the Catholic church, or the " ...
Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk is credited for starting the reformation. He visited Rome in 1510 A. D. during the pontificate of Julius II for business connected with his Order or his monastery. There is no real proof that Luther was upset at the worldliness of the papacy. He came back and taught at the University of Wittenberg and had local prominence among the Germans.
On October 31, 1517 Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church of the Castle of Wittenberg. Luther’s theses were grievances over the practice of selling indulgences. His nailing of his grievances was not an act of revolt at that time. It was common practice for scholars to nail topics for discussion on the church door.
The only difference is that Luther firmly believed in his theses. The Church’s dogma on indulgences was the same then as it is now; the merits of Saints may be applied by the Church’s authority to its people, not to the remission of sin, but to its punishment (CCC 1471).
Grave abuses in the practice of indulgences were common throughout Europe, though. There was confusion between the payment of money as alms and the payment of money as a purchase. Also, masses of men fell into accepting indulgences as a remission of sin. The most disgraceful act of the papacy concerning indulgences was the selling of an indulgence for the building of St.
Peter’s. Julius II instituted this indulgence. Leo X collaborated with the Archbishop of Mayence to sell this indulgence (Belloc 40).
The Archbishop and Leo X split the money gained from the sell of the indulgence for St. Peter’s.
The Archbishop needed the money to pay off his debts. Lots of pomp and flair was used to pressure people into buying the indulgence. Many people and clergy did not approve of this indulgence. The Cardinal of Toledo forbade the promulgation of the indulgence (Belloc 41).
The Germans also hated the indulgence for two reasons. There was friction between the old tradition of the German king and the papacy and with the rise of German nationalism; the Germans felt that the pope had become an Italian prince (Belloc 41).
This meant that the pope was no longer one with all Christendom because the pope was no longer one with Germany. The Germans were no longer one with the rest of Christendom. The Germans were ready to revolt and rebel against the authority of Rome. They saw Luther’s protest as their opportunity for rebellion. Luther suddenly found himself in the spotlight. He had no intention of this happening when he posted the theses and never wanted to leave the Church, but with the support of the Germans, he decided to go along with them.
Rome thought nothing of Luther’s protest or the grumblings in Germany. Pope Leo X saw the problem as a quarrel between two monastic Orders (Belloc 42).
The Augustinians were jealous of the Dominicans because the Dominicans were the ones selling the indulgence. Luther was called to Rome in 1518 A. D. , but he did not go.
He did not go because of health reasons; it was not an act of defiance. Irritation throughout Germany against papal power and taxation, mixed with some German nationalism demanded that Luther face his opponents on home turf. Rome accepted the situation and went to Germany. The Diet at Augsburg was set up with Rome’s main agenda being to persuade the German princes to fight against Islam. Luther was much smaller business. At the Diet, Luther was offended.
He was made to look foolish; they tricked him into denying the authority of a General Council, which could overrule a pope (Belloc 43).
Throughout 1519, Luther was still protesting his Catholicism. By the end of 1519 A. D.
, Luther went through a revolution in his mind and became an opponent of the whole church system (Belloc 44).
In 1520 A. D. the Church gave a Bull of Excommunication to Luther with sixty days to submit to Rome (Stravinskas 847).
Luther did not submit.
Luther with about five million people left the Church because of grievances over abuses and power of the Church (Lindsey 59).
The forming of the main Protestant doctrines came after the first rebellion. Sola Fide was an after thought (Belloc 49).
With the abolition of the clergy there was no one to administer the Sacraments. So only the tenants of faith that did not need a priest to perform were kept (Lindsey 51).
Sola Scripture was also a necessary doctrine because without a hierarchy to teach the people the correct interpretation of the Bible and to pass down Church Tradition personal interpretation of the Bible needed. The Reformation was a social rebellion against the old way of life; it was not spiritual revolt due to new doctrines. Corruption of clergy and humanism caused people to be skeptical of the Church that led their faith. The rise of national governments along with a strong sense of nationalism severely weakened the supreme authority of the Church. The Reformation did not continue a direct Renaissance tendency toward larger things, it deflected that tendency. It did not introduce the arts, it cramped and thwarted them.
Its last effects have not led to a society happy or stable; they have led to the society we see around us today (Belloc 6).
Belloc, Hilario How the Reformation Happened Tan Books and Publishers, Inc. Illinois 1992. Catechism of the Catholic Church Double Day. New York 1995.
Lindsey, David The Woman and the Dragon Pelican Publishing Company. Gretna 2000. O’Hare, Patrick The Facts about Luther Tan Books and Publishing, Inc. Illinois 1987. Stravinskas, Peter Catholic Encyclopedia Our Sunday Visitor Publishing.