Roman Catholic Church: The Reformation and Counter Reformation

The Reformation and Counter Reformation

The 15th-century councils did little for reform, and the popes, shorn of power, were reduced to being Renaissance princes. Such men could not cope with the Protestant revolt of Martin Luther and John Calvin (see also Reformation). The Protestants aimed to restore primitive Christianity (as described in the Bible), and they succeeded in weakening the hold of the church in all of N Europe, in Great Britain, and in parts of Central Europe and Switzerland. Politics and religion were completely intertwined (as in England, Scotland, and France); hence the admixture of religious issues in the Thirty Years War.

Within the church there triumphed the most extensive of all the church's reform movements (see Counter Reformation; Jesus, Society of). From it sprang a general revival of religion and much missionary activity in the new empires of Spain and Portugal and in East Asia. In France, Catholicism found new life, beginning with St. Francis de Sales and St. Vincent de Paul. There, too, began the cult of the Sacred Heart (i.e., God's love for men), which would affect Catholic prayer everywhere. A contrary influence was Jansenism (see under Jansen, Cornelis), an antisacramental middle-class movement.

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