Counter-Reformation

Catholic political and religious response to the Protestant Reformation

The Counter-Reformation was a movement within the Roman Catholic Church. Its main aim was to reform and improve it.

It started in the 1500s. Its first period is called the Catholic Reformation. It had many features. They covered the following five areas:

  1. Doctrine (ideology)
  2. Ecclesiastical or Structural Reconfiguration
  3. Religious orders
  4. Spiritual Movements
  5. Political Dimensions

The Counter-Reformation began after Martin Luther's reformation, which led to the many Protestant Churches. That was the Protestant Reformation. In reaction to it, the Catholics made great efforts to correct abuses and to spread Catholic faith. They reaffirmed some points of faith that the Protestants' objections had put in danger. These included the validity of the seven sacraments. The Protestants had reduced the sacraments to only two, Baptism and the Eucharist. The Catholic understanding of the mass was also re-affirmed. The Protestants had denied the doctrine of transubstantiation. This made the mass of less importance for Salvation.

In other issues, the Catholics effectively accepted some of the Protestant complaints. Penance became a private confession and repentance from sin instead of outward actions. This served to correct the corrupt practice of selling forgiveness. This type of forgiveness, called Indulgence was the immediate cause of Luther's protests against abuses in the Catholic church. As a result of the Counter-Reformation, other abuses, such as Simony were also greatly curtailed. Thus the Protestant movement served not only to create new expressions of the Christian faith, but also to correct problems in the Catholic church which led to its revitalization. As a result of the Counter-reformation many Catholic missionaries, such as the Jesuits went all over the world spreading the Christian faith. The Congregation of the Holy Office of the Inquisition was also created, to revitalize the work of suppressing heresy.

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