Protestant and catholic reformation essays

And forget celibacy. So European anticlericalism was nothing new; it had been seething for centuries. What was new this time round was a by-product of the infant capitalism: wealth, urbanisation and education. Whilst still a minority, the literate laity were no longer confined to those in on the game, and were better educated than many priests who claimed to be the path to salvation while taking their money in taxes. It rankled somewhat. Criticism was stepped up, at home and abroad, by the Humanists.

Led by Colet, More and Erasmus, they went back to basics, studying the Scriptures as they would any classical text. Yet they remained Catholics, attacking corruption but keen to reform from within, stressing toleration and man's inherent dignity.


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It was a depressed German cleric, Martin Luther, who lit the fuse for the first, European, Reformation. Provided no comfort by Catholic ritual and horrified by abuses in Italy, he concluded that salvation was a personal matter between God and man: traditional church ceremonial was irrelevant at best and at its worst - the sale of indulgences, for example - fraudulent. Nailing his 95 Theses to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany, he prompted massive theological debate and was condemned as a heretic and an outlaw. It is one of history's great ironies that the man who publicly refuted him was none other than Henry VIII, rewarded with the title of Fidei Defensor - Defender of the Faith - in But it was too late.

Luther's ideas were white hot and they spread fast. They soon reached England and were discussed by academics here, most notably the White Horse Group who were named after a Cambridge pub where scholars would meet, drank and put the world to rights. Some things don't change. So England by the mid s was hearing grumbles of lay dissatisfaction, grumbles that remained.

Catholicism addressed many important needs and enjoyed general popular support.

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An introduction to the Protestant Reformation

Even though the grumblers could point to Europe as a lead, the same situation existed in France, yet that remained Catholic. What France didn't have was a Defender of the Faith; it didn't have a Henry. King since , England's Renaissance Man lacked but one thing in his life - a son. Catherine of Aragon had produced six children but only a daughter, Mary, survived. Henry had become convinced that God was punishing him for marrying the wife of his dead elder brother, Arthur. He had also become infatuated with Anne Boleyn, daughter of a well-connected London merchant whose family he knew well: her sister had been a mistress.

No beauty but no fool, Anne insisted that she be Queen or nothing. Henry was keen. He was also married. It was his search for a solution that triggered the break from Rome.

The Protestant Reformation

Unsurprisingly, Charles was unsympathetic to Henry's requests, which meant the Pope had to be as well. Henry had to find another way. This meant that the Pope's jurisdiction was illegal: if Henry wanted a divorce, he could have it, as long as the Archbishop of Canterbury agreed.

But William Warham didn't. Henry applied some pressure, charging the clergy with Praemunire, the unlawful exercise of spiritual jurisdiction.

The Protestant Reformation and human rights – The Immanent Frame

In they had capitulated, and the next year a new Act asserted England's judicial independence. By now, matters were pressing: Anne was pregnant. Henry had to marry for the child to be legitimate. Luckily, Warham had just died. Henry replaced him with Cranmer and the divorce came through within months. But the Reformation was far from over. The Protestant Anne Boleyn had the motivation, the power and the intelligence to push reform as far as it would go. She also had the means: Cranmer and Cromwell. In the Orwellian atmosphere of the Tudor state, Cranmer was the thought, Cromwell the police.

In terms of tone and style, Reformation propaganda, while sometimes serious in tone, was often satirical, featuring word-play and sarcasm. In this it developed earlier medieval traditions of religious satire. Johanne Chrysostomo. The Reformation messages were very controversial and were frequently banned in a number of Catholic cities. The use of pamphlets became the primary method of spreading Protestant ideas and doctrine.

Pamphlets took little time to produce and they could be printed and sold quickly making them harder to track down by the authorities and thus making them a very effective method of propaganda. The sheer number of pamphlets produced during this time period indicates that Protestant works during the Reformation were available on a consistent basis and on a large scale, making the controversial ideas accessible to the masses.

The Protestant Reformation: AP Euro Bit by Bit #12

This is one of the reasons that the Protestants were successful in their propaganda campaign and in the Reformation. The dissension of the Reformers was not welcomed by Roman Catholics who called this behaviour and the works of the Protestant Propagandists heretical. The majority of Roman Catholics believed that Church matters should not be discussed with lay people , but kept behind closed doors.

An example of a reactive propaganda campaign publicized by Roman Catholics was with regards to the Peasants War of The propagandists blamed the Peasants War, and all the turmoil caused by it, on Luther. Many leading Roman Catholic writers believed that had Luther not written his heretical works, the violence caused by the Peasants War would not have occurred. Unlike the Protestants who targeted the masses through printed works in the vernacular of the people, Roman Catholic propagandists targeted influential people such as priests who preached to their congregations on a weekly basis.


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  • Thus with fewer works they reached large Catholic audiences. Although the Roman Catholic propagandists did put forth some effective propaganda campaigns, primarily the campaign against Luther regarding the Peasants War, they neglected to get their message across to the general public.

    They failed to capitalize in the ways that the Protestant propagandists were able to; they did not commonly produce works in the vernacular of the people, which had been an effective tactic for Protestants. Also Roman Catholic publications, either in German or Latin, produced during the reformation years were greatly outnumbered by the Protestants. There were a number of Protestant reformers who played a role in the success of Protestant propaganda, such as Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt , Urbanus Rhegius , and Philipp Melanchthon. The single most influential person was Martin Luther.

    It is estimated that Luther's works had over printings with re-printings by , and he continued to write until the time of his death in Luther's use of the language of the people was one of the primary ideas of the Reformation. He believed in the "Priesthood of All Believers", that every person was a priest in their own right and could take control of their own faith.

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    Luther produced other works: sermons, which were read in Churches around the Empire; translations of the Bible, primarily the New Testament written in German; doctrine on how to conduct oneself within the church and society; and a multitude of letters and treatises. Often Luther wrote in response to others who had criticized his works or asked for clarification or justification on an issue. Catholic propagandists were not initially as successful as the Protestants were, but included several noteworthy figures: Johannes Cochlaeus , Hieronymus Emser , Georg Witzel , and John Eck who wrote in defense of Catholicism and against Luther and Protestantism.

    There is nothing wrong with having theological convictions but historical scholarship should proceed according to the norms of the historical profession. All of the above indicates some dissatisfaction with the contemporary historiography of Reformation Europe. How might it be improved? For starters, it remains unclear why we call this era the Reformation. Such an assertion might puzzle some people, but allow me to explain. Consequently, Martin Luther should never be treated as the axis around which Reformation history turns.

    Does it not make far more sense to see the schisms that came after Luther in the context of the schisms that happened in the century before him? Does it not make far more sense to read the Augsburg Confession in the context of the 15th-century conciliar literature that it so freely cited?

    These questions need not be rhetorical, and for historians or early modern Europe, they should not be. I fear that the secular historiography of the Reformation has retained the diachronic organizational markers of confessional hagiography while rejecting only the explicitly apologetic aims of the latter. The resolution to this problem is not a retreat into intra-confessional historiography, but a willingness to rethink the entire interpretive framework that we have received and which we retain. Centenaries should be used for something more than the restatement of old, if endearing, mythologies.

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    The Protestant Reformation - a review article. Reviewer: Professor Benjamin M. Guyer University of Tennessee Martin. Citation: Professor Benjamin M. Guyer, review of The Protestant Reformation - a review article , review no. Eire elucidates that Despite much wrangling, most historians have agreed for five centuries about when and where one such epochal shift took place. Conclusion All of the above indicates some dissatisfaction with the contemporary historiography of Reformation Europe.

    Rublack, pp. Back to 6 Ibid. Back to 7 Ibid. Back to 9 Ibid. Back to 10 Ibid. Back to 11 Ibid. Back to 12 Ibid. Back to 13 Ibid. Back to 14 Ibid. Back to 16 Ibid. Back to 18 Ibid.

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