The Catholic Reformation

By Michael A. Mullett | Go to book overview

2

The Council of Trent and the Catholic Reformation

Coming to prominence first as a monastic reformer, Luther extended his range to take in the wider issue of the reform of the Church at large, to restore it, as Atkinson writes, to ‘its original character and message, to offer re-formatio to that which had suffered de-formatio…Luther protested as a Catholic within the Catholic Church…He wanted his Church to be truly and fully Catholic and to take within itself the pure Gospel’. Hendrix adds that for Luther during the second decade of the sixteenth century the Roman Church was the ‘chief part’ of the Church whose faith would not fail. He castigated laxity in the Church, as he did in his own order, but ‘none of Luther’s criticism impugned the authority of the Roman hierarchy or the authority of the pope himself. Luther’s criticism was not revolutionary’. Nevertheless, between 1505 and 1518 Luther discovered in Scripture, in the Epistles of St Paul and above all in Romans, Chapter 8, that Christians were made acceptable to God, forgiven and made just—‘justified’ — not by their own pious practices and good works but solely through the merits won by Christ’s saving death on the cross. Therefore, with increasing urgency Luther demanded a theological reformatio by which the Church, eliminating its trust in what Luther saw as human devices, including indulgences, would affirm with Luther the truths he had found in St Paul. The 95 Theses of October 1517 should be seen as Luther’s call to the Church to reaffirm a Pauline soteriology of justification by the merits of Christ, received in faith. Seeking to bring the entire Church round to this position, Luther sent his supplement to the 95 Theses to Pope Leo X. However, since it was difficult, if not impossible, to reconcile Luther’s Pauline soteriology of justification by faith alone with the Catholic Church’s routines which rested on assumptions that men and women were saved in part by their own efforts supported by the Sacraments and other procedures of the Church, Luther’s severance from Catholicism was basically unavoidable. Certain circumstances leading to the separation of Luther and the Catholic Church could, perhaps, have worked out otherwise than they did: Luther’s orthodox polemical foes, Johann Tetzel (1465-1519) and Johannes Maier von Eck (1486-1543), were determined to arraign him; the primate of Germany, Albrecht von Hohenzollern (1490-1545), dealt extensively in indulgences and had a vested interest in suppressing Luther’s protest against them. The theological concerns, though, were those of fundamentals rather than of circumstances

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The Catholic Reformation
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • 1 - ‘reform in Head and Members’ 1
  • 2 - The Council of Trent and the Catholic Reformation 29
  • 3 - New Religious Orders 69
  • 4 - The Papacy and the Episcopate of the Catholic Reformation 111
  • 5 - The Impact of the Catholic Reformation 142
  • 6 - The Catholic Reformation and the People 175
  • 7 - The Catholic Reformation and the Arts 196
  • Notes 215
  • Index 247
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