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In what ways did the Roman Catholic Church confront the threat of Protestantism?

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Introduction

In what ways did the Roman Catholic Church confront the threat of Protestantism? It was generally felt throughout the 1500's that the Catholic Church was corrupt. The papacy were criticised for abusing their authority and setting a poor example to the laity and the clergy. Pluralism and absenteeism was rife among the secular clerics. The regular clergy, such as monks and nuns, were predominantly landowners and were more interested in managing their estates than serving their community. Teaching, pastoral care and standards of morality had been lost. The laity also paid taxes to the church and the clergy enjoyed unfair privileges, such as the canon law, which allowed them to endure less severe sentences than in the common law courts. Their attitudes caused a lot of opposition to the Catholic Church, in particular Martin Luther, the leader of the protestant reformation. Luther began to become influential as Protestantism became more popular and some states began to adopt it as their primary religion. Luther was excommunicated in January 1521 after being condemned by the Pope and given sixty days to recant, which he did not. To many popes reform of the Church was not seen as a priority until 1527. This was under Clement VII. ...read more.

Middle

The Jesuits, a new order that had been established prior to the reformation, are sometimes described as 'the spearhead of the counter reformation'. Ignatius Loyola, the leader of the Society of Jesus, gained an education for his personal betterment and because he believed it would help him to proceed with is missionary work. The initial aim of the Jesuits was to work within the world trying to convert Muslims in the holy land. It becomes clear here that they are a part of the Catholic Reformation. By 1615 the society had 13000 members. It was allowed to grow to this size because all of the Jesuits made a vow of obedience to Paul and his successors. The Jesuits soon realised that to gain authority and control they needed to gain support of the rich and powerful. They achieved this using their spiritual exercises. These involved several weeks of retreat and religious revitalisation giving participants a feeling of inner well-being. Many people with social distinction throughout Europe became Jesuit sympathisers. They used their flexibility to 'pass[ing] over things of a bad complexion, so as to win sympathy and further [their] good purpose'. The same methods were used with the Protestants. 'Whoever desires to become useful to the heretics of this age must be solicitous to bear them much charity and to love ...read more.

Conclusion

They became a reformed, respected and unchallenged institution. As a result of the Tridentine decrees the church became more assured and positive and no longer felt the need to react so firmly to the challenge of Protestantism. Trent defined the Catholic doctrine clearly and unequivocably, and initiated important reforms for the future. The effective implementation of the decrees rested with future popes, churchmen and secular rulers and progress varied from country to country. For example, Philip of Spain endorsed decrees in 1564 and encouraged reform. France, on the contrary, was beset with the civil war and only in the late seventeenth century were the decrees registered and the reforms begun. At the Peace of Augsburg in 1555, the diet agreed on 'Culus Regio, Eius Religio'. This meant that the princes could decide on the religion in their area. Even though this is an official recognition of Protestantism, success can be seen through it. Some states converted back to Catholicism (e.g. Bohemia, Styria and Swabia). The traditional Catholic states, Bavaria, Spain and Italy, were strengthened. The states threatened by Calvinism remained Catholic (Poland, Hungary and Austria). Most of France and the Netherlands also stayed Catholic. Even though, the Catholic Church did not manage to reverse Protestantism the Reformation helped them to save themselves from destruction and achieve improvements that had been intended even before the threat of Luther. ...read more.

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