Reformation and Counter ReformationThe protestant Reformation was a cry for reform that sought to do exactly what its titleimplies - reform the Catholic church. The protestants (protesters) were protesting thevarious abuses of Church power and wealth and certain nonreligious activities thathad crept into this powerful, respected and aged institution during the preceding .centuries. The abuses that the reformers complained about were many: the lowerclergy were ignorant of Latin and theology; some were incapable of conducting Mass:priests and popes lived with mistresses and fathered illegitimate children despite theirvow of chastity and celibacy; high-level clergy ignored their vows of poverty and actedas members of the secular nobility of Europe by living in huge houses, acquiring greattreasures, eating fine foods" and collecting great art treasures; and Church officeswere regularly bought and sold instead of being bestowed upon the most qualifiedclergyman.
These calls for reform by protesters were not new. Several important clergymen andNorthern European humanists had already been calling for the Church to make thereforms needed to keep the Church in its position of power and influence. Girolamo.Savonarola, a Dominican friar in Florence (1452 - 1498) was one of the more vocal of 'these reformers.
22. When the devil sees that a man is weak, he strikes him with a hatchet in order to make bim faDinto sin; but if he sees that he is strong. he then strikes him with an axe. If a young girl bemodest and well brought up, he throws some dissipated youth in her way, and causes her toyield to his flatteries and fall into sin., Thus the devil strikes her with his axe. Here is acitizen of good repute; he enters the courts of the great lords, and there is the axe so wellsharpened that no virtue can resist its strokes. But we are now living in still more evil days;the devil has called his followers together, and they have dealt terrible blows on the -very gatesof the temple. It is by the gates that the house is entered, and it is the .prelates who shon1dlead the faithful into the Church of Christ Therefore the devil hath aimed his heaviest: ~lowsat them, and hath broken down these gates. Thus it is that no more good prelates are to befound in the Church. Seest thou not that they do all things amiss? They have no judgement;they cannot distinguish inter bonum et malum, inter nerum et falsum, .inter dulce et amarum;good things they deem evil, true things false. sweet things bitter. and vice versa ... '. See bowin these days prelates and preachers are chained to the earth by love of earthly things; thecure of souls is no longer their concern; they are content with the receipt of revenue; thepreachers preach for the pleasure of princes, to be praised and magnified by them. ... Andthey have done even worse than this. inasmuch as they have not only destroyed the Chmch ofGod, but built up another after their own fashion. This is the new Church, no longer built ofliving rock, namely, of Christians dry as tinder for the fires of hell. . .. Go thou to Rome and'throughout Christendom; in the mansions of the great prelates and great lords there.is noconcern save for poetry and the oratorical art Go thither and see, thou shalt find them allwith books of the humanities in their hands, and telling one another that they can guidemen's souls by means of Vergil, Horace, Cicero. Wouldst thou see how the Church is ruled bythe hands of astrologers? And there is no prelate nor great lord that hath not intimatedealings with some astrologers, who fixeth the hour and the moment in which he is to ride outor undertake some piece of business. For these great lords venture not to stir a step save attheir astrologer'S bidding. . ..
But in this temple of theirs there is one thing that delighteth us much. That is that all thereinis painted and gilded Thus our Church has many fine outer ceremonies for thesolemnization. of ecclesiastical rites, grand vestments and numerous draperies, with gold and
silver candlesticks, and so many chalices that it is a majestic sight to behold. There thou seestthe great prelates with splendid mitres of gold and precious stones on their heads, the silvercrosiers in hand; there they stand at the altar, decked with fine copes and stoles of brocade,chanting those beautiful vespers and masses, very slowly, and with so many grand ceremonies,so many organs and choristers, that thou art struck with amazement; and all these priests seeto thee grave and saintly men, thou canst not believe that they may be in error, but deem thatall which they say and do should be obeyed even as the Gospel; and thus is our Churchconducted. Men feed upon these vanities and rejoice in these pomps, and say that the Churchof Christ was never so flourishing, nor divine worship so well conducted as at present ...likewise that the first prelates were inferior to these of their own times.
Savonarola's call for change brought him to a position of power in Florence during thelate 15th century AD, but it also cost him his life because a fearful and corrupt papacyand Florentine nobility considered his reforms to be too extreme as well as achallenge to their authority. Another early reformer was the European humanistDesiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam. He was a devout member of the Catholic Churchwho believed the Church had strayed from its religious purpose. His call for reform didnot come through public preaching as had Savonarola's. Instead he wrote severalbooks which pointed out the abuses of the Church. In his most famous work, ThePraise of Folly, he takes the clergy to task for a variety of offenses, among them beinga lavish lifestyle, a lack of religious education, and a violation of the basic vows of thepriesthood - poverty, chastity, and obedience.
Savonarola's and Erasmus' calls for reform were basically ineffectual. Few changeswere made within the Church. This failure to change brought about a great amount offrustration to a young monk named Martin Luther. His frustration led him to post hisfamous Ninety-Five Theses on the door of a church in Wittenburg, Germany. Hisgreatest frustration was with the selling of papal indulgences, an indulgence being aform of "grace" which freed one or the deceased from sin and kept people out of hellafter their life on earth. Martin believed that one could not buy salvation, yet ~e sawhis Church selling it.
23. Excerpts from Luther's Ninety-Five Theses
4. The penalty for sin remains as long as the hatred of self, that is, true inner repentance.until our entrance into the kingdom of heaven.
S. The pope neither desires nor is able to remit any penalties except those imposed byhis own authority or that of the canons.
6. The pope cannot remit any guilt except by declaring and showing that it has beenremitted by God; or, to be sure. by remitting guilt in cases reserved to hisjudgement ...
20. Therefore the pope, when he uses the words "plenary remission of all penalties,"does not actually mean "all penalties," but only those imposed by himself.
21. Thus those indulgence preachers are in error who say that a man is absolved fromevery penalty and saved by papal indulgences. . .. 23. . If remission of all penalties whatsoever could be granted to anyone at all. certainly itwould be granted only to the most perfect, that is to very few. ...
They preach only human doctrine who say that as soon as the money clinks into themoney chest, the soul flies out of purgatory. . ..35. They who teach that contrition is not necessary on the part of those who intend to buy
souls out of purgatory or to buy confessional privileges preach unchristiandoctrines. . ..
50. Chri-stians are to be taught that if the pope knew the exactions of the indulgencepreachers, he would rather that the basilica of St. Peter were burned to ashes than builtwith the skin, flesh, and bones of his sheep. ...
As the Protestant Reformation developed into a major movement, some of theliterature and essays produced by the reformers took on the tone of the idealisticliterature of the Renaissance. The ideal religious community and the ideal communityfrom a religious point of view became very common topics.
24. The Governing of the Ideal Protestant community
Marriage. drinking. swearing. and gossiping: Public adulterers are to be executed. chronicdrunks drowned, nonjudicial and blasphemous swearing punished by beating. andgossipers to receive public reprimands.
Gaming: All gaming is to be conducted in public. Adults are permitted limited gambling.Youth, however. are forbidden to play cards or dice for money, although they may forbrief periods play chess for eggs.Dancing: Mixed public dancing is permitted for three hours one afternoon a week. Marriedmen and women may dance only with their spouses or relatives, and propriety indress, motion, and song are to be observed.
Entrance into marriage: As already stated in the religious ordinances, there are to be noimpediments to marriage beyond those cited in the law of Moses. The clergy musteither have legitimate wives or live alone (that is, concubinage is prohibited).
Local government: Every city is to have a thirty-member council, with the count actingasmayor Forts are to have a fifteen-member council. with the baron as mayor
Merchants and trade: Merchants and trade are to be carefully regulated. All profiteering andmonopolistic trade are abolished. No more than three companies are permitted to bein one place. Local products are to be protected by bans on imported wine, cloth,and produce.
Food, drink, and the necessities of life: All varieties of food and drink are permitted to allpersons at all times, save fastdays, and the clergy may not deny them to the laity. Wildgame and fish are free, and wood may, as needed, be cut by all.