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Were abuses the source of the Reformation?

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Introduction

Were abuses the source of the Reformation? The causes of the English reformation are much debated. Different reasons have been cited from many different corners, ranging from; a genuine call for reform and interest in Protestantism to the whole affair being due to Henry VIII's personal desires. The most common cause of the reformation offered is the assertion that the English church was in a state of disrepute and hence crumbling as a result. Here the objective is to discover if abuses were indeed the source of the English reformation, however bias is so rife on the topic, that the task becomes highly difficult. Not only primary sources contain heavy bias, "Predictably, after 1534 Henry VIII's historians... blackened the reputation of English Catholicism"1 moreover political and religious persuasions affect modern historians as well. Religiously there are two clear sides to the argument. On one side Protestants (and perhaps historians in the latter half of Henry's reign) indicate the 'innumerable' failings of the Church and its clergy as the source of the English reformation. Whilst on the other hand Catholics and others claim abuses were not a problem, and the English Reformation arose from numerous alternative factors including the infiltration of England by Protestants and Protestant propaganda. Examples of clerical abuses from the early sixteenth century are free flowing, however an appreciation for why this is so is necessary. ...read more.

Middle

Those that did were usually from within and therefore a public outcry was definitely not on the cards. Another type of anticlericalism mentioned above existed in the form of opposition to the established religion, and it is when investigating this that the Lollardy movement and other similar groups becomes important. The Lollardy movement certainly existed and certainly gave the English Bishops cause for concern. Factions such as the White Horse Tavern group from Cambridge and proof from Oxford booksellers' that Lutheran works were being sold by 1520 prove the presence of Protestant support. Theology was the original core of the these movements, whereby they rejected the notion of purgatory and thus ridding Christianity of indulgences, as Martin Luther had done in Germany.. "Lollardy undoubtedly had its scurrilous side and at times descended into little more than anticlericalism"4. This statement emphasises that the anticlerical movements were not originally concerned with anticlericalism and an attack on the church because of its abuses, (although it does imply fees were an abuse) but simply as with Luther, they were calling for reform from within the church The word 'source' literally defined means the place from which something comes. For the assertion that abuses were the source of the English reformation to be true, then one would be required to supply evidence to the effect of; as a result of abuses the reformation occurred. ...read more.

Conclusion

The abuses of the church in England were far too incomprehensible for popular opposition to the institution. Simon Fish's greatest complaint was the ignorance of the laity, in as much as it frustrated him that they could not see the abuse he could. The Anglican Church was an amazing feat by the English monarchy, and since Elizabeth I had enough time to standardise it, it has remained to the present day. The English reformation coincided loosely with the European reformation, but it was entirely independent. Paul Johnson's summation "The reformation, indeed, was a typical piece of English conservatism, conducted with the familiar mixture of muddle, deviousness, hypocrisy and ex post facto rationalisation." The important thing to realise in this investigation is that the reformation was indeed a muddle. Its driving forces were drawn from different sources at different times, from Henry, from Protestants and perhaps even from discontent with the church due to abuses. To agree with Diamard MacCulloch is perhaps the wisest of options. Her assertion that the reformation was composed by the monarchy is certainly overwhelmingly convincing, because the actuality and mechanics of the process were entirely down to the split with Rome, and then the Statutory Reformation that was ordered by the crown. If abuses are to be the source of the English reformation then let them be, but be sure to understand that it was not abuses belonging to the church and its clergy. ...read more.

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