Religious Conflicts: Reformation and Counter-Reformation

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Change and religious conflicts. Reformation and Counter-Reformation

The causes of the Reformation

  • Disdain for the papacy and clergy: People believed that popes were concerned with their own interests; bishops lived a life of luxury and didn't reside in their dioceses; lower-ranking clergy lacked education, didn't preach and failed to set a moral example; and religious orders didn't adhere to the established rules.
  • The abuses of the Church: Nepotism, favouritism by the high-ranking clergy towards members of their own family when allocating ecclesiastic positions; nicolaism, marriage practiced by priests; simony, the sale of ecclesiastic posts. Pope, bishops and cardinals sold forgiveness for sins to whoever bought a document of indulgences.

Reforms and reformers

The Lutheran Reformation

In Germany, Martin Luther rejected the sale of indulgences by Pope Leo X to pay for the building work being undertaken at the Vatican. In 1517, Luther displayed his '95 theses against the sale of indulgences'. The pope condemned and excommunicated Luther. Lutheranism was based on justification by faith and a free interpretation of the bible. Luther rejected papal infallibility, accepted only two of the sacraments (Baptism and the Eucharist), suppressed the cult of the Virgin Mary and the saints, and simplified the liturgy. Lutheran doctrine spread through German states and central and northern Europe.

The Calvinist Reformation

The Calvinist doctrine was preached by John Calvin from 1536 in Geneva (Switzerland). It was based on predestination, according to which people are destined by God to be saved or condemned. This doctrine was popular amongst the bourgeoisie of the Netherlands, Switzerland, Scotland, France and Puritans in England.

The Anglican Reformation

The Anglican doctrine emerged in England. In 1534, King Henry VIII declared himself head of the Church of England requesting for a divorce from his wife, Catherine of Aragon.

The Catholic Counter-Reformation

  • The Council of Trent (1545-1563): Was created by Pope Paul III, and it defined Catholic doctrine.
  • The Society of Jesus: It was founded by Saint Ignatius of Loyola in 1540.

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