Before there was the Counter-Reformation there was the Reformation. The Reformation is when Martin Luther thought that the Catholic Church had it all mistaken. He believed salvation was a free gift of God through faith alone, and could not be earned by doing good deeds, as the Catholic Church taught. Luther felt the Catholic Church had gone astray and had succumbed to corruption and false teaching. He sought to make this known and reform the Church. I think by Luther starting his religious revolution he actually helped the Catholic church in the long run.
What he probably thought would happen is that the church would finally be united under one correct vision. However, what transpired was a major separation of Western Christianity. Supporters of Luther (called Protestants) separated from the Catholic Church. Martin Luther didn’t know it but he initiated a major revolution. With that revolution arose chaos, anarchy, and destruction. The Reformation led to well-known uprisings of the lower classes against the aristocracy and Church authorizations.
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If you happened to Catholic, your way of life was turned upside down. Looting, protesting, and killings were everywhere around you. What we forget to see as protestants now were that life was very hard and scary for Catholics during this time. We tend to forget the effect it had negatively on the people at the time. The German Peasants’ War was a mass revolt of peasants and lower-class Germans against the aristocracy that took place throughout 1524 and 1525. Many historians regard the conflict as starting from the Protestant Reformation. As you could guess this was not a very good time for Catholics.
How would the Catholic Church respond to all of these problems? The answer was the Counter-Reformation. You know how in checkers,(or any other board game that takes strategy) if an opponent move, you “counter” his or her move by a move of your own. The Counter-Reformation was a period of Catholic revival between 1545-1648. During this time, the Catholic Church was forced to do think about the image and ideas their church was formed on. They were forced to rethink some of their main ideas. During the Counter-Reformation, the Catholic Church developed policies and practices which led to a spiritual renewal and a resurgence of Catholic influence.
The beginning of the Council of Trent is believed the start date of the Counter-Reformation. The Council of Trent was an imperative church council held in the Italian city of Trent between 1545-1563. It took so long to commence because of all the wars and revolts the church had to deal with. The council met in order to simplify and properly announce the Catholic response to the Protestant Reformation. Little did they know that this meeting would change the image of the Catholic church for years to come.
Summoned by Pope Paul III, and supervised over by two other Popes, the council reached a number of decisions. It denounced the teachings of Martin Luther and his followers while indorsing the Catholic principle that salvation came through faith and good works. It avowed the Catholic Church was the definitive interpreter of Scripture and made the Latin Vulgate the official Catholic Bible. In summary, the Council of Trent changed the ideas and image of the church, mostly for the better. If it was not for Luther the Catholic Church may never change from the negative ideas and principles that started from the resistance.