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The Catholic Church was the single most powerful and influential force throughout virtually all of European history.

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Introduction

The Catholic Church was the single most powerful and influential force throughout virtually all of European history. It was the unifying factor of Europe following the collapse of the Roman Empire. Modern civilization exists, in large part, due to the efforts of the Church to civilize Europe after the settling of Europe by barbarian tribes. However significant the efforts of the Church to civilize, the Church eventually lost its purpose, and degenerated into the basest organization within Europe. The goal of the Catholic Church within Europe was to bring about a society that adhered to Christian values and morality. The Church's initial success in bringing about a more moral society was, however; almost completely negated by its later decline into the very immorality that it had combated earlier. "From the fifth to the eleventh century in western Europe lords and churchmen recognized two main goals: the conversion of pagans to Christianity and the establishment of proper order within the Christian community." (Peters, 213) The specific morals that the Church hoped to propagate throughout Europe are the basic tenants of every major faith; loyalty, truth, faith, mercy, compassion, the sanctity of life, the sanctity of property and basically being a civilized person. The missionaries roamed the wilds of Europe converting the barbarians wherever they found them teaching morality, and trying to restore the civilization that had existed under the Romans. ...read more.

Middle

(Peters, 225) Urban realized that war was necessary for these knights, as it was there sole occupation, and they would not be happy without the ability to kill someone, so Urban sent them to kill someone else rather than each other. "He appealed to a large assembly of laity and clergy to impose peace everywhere in Christian Europe and to turn Christian weapons only against infidels." (Peters, 225) And so the Crusades were born, and initially they were very successful, both in their stated goals and their underlying purpose of bringing peace to Europe. Even within the Church positive reform was taking place around the time of the Crusades. The Cistercian monks were advocating a new spiritualism that brought the Church back to its roots. "The care of souls is the art of all arts." (Peters, 108) The Cistercian's saw God as being good and gentle, rather than an angry punishing deity. "This new sense of God's affection for humanity and the obligation of interior spiritual development was largely an invention of twelfth century Cistercian writers." (Peters. 223) The Great Schism that occurred in the Church during the papacy at Avignon caused many to question the Papacy for the first time. Christians throughout Europe found themselves divided in what they believed. Many began to question what it was that made the Pope the leader of God, and also what impact the Pope had on their own souls. ...read more.

Conclusion

Indulgences were the straw that broke the camel's back. Theologians such as Martin Luther refused to accept that simply paying money could forgive one's sins. People found the tactics of men such as Johann Tetzel to be morally reprehensible. Tetzel used this phrase as his sales slogan: "As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, another soul from purgatory springs!" (Zophy, 173) The blatant sale of forgiveness was clearly not a step towards a Christian ideal. The Catholic Church had been entrusted with the civilizing and Christianizing of Europe following the collapse of the Roman Empire. From the 6th to the 11th Centuries the Church carried out the mission of converting and civilizing the people. Barbarian tribes turned into civilized nations, murders became peaceful citizens. The Church had achieved its mission as well as could be expected. But in the centuries following the Church's refusal to adapt and change to the changing environment of Renaissance Europe proved to be fatal. Christianity became a divisive instead of unifying force due to the fracture between Protestants and Catholics. If the Catholic Church had been willing to reform, it may have been able to keep Europe unified, and prevent years of religious wars that claimed thousands of lives. The Catholic Church ultimately failed to maintain its control, but its initial contribution is certainly the greatest factor in the civilizing of Europe. Knupp 1 ...read more.

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