The usual term for the religious movement which made its appearance in Western Europe in the sixteenth century, and which, while ostensibly aiming at an internal renewal of the Church, really led to a great revolt against it, and an abandonment of the principal Christian beliefs. We shall review the general characteristics of this movement from the following standpoints:
- Causes of the Reformation
- Original ideas and purposes of the Reformers
- Methods of spreading the Reformation
- Spread of the Reformation in the various countries
- Different forms of the Reformation
- Results and consequences of the Reformation.
Causes of the Reformation
The causes of the great religious revolt of the sixteenth century must be sought as far back as the fourteenth. The doctrine of the Church, it is true, had remained pure; saintly lives were yet frequent in all parts of Europe, and the numerous beneficient medieval institutions of the Church continued their course uninterruptedly. Whatever unhappy conditions existed were largely due to civil and profane influences or to the exercise of authority by ecclesiastics in civil spheres; they did not obtain everywhere with equal intensity, nor did they always occur simultaneous in the same country. Ecclesiastical and religious life exhibited in many places vigour and variety; works of education and charity abounded; religious art in all its forms had a living force; domestic missionaries were many and influential; pious and edifying literature was common and appreciated. Gradually, however, and largely owing to the variously hostile spirit of the civil powers, fostered and heightened by several elements of the new order, there grew up in many parts of Europe political and social conditions which hampered the free reformatory activities of the Church, and favoured the bold and unscrupulous, who seized a unique opportunity to let loose all the forces of heresy and schism so long held in check by the harmonious action of the ecclesiastical and civil authorities.
Since the barbarian invasions the Church had effected a complete transformation and revival of the races of Western Europe, and a glorious development of religious and intellectual life. The papacy had become the powerful centre of the family of Christian nations, and as such had for centuries, in union with the episcopate and the clergy, displayed a most beneficent activity. With the ecclesiastical organization fully developed, it came to pass that the activities of the governing ecclesiastical bodies were no longer confined to the ecclesiastical domain, but affected almost every sphere of popular life. Gradually a regrettable worldliness manifested itself in many high ecclesiastics. Their chief object to guide man to his eternal goal claimed too seldom their attention, and worldly activities became in too many cases the chief interest. Political power, material possessions, privileged position in public life, the defence of ancient historical rights, earthly interests of various kinds were only too often the chief aim of many of the higher clergy. Pastoral solicitude, the specifically religious and ecclesiastical aim, fell largely into the background, notwithstanding various spirited and successful attempts to rectify the existing evils.
Closely connected with the above were various abuses in the lives of the clergy and the people. In the Papal Curia political interests and a worldly life were often prominent. Many bishops and abbots (especially in countries where they were also territorial princes) bore themselves as secular rulers rather than as servants of the Church. Many members of cathedral chapters and other beneficed ecclesiastics were chiefly concerned with their income and how to increase it, especially by uniting several prebends (even episcopal sees) in the hands of one person, who thus enjoyed a larger income and greater power. Luxury prevailed widely among the higher clergy, while the lower clergy were often oppressed. The scientific and ascetic training of the clergy left much to be desired, the moral standard of many being very low, and the practice of celibacy not everywhere observed. Not less serious was the condition of many monasteries of men, and even of women (which were often homes for the unmarried daughters of the nobility). The former prestige of the clergy had thus suffered greatly, and its members were in many places regarded with scorn. As to the Christian people itself, in numerous districts ignorance, superstition, religious indifference, and immorality were rife. Nevertheless, vigorous efforts to revive life were made in most lands, and side by side with this moral decay appear numerous examples of sincere and upright Christian life. Such efforts, however, were too often confined to limited circles. From the fourteenth century the demand for "reform of head and members" (reformatio in capite et in membris) had been voiced with ever-increasing energy by serious and discerning men, but the same cry was taken up also by many who had no real desire for a religious renewal, wishing merely to reform others but not themselves, and seeking only their own interests. This call for reformation of head and members, discussed in many writings and in conversation with insistence on existing and often exaggerated abuses, tended necessarily to lower the clergy still more in the eyes of the people, especially as the councils of the fifteenth century, though largely occupied with attempts at reformation, did not succeed in accomplishing it extensively or permanently.
The authority of the Holy See had also been seriously impaired, partly through the fault of some of its occupants and partly through that of the secular princes. The pope's removal to Avignon in the fourteenth century was a grievous error, since the universal character of the papacy was thus obscured in the minds of the Christian people. Certain phases of the quarrel with Louis the Bavarian and with the Franciscan Spirituals clearly indicate a decline of the papal power. The severest blow was dealt by the disastrous papal schism (1378-1418) which familiarized Western Christians with the idea that war might be made, with all spiritual and material weapons, against one whom many other Christians regarded as the only lawful pope. After the restoration of unity, the attempted reforms of the Papal Curia were not thorough. Humanism and the ideals of the Renaissance were zealously cultivated in Rome, and unfortunately the heathen tendencies of this movement, so opposed to the Christian moral law, affected too profoundly the life of many higher ecclesiastics, so that worldly ideas, luxury, and immorality rapidly gained ground at the centre of ecclesiastical life. When ecclesiastical authority grew weak at the fountain-head, it necessarily decayed elsewhere. There were also serious administrative abuses in the Papal Curia. The ever-increasing centralization of ecclesiastical administration had brought it about that far too many ecclesiastical benefices in all parts of Christendom were conferred at Rome, while in the granting of them the personal interests of the petitioner, rather than the spiritual needs of the faithful, were too often considered. The various kinds of reservation had also become a grievous abuse. Dissatisfaction was felt widely among the clergy at the many taxes imposed by the Curia on the incumbents of ecclesiastical benefices. From the fourteenth century these taxes called forth loud complaints. In proportion as the papal authority lost the respect of many, resentment grew against both the Curia and the Papacy. The reform councils of the fifteenth century, instead of improving the situation, weakened still more the highest ecclesiastical authority by reason of their anti-papal tendencies and measures.
In princes and governments there had meanwhile developed a national consciousness, purely temporal and to a great extent hostile to the Church; the evil powers interfered more frequently in ecclesiastical matters, and the direct influence exercised by laymen on the domestic administration of the Church rapidly increased. In the course of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries arose the modern concept of the State. During the preceding period many matters of a secular or mixed nature had been regulated or managed by the Church, in keeping with the historical development of European society. With the growing self-consciousness of the State, the secular governments sought to control all matters that fell within their competence, which course, although in large measure justifiable, was new and offensive, and thus led to frequent collisions between Church and State. The State, moreover, owing to the close historical connection between the ecclesiastical and secular orders, encroached on the ecclesiastical domain. During the course of the Western Schism (1378-1418) opposing popes sought the support of the civil powers, and thus gave the latter abundant occasion to interfere in purely ecclesiastical affairs. Again, to strengthen their authority in the face of anti-papal tendencies, the popes of the fifteenth century made at various times certain concessions to the civil authorities, so that the latter came to regard ecclesiastical affairs as within their domain. For the future the Church was to be, not superordinate, but subordinate to the civil power, and was increasingly menaced with complete subjection. According as national self-consciousness developed in the various countries of Europe, the sense of the unity and interdependence of the Christian family of nations grew weaker. Jealousy between nations increased, selfishness gained ground, the rift between politics and Christian morality and religion grew wider, and discontent and perilous revolutionary tendencies spread rapidly among the people. Love of wealth was meanwhile given a great incentive by the discovery of the New World, the rapid development of commerce, and the new prosperity of the cities. In public life a many-sided and intense activity revealed itself, foreshadowing a new era and inclining the popular mind to changes in the hitherto undivided province of religion.
The Renaissance and Humanism partly introduced and greatly fostered these conditions. Love of luxury was soon associated with the revival of the art and literature of Graeco-Roman paganism. The Christian religious ideal was to a great extent lost sight of; higher intellectual culture, previously confined in great measure to the clergy, but now common among the laity, assumed a secular character, and in only too many cases fostered actively and practically a pagan spirit, pagan morality and views. A crude materialism obtained among the higher classes of society and in the educated world, characterized by a gross love of pleasure, a desire for gain, and a voluptuousness of life diametrically opposed to Christian morality. Only a faint interest in the supernatural life survived. The new art of printing made it possible to disseminate widely the works of pagan authors and of their humanistic imitators. Immoral poems and romances, biting satires on ecclesiastical persons and institutions, revolutionary works and songs, were circulated in all directions and wrought immense harm. As Humanism grew, it waged violent war against the Scholasticism of the time. The traditional theological method had greatly degenerated owing to the finical, hair-splitting manner of treating theological questions, and a solid and thorough treatment of theology had unhappily disappeared from many schools and writings. The Humanists cultivated new methods, and based theology on the Bible and the study of the Fathers, an essentially good movement which might have renewed the study of theology, if properly developed. But the violence of the Humanists, their exaggerated attacks on Scholasticism, and the frequent obscurity of their teaching aroused strong opposition from the representative Scholastics. The new movement, however, had won the sympathy of the lay world and of the section of the clergy devoted to Humanism. The danger was only too imminent that the reform would not be confined to theological methods but would reach the content of ecclesiastical dogma, and would find widespread support in humanistic circles.
The soil was thus ready for the growth of revolutionary movements in the religious sphere. Many grave warnings were indeed uttered, indicating the approaching danger and urging a fundamental reform of the actual evil conditions. Much had been effected in this direction by the reform movement in various religious orders and by the apostolic efforts of zealous individuals. But a general renewal of ecclesiastical life and a uniform improvement of evil conditions, beginning with Rome itself, the centre of the Church, were not promptly undertaken, and soon it needed only an external impulse to precipitate a revolution, which was to cut off from the unity of the Church great territories of Central and almost all Northern Europe.
Original ideas and purposes of the reformers
The first impulse to secession was supplied by the opposition of Luther in Germany and of Zwingli in German Switzerland to the promulgation by Leo X of an indulgence for contributions towards the building of the new St. Peter's at Rome. For a long time it had been customary for the popes to grant indulgences for buildings of public utility (e.g. bridges). In such cases the true doctrine of indulgences as a remission of the punishment due to sin (not of guilt of sin) had been always upheld, and the necessary conditions (especially the obligation of a contrite confession to obtain absolution from sin) always inculcated. But the almsgiving for a good object, prescribed only as a good work supplementary to the chief conditions for the gaining of the indulgence, was often prominently emphasized. The indulgence commissaries sought to collect as much money as possible in connexion with the indulgence. Indeed, frequently since the Western Schism the spiritual needs of the people did not receive as much consideration as a motive for promulgating an indulgence, as the need of the good object by promoting which the indulgence was to be gained, and the consequent need of obtaining alms for this purpose. The war against the Turks and other crises, the erection of churches and monasteries, and numerous other causes led to the granting of indulgences in the fifteenth century. The consequent abuses were heightened by the fact that secular rulers frequently forbade the promulgation of indulgences within their territories, consenting only on condition that a portion of the receipts should be given to them. In practice, therefore, and in the public mind the promulgation of indulgences took on an economic aspect, and, as they were frequent, many came to regard them as an oppressive tax. Vainly did earnest men raise their voices against this abuse, which aroused no little bitterness against the ecclesiastical order and particularly the Papal Curia. The promulgation of indulgences for the new St. Peter's furnished Luther with an opportunity to attack indulgences in general, and this attack was the immediate occasion of the Reformation in Germany. A little later the same motive led Zwingli to put forth his erroneous teachings, thereby inaugurating the Reformation in German Switzerland. Both declared that they were attacking only the abuses of indulgences; however, they soon taught doctrine in many ways contrary to the teaching of the Church.
The great applause which Luther received on his first appearance, both in humanistic circles and among some theologians and some of the earnest-minded laity, was due to the dissatisfaction with the existing abuses. His own erroneous views and the influence of a portion of his followers very soon drove Luther into rebellion against ecclesiastical authority as such, and eventually led him into open apostasy and schism. His chief original supporters were among the Humanists, the immoral clergy, and the lower grades of the landed nobility imbued with revolutionary tendencies. It was soon evident that he meant to subvert all the fundamental institutions of the Church. Beginning by proclaiming the false doctrine of "justification by faith alone", he later rejected all supernatural remedies (especially the sacraments and the Mass), denied the meritoriousness of good works (thus condemning monastic vows and Christian asceticism in general), and finally rejected the institution of a genuine hierarchical priesthood (especially the papacy) in the Church. His doctrine of the Bible as the sole rule of faith, with rejection of all ecclesiastical authority, established subjectivism in matters of faith. By this revolutionary assault Luther forfeited the support of many serious persons indisposed to break with the Church but on the other hand won over all the anti-ecclesiastical elements, including numerous monks and nuns who left the monasteries to break their vows, and many priests who espoused his cause with the intention of marrying. The support of his sovereign, Frederick of Saxony, was of great importance. Very soon secular princes and municipal magistrates made the Reformation a pretext for arbitrary interference in purely ecclesiastical and religious affairs, for appropriating ecclesiastical property and disposing of it at pleasure, and for deciding what faith their subjects should accept. Some followers of Luther went to even greater extremes. The Anabaptists and the "Iconoclasts" revealed the extremest possibilities of the principles advocated by Luther, while in the Peasants' War the most oppressed elements of German society put into practice the doctrine of the reformer. Ecclesiastical affairs were now reorganized on the basis of the new teachings; henceforth the secular power is ever more clearly the supreme judge in purely religious matters, and completely disregards any independent ecclesiastical authority.
A second centre of the Reformation was established by Zwingli at Zurich. Though he differed in many particulars from Luther, and was much more radical than the latter in his transformation of the ceremonial of the Mass, the aims of his followers were identical with those of the Lutherans. Political considerations played a great role in the development of Zwinglianism, and the magistracy of Zurich, after a majority of its members had declared for Zwingli, became a zealous promoter of the Reformation. Arbitrary decrees were issued by the magistrates concerning ecclesiastical organization; the councillors who remained true to the Catholic Faith were expelled from the council, and Catholic services were forbidden in the city. The city and the canton of Zurich were reformed by the civil authorities according to the ideas of Zwingli. Other parts of German Switzerland experienced a similar fate. French Switzerland developed later its own peculiar Reformation; this was organized at Geneva by Calvin. Calvinism is distinguished from Lutheranism and Zwinglianism by a more rigid and consistent form of doctrine and by the strictness of its moral precepts, which regulate the whole domestic and public life of the citizen. The ecclesiastical organization of Calvin was declared a fundamental law of the Republic of Geneva, and the authorities gave their entire support to the reformer in the establishment of his new court of morals. Calvin's word was the highest authority, and he tolerated no contradiction of his views or regulations. Calvinism was introduced into Geneva and the surrounding country by violence. Catholic priests were banished, and the people oppressed and compelled to attend Calvinistic sermons.
In England the origin of the Reformation was entirely different. Here the sensual and tyrannical Henry VIII, with the support of Thomas Cranmer, whom the king made the Archbishop of Canterbury, severed his country from ecclesiastical unity because the pope, as the true guardian of the Divine law, refused to recognize the invalid marriage of the king with Anne Boleyn during the lifetime of his lawful wife. Renouncing obedience to the pope, the despotic monarch constituted himself supreme judge even in ecclesiastical affairs; the opposition of such good men as Thomas More and John Fisher was overcome in blood. The king wished, however, to retain unchanged both the doctrines of the Church and the ecclesiastical hierarchy, and caused a series of doctrines and institutions rejected by Luther and his followers to be strictly proscribed by Act of Parliament (Six Articles) under the pain of death. In England also the civil power constituted itself supreme judge in matters of faith, and laid the foundation for further arbitrary religious innovations. Under the following sovereign, Edward VI (1547-53), the Protestant party gained the upper hand, and thenceforth began to promote the Reformation in England according to the principles of Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin. Here also force was employed to spread the new doctrines. This last effort of the Reformation movement was practically confined to England (see ANGLICANISM).
Method of spreading the Reformation
In the choice of means for extending the Reformation its founders and supporters were not fastidious, availing themselves of any factor which could further their movement.
Denunciation of real and supposed abuses in religious and ecclesiastical life was, especially at the beginning, one of the chief methods employed by the reformers to promote their designs. By this means they won over many who were dissatisfied with existing conditions, and were ready to support any movement that promised a change. But it was especially the widespread hatred of Rome and of the members of the hierarchy, fostered by the incessantly repeated and only too often justifiable complaints about abuses, that most efficiently favoured the reformers, who very soon violently attacked the papal authority, recognizing in it the supreme guardian of the Catholic Faith. Hence the multitude of lampoons, often most vulgar, against the pope, the bishops, and in general against all representatives of ecclesiastical authority. These pamphlets were circulated everywhere among the people, and thereby respect for authority was still more violently shaken. Painters prepared shameless and degrading caricatures of the pope, the clergy, and the monks, to illustrate the text of hostile pamphlets. Waged with every possible weapon (even the most reprehensible), this warfare against the representatives of the Church, as the supposed originators of all ecclesiastical abuses, prepared the way for the reception of the Reformation. A distinction was no longer drawn between temporary and corrigible abuses and fundamental supernatural Christian truths; together with the abuses, important ecclesiastical institutions, resting on Divine foundation were simultaneously abolished.
Advantage was also taken of the divisions existing in many places between the ecclesiastical and civil authorities. The development of the State, in its modern form, among the Christian peoples of the West gave rise to many disputes between the clergy and laity, between bishops and the cities, between monasteries and the territorial lords. When the reformers withdrew from the clergy all authority, especially all influence in civil affairs, they enabled the princes and municipal authorities to end these long-pending strifes to their own advantage by arbitrarily arrogating to themselves all disputed rights, banishing the hierarchy whose rights they usurped, and then establishing by their own authority a completely new ecclesiastical organization. The Reformed clergy thus possessed from the beginning only such rights as the civil authorities were pleased to assign them. Consequently the Reformed national Churches were completely subject to the civil authorities, and the Reformers, who had entrusted to the civil power the actual execution of their principles, had now no means of ridding themselves of this servitude.
In the course of centuries an immense number of foundations had been made for religious, charitable, and educational objects, and had been provided with rich material resources. Churches, monasteries, hospitals, and schools had often great incomes and extensive possessions, which aroused the envy of secular rulers. The Reformation enabled the latter to secularize this vast ecclesiastical wealth, since the leaders of the Reformation constantly inveighed against the centralization of such riches in the hands of the clergy. The princes and municipal authorities were thus invited to seize ecclesiastical property, and employ it for their own purposes. Ecclesiastical principalities, which were entrusted to the incumbents only as ecclesiastical persons for administration and usufruct, were, in defiance of actual law, by exclusion of the incumbents, transformed into secular principalities. In this way the Reformers succeeded in depriving the Church of the temporal wealth provided for its many needs, and in diverting the same to their own advantage.
Human emotions, to which the Reformers appealed in the most various ways, were another means of spreading the Reformation. The very ideas which these innovators defended Christian freedom, license of thought, the right and capacity of each individual to found his own faith on the Bible, and other similar principles were very seductive for many. The abolition of religious institutions which acted as a curb on sinful human nature (confession, penance, fasting, abstinence, vows) attracted the lascivious and frivolous. The warfare against the religious orders, against virginity and celibacy, against the practices of a higher Christian life, won for the Reformation a great number of those who, without a serious vocation, had embraced the religious life from purely human and worldly motives, and who wished to be rid of obligations towards God which had grown burdensome, and to be free to gratify their sensual cravings. This they could do the more easily, as the confiscation of the property of the Churches and monasteries rendered it possible to provide for the material advancement of ex-monks and ex-nuns, and of priests who apostasized. In the innumerable writings and pamphlets intended for the people the Reformers made it their frequent endeavour to excite the basest human instincts. Against the pope, the Roman Curia, and the bishops, priests, monks, and nuns who had remained true to their Catholic convictions, the most incredible lampoons and libels were disseminated. In language of the utmost coarseness Catholic doctrines and institutions were distorted and ridiculed. Among the lower, mostly uneducated, and abandoned elements of the population, the baser passions and instincts were stimulated and pressed into the service of the Reformation.
At first many bishops displayed great apathy towards the Reformers, attaching to the new movement no importance; its chiefs were thus given a longer time to spread their doctrines. Even later, many worldly-inclined bishops, though remaining true to the Church, were very lax in combating heresy and in employing the proper means to prevent its further advance. The same might be said of the parochial clergy, who were to a great extent ignorant and indifferent, and looked on idly at the defection of the people. The Reformers, on the other hand, displayed the greatest zeal for their cause. Leaving no means unused by word and pen, by constant intercourse with similarly minded persons, by popular eloquence, which the leaders of the Reformation were especially skilled in employing, by sermons and popular writings appealing to the weaknesses of the popular character, by inciting the fanaticism of the masses, in short by clever and zealous utilization of every opportunity and opening that presented itself, they proved their ardour for the spread of their doctrines. Meanwhile they proceeded with great astuteness, purported to adhere strictly to the essential truths of the Catholic Faith, retained at first many of the external ceremonies of Catholic worship, and declared their intention of abolishing only things resting on human invention, seeking thus to deceive the people concerning the real objects of their activity. They found indeed many pious and zealous opponents in the ranks of the regular and secular clergy, but the great need, especially at the beginning, was a universally organized and systematically conducted resistance to this false reformation.
Many new institutions introduced by the Reformers flattered the multitude e.g. the reception of the chalice by the whole people, the use of the vernacular at Divine service, the popular religious hymns used during services, the reading of the Bible, the denial of the essential difference between clergy and laity. In this category may be included doctrines which had an attraction for many e.g. justification by faith alone without reference to good works, the denial of freedom of will, which furnished an excuse for moral lapses, personal certainty of salvation in faith (i.e. subjective confidence in the merits of Christ), the universal priesthood, which seemed to give all a direct share in sacerdotal functions and ecclesiastical administration.
Finally, one of the chief means employed in promoting the spread of the Reformation was the use of violence by the princes and the municipal authorities. Priests who remained Catholic were expelled and replaced by adherents of the new doctrine, and the people were compelled to attend the new services. The faithful adherents of the Church were variously persecuted, and the civil authorities saw to it that the faith of the descendants of those who had strongly opposed the Reformation was gradually sapped. In many places the people were severed from the Church by brutal violence; elsewhere to deceive the people the ruse was employed of retaining the Catholic rite outwardly for a long time, and prescribing for the reformed clergy the ecclesiastical ecclesiastical vestments of the Catholic worship. The history of the Reformation shows incontestably that the civil power was the chief factor in spreading it in all lands, and that in the last analysis it was not religious, but dynastic, political, and social interests which proved decisive. Add to this that the princes and municipal magistrates who had joined the Reformers tyrannized grossly over the consciences of their subjects and burghers. All must accept the religion prescribed by the civil ruler. The principle "Cuius regio, illius et religio" (Religion goes with the land) is an outgrowth of the Reformation, and was by it and its adherents, wherever they possessed the necessary power, put into practice.
Spread of the Reformation in the various countries
Germany and German Switzerland
The Reformation was inaugurated in Germany when Luther affixed his celebrated theses to the doors of the church at Wittenberg, 31 October, 1517. From the consequences of papal excommunication and the imperial ban Luther was protected by Elector Frederick of Saxony, his territorial sovereign. While outwardly adopting a neutral attitude, the latter encouraged the formation of Lutheran communities within his domains, after Luther had returned to Wittenberg and resumed there the leadership of the reform movement, in opposition to the Anabaptists. It was Luther who introduced the arbitrary regulations for Divine worship and religious functions; in accordance with these, Lutheran communities were established, whereby an organized heretical body was opposed to the Catholic Church. Among the other German princes who early associated themselves with Luther and seconded his efforts were:
- John of Saxony (the brother of Frederick);
- Grand-Master Albert of Prussia, who converted the lands of his order into a secular duchy, becoming its hereditary lord on accepting Lutheranism;
- Dukes Henry and Albert of Mecklenburg;
- Count Albert of Mansfield;
- Count Edzard of East Friesland;
- Landgrave Philip of Hesse, who declared definitively for the Reformation after 1524.
Meanwhile in several German imperial cities the reform movement was initiated by followers of Luther especially in Ulm, Augsburg, Nuremburg, Nördlingen, Strasburg, Constance, Mainz, Erfurt, Zwickau, Magdeburg, Frankfort-on-the-Main, and Bremen. The Lutheran princes formed the Alliance of Torgau on 4 May, 1526, for their common defence. By their appearance at the Diet of Speyer in 1526 they secured the adoption of the resolution that, with respect to the Edict of Worms against Luther and his erroneous doctrine, each might adopt such attitude as he could answer for before God and emperor. Liberty to introduce the Reformation into their territories was thus granted to the territorial rulers. The Catholic estates became discouraged, while the Lutheran princes grew ever more extravagant in their demands. Even the entirely moderate decrees of the Diet of Speyer (1529) drew a protest from the Lutheran and Reformed estates.
The negotiations at the Diet of Augsburg (1530), at which the estates rejecting the Catholic faith elaborated their creed (Augsburg Confession), showed that the restoration of religious unity was not to be effected. The Reformation extended wider and wider, both Lutheranism and Zwinglianism being introduced into other German territories. Besides the above-mentioned principalities and cities, it had made its way by 1530 into the principalities of Bayreuth, Ansbach, Anhalt, and Brunswick-Lunenburg, and in the next few years into Pomerania, Jülich-Cleve, and Wurtemberg. In Silesia and the duchy of Liegnitz the Reformation also made great strides. In 1531 the Smalkaldic League, an offensive and defensive alliance, was concluded between the Protestant princes and cities. Especially after its renewal (1535) this league was joined by other cities and princes who had espoused the Reformation, e.g. Count Palatine Rupert of Zweibrücken, Count William of Nassau, the cities of Augsburg, Kempten, Hamburg, and others. Further negotiations and discussions between the religious parties were instituted with a view to ending the schism, but without success. Among the methods adopted by the Protestants in spreading the Reformation force was ever more freely employed. The Diocese of Naumburg-Zeitz becoming vacant, Elector John Frederick of Saxony installed by force in the see the Lutheran preacher Nicholas Amsdorf (instead of the cathedral provost, Julius von Pflug, chosen by the chapter) and himself undertook the secular government. Duke Henry of Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel was exiled in 1542, and the Reformation introduced into his domains by force. In Cologne itself the Reformation was very nearly established by force. Some ecclesiastical princes proved delinquent, taking no measures against the innovations that spread daily in widening circles. Into Pfalz-Neuburg and the towns of Halberstadt, Halle, etc., the Reformation found entrance. The collapse of the Smalkaldic League (1547) somewhat stemmed the progress of the Reformation: Julius von Pflug was installed in his diocese of Naumburg, Duke Henry of Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel recovered his lands, and Hermann von Wied had to resign the Diocese of Cologne, where the Catholic Faith was thus maintained.
The formula of union established by the Diet of Augsburg in 1547-48 (Augsburg Interim) did not succeed in its object, although introduced into many Protestant territories. Meanwhile the treachery of Prince Moritz of Saxony, who made a secret treaty with Henry II of France, Germany's enemy, and formed a confederation with the Protestant princes William of Hesse, John Albert of Mecklenburg, and Albert of Brandenburg, to make war on the emperor and empire, broke the power of the emperor. At the suggestion of Charles, King Ferdinand convened the Diet of Augsburg in 1555, at which, after long negotiations, the compact known as the Religious Peace of Augsburg was concluded. This pact contained the following provisions in its twenty-two paragraphs:
- between the Catholic imperial estates and those of the Augsburg Confession (the Zwinglians were not considered in the treaty) peace and harmony was to be observed;
- no estate of the empire was to compel another estate or its subjects to change religion, nor was it to make war on such on account of religion;
- should an ecclesiastical dignitary espouse the Augsburg Confession, he was to lose his ecclesiastical dignity with all offices and emoluments connected with it, without prejudice, however, to his honour and private possession. Against this ecclesiastical proviso the Lutheran estates protested:
- the holders of the Augsburg Confession were to be left in possession of all ecclesiastical property which they had held since the beginning of the Reformation; after 1555 neither party might seize anything from the other;
- until the conclusion of peace between the contending religious bodies (to be effected at the approaching Diet of Ratisbon) the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Catholic hierarchy was suspended in the territories of the Augsburg Confession;
- should any conflict arise between the parties concerning land or rights, an attempt must first be made to settle such disputes by arbitration;
- no imperial estate might protect the subjects of another estate from the authorities;
- every citizen of the Empire had the right of choosing either of the two recognized religions and of practising it in another territory without loss of rights, honour, or property (without prejudice, however, to the rights of the territorial lord over his peasantry);
- this peace was to include the free knights and the free cities of the empire, and the imperial courts had to be guided exactly by its provisions;
- oaths might be administered either in the name of God or of His Holy Gospel.
By this peace the religious schism in the German Empire was definitively established; henceforth the Catholic and Protestant estates are opposing camps. Almost all Germany, from the Netherlands frontier in the west to the Polish frontier in the east, the territory of the Teutonic Order in Prussia, Central Germany with the exception of the greater part of the western portion, and (in South Germany) Wurtemburg, Ansbach, Pfalz-Zweibrucken, and other small domains, with numerous free cities, had espoused the Lutheran. Moreover, in the south and southeast, which remained prevailingly Catholic, it found more or less numerous supporters. Calvinism also spread fairly widely.
But the Peace of Augsburg failed to secure the harmony hoped for. In defiance of its express provisions, A series of ecclesiastical principalities (2 archbishoprics, 12 bishoprics, and numerous abbeys) were reformed and secularized before the beginning of the seventeenth century. The Catholic League was formed for the protection of Catholic interests, and to offset the Protestant Union. The Thirty Years' War soon followed, a struggle most ominous for Germany, since it surrendered the country to its enemies from the west and north, and destroyed the power, wealth, and influence of the German Empire. The Peace of Westphalia, concluded in 1648 with France at Munster and with Sweden at Osnabrück, confirmed definitely the status of religious schism in Germany, placed both the Calvinists and the Reformed on the same footing as the Lutherans, and granted the estates immediately subject to the emperor the right of introducing the Reformation. Henceforth territorial sovereigns could compel their subjects to adopt a given religion, subject to the recognition of the independence of those who in 1624 enjoyed the right to hold their own religious services. State Absolutism in religious matters had now attained its highest development in Germany.
In German Switzerland a similar course was pursued. After Zurich had accepted and forcibly introduced the Reformation, Basle followed its example. In Basle John Œcolampadius and Wolfgang Capito associated themselves with Zwingli, spread his teaching, and won a victory for the new faith. The Catholic members of the Great Council were expelled. Similar results followed in Appenzell Outer Rhodes, Schaffhausen, and Glarus. After long hesitation, the Reformation was accepted also at Berne, where an apostate Carthusian, Franz Kolb, with Johann and Berthold Haller, preached Zwinglianism; all the monasteries were suppressed, and great violence was exercised to force Zwinglianism upon the people of the territory. St. Gall, where Joachim Vadianus preached, and a great portion of Graubunden also adopted the innovations. Throughout the empire Zwinglianism was a strong rival of Lutheranism, and a violent conflict between the two confessions began, despite constant negotiations for union. Attempts were not wanting in Switzerland to terminate the unhappy religious division. In May, 1526, a great religious disputation was held at Baden, the Catholics being represented by Eck, Johann Faber, and Murner, and the Reformed by Œcolampadius and Berthold Haller. The result was favourable to the Catholics; most of the representatives of the estates present declared against the Reformation, and writings of Luther and Zwingli were prohibited. This aroused the opposition of the Reformed estates. In 1527 Zurich formed an alliance with Constance; Basle, Bern, and other Reformed estates joined the Confederacy in 1528. In self-defence the Catholic estates formed an alliance in 1529 for the protection of the true faith within their territories. In the resulting war the Catholic estates gained a victory at Kappel, and Zwingli was slain on the battlefield. Zurich and Berne were granted peace on condition that no place should disturb another on account of religion, and that Catholic services might be freely held in the common territories. The Catholic Faith was restored in certain districts of Glarus and Appenzell; the Abbey of St. Gall was restored to the abbot, though the town remained Reformed. In Zurich, Basle, Berne, and Schaffhausen, however, the Catholics were unable to secure their rights. The Swiss Reformers soon composed formal statements of their beliefs; especially noteworthy were the First Helvetic Confession (Confessio Helvetica I), composed by Bullinger, Myconius, Grynaeus, and others (1536), and the Second Confession composed by Bullinger in 1564 (Confessio Helvetica II); the latter was adopted in most Reformed territories of the Zwinglian type.
The northern kingdoms: Denmark, Norway and Sweden
The Lutheran Reformation found an early entrance into Denmark, Norway (then united to Denmark), and Sweden. Its introduction was primarily due to royal influence. King Christian II of Denmark (1513-23) welcomed the Reformation as a means of weakening the nobility and especially the clergy (who possessed extensive property) and thereby extending the power of the throne. His first attempt to spread the teaching of Master Martin Luther in 1520 met with little success: the barons and prelates soon deposed him for tyranny, and in his place elected his uncle Duke Frederick of Schleswig and Holstein. The latter, who was a secret follower of Lutheranism, deceived the bishops and nobility, and swore at his coronation in 1523 to maintain the Catholic Religion. Seated on the throne, however, he favoured the Reformers, especially the preacher Hans Tausen. At the Diet of Odensee in 1527 he granted freedom of religion to the Reformers, permitted the clergy to marry, and reserved to the king the confirmation of 11 episcopal appointments. Lutheranism was spread by violent means, and the faithful adherents of the Catholic religion were oppressed. His son, Christian III who had already "reformed" Holstein, threw into prison the Danish bishops who protested against his succession, and courted the support of the barons. With the exception of Bishop Ronow of Roskilde, who died in prison (1544), all the bishops agreed to resign and to refrain from opposing the new doctrine, whereupon they were set at liberty and their property was restored to them. All the priests who opposed the Reformation were expelled, the monasteries suppressed, and the Reformation introduced everywhere by force. In 1537 Luther's companion Johann Bugenhagen (Pomeranus) was summoned from Wittenberg to Denmark to establish the Reformation in accordance with the ideas of Luther. At the Diet of Copenhagen in 1546 the last rights of the Catholics were withdrawn; right of inheritance and eligibility for any office were denied them, and Catholic priests were forbidden to reside in the country under penalty of death.
In Norway Archbishop Olaus of Trondhjem apostatized to Lutheranism, but was compelled to leave the country, as a supporter of the deposed king, Christian II. With the aid of the Danish nobility Christian III introduced the Reformation into Norway by force. Iceland resisted longer royal absolutism and the religious innovations. The unflinching Bishop of Holum, Jon Arason, was beheaded, and the Reformation spread rapidly after 1551. Some externals of the Catholic period were retained the title of bishop and to some extent the liturgical vestments and forms of worship.
Into Sweden also the Reformation was introduced for political reasons by the secular ruler. Gustavus Vasa, who had been given to Christian II of Denmark in 1520 as a hostage and had escaped to Lubeck, there became acquainted with the Lutheran teaching and recognized the services it could render him. Returning to Sweden, he became the first imperial chancellor, and, after being elected king on the deposition of Christian II in Denmark, attempted to convert Sweden into a hereditary monarchy, but had to yield to the opposition of the clergy and nobility. The Reformation helped him to attain his desire, although its introduction was difficult on account of the great fidelity of the people to the Catholic Faith. He appointed to high positions two Swedes, the brothers Olaf and Lorenz Peterson, who had studied at Wittenberg and had accepted Luther's teaching; one was appointed court chaplain at Stockholm and the other professor at Upsala. Both laboured in secret for the spread of Lutheranism, and won many adherents, including the archdeacon Lorenz Anderson, whom the king thereupon named his chancellor. In his dealings with Pope Adrian VI and his legates the king simulated the greatest fidelity to the Church, while he was giving ever-increased support to religious innovations. The Dominicans, who offered a strong opposition to his designs, were banished from the kingdom, and the bishops who resisted were subjected to all kinds of oppression. After a religious disputation at the University of Upsala the king assigned the victory to Olaf Peterson and proceeded to Lutheranize the university, to confiscate ecclesiastical property, and to employ every means to compel the clergy to accept the new doctrine. A popular rebellion gave him an opportunity of accusing the Catholic bishops of high treason, and in 1527 the Archbishop of Upsala and the Bishop of Westraes were executed. Many ecclesiastics acceded to the wishes of the king; others resisted and had to endure violent persecution, an heroic resistance being offered by the nuns of Wadstena. After the Diet of Westraes in 1527 great concessions were made to the king through fear of fresh subjection to the Danes, especially the right of confiscating church property, of ecclesiastical appointments and removals, etc. Some of the nobles were soon won over to the king's side, when it was made optional to take back all the goods donated to the Church by one's ancestors sine 1453. Clerical celibacy was abolished, and the vernacular introduced into Divine service. The king constituted himself supreme authority in religious matters, and severed the country from Catholic unity. The Synod of Orebro (1529) completed the Reformation, although most of the external rites, the images in the churches, the liturgical vestments, and the titles of archbishop and bishop were retained. Later (1544) Gustavus Vasa made the title to the throne hereditary in his family. The numerous risings directed against him and his innovations were put down with bloody violence. At a later period arose other great religious contests, likewise of a political character.
Calvinism also spread to some extent, and Eric XIV (1560-68) endeavoured to promote it. He was, however, dethroned by the nobility for his tyranny, and his brother John III (1568-92) named king. The latter restored the Catholic Faith and tried to restore the land to the unity of the Church. But on the death of his first wife, the zealous Catholic Princess Katherina, his ardour declined in the face of numerous difficulties, and his second wife favoured Lutheranism. On John's death his son Sigismund, already King of Poland and thoroughly Catholic in sentiment, became King of Sweden. However, his uncle Duke Charles, the chancellor of the kingdom, gave energetic support to the Reformation, and the Augsburg Confession was introduced at the National Synod of Upsala in 1593. Against the chancellor and the Swedish nobility Sigismund found himself powerless; finally (1600) he was deposed as an apostate from the "true doctrine", and Charles was appointed king. Gustavus Adolphus (1611-32), Charles' son, used the Reformation to increase the power of Sweden by his campaigns. The Reformation was then successfully enforced throughout Sweden.
France and French Switzerland
In certain humanistic circles in France there originated at an early date a movement favourable to the Reformation. The centre of this movement was Meaux, where Bishop Guillaume Briconnet favoured the humanistic and mystic ideas, and where Professor Lefèvre d'Etaples, W. Farel, and J. de Clerc, humanists with Lutheran tendencies, taught. However, the Court, the university, and the Parlement opposed the religious innovations, and the Lutheran community of Meaux was dissolved. More important centres of the Reformation were found in the South, where the Waldensians had prepared the soil. Here public riots occurred during which images of Christ and the saints were destroyed. The parlements in most cases took energetic measures against the innovators, although in certain quarters the latter found protectors especially Margaret of Valois, sister of King Francis I and wife of Henry d'Albret, King of Navarre. The leaders of the Reformation in Germany sought to win over King Francis I, for political reasons an ally of the Protestant German princes; the king, however, remained true to the Church, and suppressed the reform movements throughout his land. In the southeast districts, especially in Provence and Dauphine, the supporters of the new doctrines increased through the efforts of Reformers from Switzerland and Strasburg, until finally the desecration and plundering of churches compelled the king to take energetic steps against them. After Calvinism had established itself in Geneva, its influence grew rapidly in French reform circles. Calvin appeared at Paris as defender of the new religious movement in 1533, dedicated to the French king in 1536 his "Institutiones Christianae Religionis", and went to Geneva in the same year. Expelled from Geneva, he returned in 1541, and began there the final establishment of his religious organization. Geneva, with its academy inaugurated by Calvin, was a leading centre of the Reformation and affected principally France. Pierre le Clerc established the first Calvinistic community at Paris; other communities were established at Lyons, Orléans, Angers, and Rouen, repressive measures proving of little avail. Bishop Jacques Spifamius of Nevers lapsed into Calvinism, and in 1559 Paris witnessed the assembly of a general synod of French Reformers, which adopted a Calvinistic creed and introduced the Swiss presbyteral constitution for the Reformed communities. Owing to the support of the Waldensians, to the dissemination of reform literature from Geneva, Basle, and Strasburg, and to the steady influx of preachers from these cities, the adherents of the Reformation increased in France. On the death of King Henry II (1559) the Calvinist Huguenots wished to take advantage of the weakness of the government to increase their power. The queen-dowager, Catherine de Medici, was an ambitious intriguer, and pursued a time-serving policy. Political aspirations soon became entangled with the religious movement, which thereby assumed wider proportions and a greater importance. From opposition to the ruling line and to the powerful and zealously Catholic dukes of Guise, the princes of the Bourbon line became the protectors of the Calvinists; these were Antoine* de Vendôme, King of Navarre, and his brothers, especially Louis de Condé. They were joined by the Constable de Montmorency, Admiral Coligny and his brother d'Andelot, and Cardinal Odet de Châtillon, Bishop of Beauvais.
In spite of anti-heretical laws Calvinism was making steady progress in the South of France, when on 17 January, 1562, the queen-dowager, regent for the young Charles IX, issued an edict of toleration, allowing the Huguenots the free practice of their religion outside the towns and without weapons, but forbidding all interference with and acts of violence against Catholic institutions, and ordering the restitution of all churches and all ecclesiastical property taken from the Catholics. Rendered thereby only more audacious, the Calvinists committed, especially in the South, revolting acts of violence against the Catholics, putting to death Catholic priests even in the suburbs of Paris. The occurrence at Vassy in Champagne on 1 March, 1562, where the retinue of the Duke of Guise came into conflict with the Huguenots, inaugurated the first religious and civil war in France. Although this ended with the defeat of the Huguenots, it occasioned great losses to the Catholics of France. Relics of saints were burned and scattered, magnificent churches reduced to ashes, and numerous priests murdered. The Edict of Amboise granted new favours to the Calvinistic nobles, although the earlier edict of tolerance was withdrawn. Five other civil wars followed, during which occurred the massacre of St. Bartholomew's Day (24 August, 1572). It was not until the line of Valois had become extinct with Henry III (1589), and Henry of Navarre (who embraced Catholicism in 1593) of the Bourbon line had ascended the throne, that the religious wars were brought to an end by the Edict of Nantes (13 April, 1598); this granted the Calvinists not only full religious freedom and admission to all public offices, but even a privileged position in the State. Ever-increasing difficulties of a political nature arose, and Cardinal Richelieu aimed at ending the influential position of the Huguenots. The capture of their chief fortress, La Rochelle (28 October, 1628), finally broke the power of the French Calvinists as a political entity. Later, many of their number returned to Catholicism, although there still remained numerous adherents of Calvinism in France.
Italy and Spain
While in both these lands there appeared isolated supporters of the Reformation, no strong or extensive organization arose. Here and there in Italy influential individuals (e.g. Vittoria Colonna and her circle) favoured the reform movement, but they desired such to occur within, not as a rebellion against the Church. A few Italians embraced Lutheranism or Calvinism, e.g. John Valdez, secretary of the Viceroy of Naples. In the cities of Turin, Pavia, Venice, Ferrara (where Duchess Renata favoured the Reformation), and Florence might be found adherents of the German and Swiss Reformers, although not so extreme as their prototypes. The more prominent had to leave the country thus Pietro Paolo Vergerio, who fled to Switzerland and thence to Wittenberg; Bernardino Ochino, who fled to Geneva and was later professor at Oxford; Petrus Martyr Vermigli, who fled to Zurich, and was subsequently active at Oxford, Strasburg, and again at Zurich. By the vigorous inauguration of true ecclesiastical reform in the spirit of the Council of Trent, through the activity of numerous saintly men (such as St. Charles Borromeo and Philip Neri), through the vigilance of the bishops and the diligence of the Inquisition, the Reformation was excluded from Italy. In some circles rationalistic and anti-trinitarian tendencies showed themselves, and Italy was the birthplace of the two heresiarchs, Laelius Socinus and his nephew Faustus Socinus, the founders of Socinianism.
The course of events was the same in Spain as in Italy. Despite some attempts to disseminate anti-ecclesiastical writings in the country, the Reformation won no success, thanks to the zeal displayed by the ecclesiastical and public authorities in counter-acting its efforts. The few Spaniards who accepted the new doctrines were unable to develop any reforming activity at home, and lived abroad—e.g. Francisco Enzinas (Dryander), who made a translation of the Bible for Spaniards, Juan Diaz, Gonsalvo Montano, Miguel Servede (Servetus), who was condemned by Calvin at Geneva for his doctrine against the Trinity and burnt at the stake.
Hungary and Transylvania
The Reformation was spread in Hungary by Hungarians who had studied at Wittenberg and had there embraced Lutheranism. In 1525 stringent laws were passed against the adherents of the heretical doctrines, but their numbers continued to increase, especially among the nobility, who wished to confiscate the ecclesiastical property, and in the free cities of the kingdom. Turkish victories and conquest and the war between Ferdinand of Austria and John Zapolya favoured the reformers. In addition to the Lutherans there were soon followers of Zwingli and Calvin in the country. Five Lutheran towns in Upper Hungary accepted the Augsburg Confession. Calvinism, however, gradually won the upper hand, although the domestic disputes between the reforming sects by no means ceased. In Transylvania merchants from Hermannstadt, who had become acquainted with Luther's heresy at Leipzig, spread the Reformation after 1521. Notwithstanding the persecution of the Reformers, a Lutheran school was started at Hermannstadt, and the nobility endeavoured to use the Reformation as a means of confiscating the property of the clergy. In 1529 the regular orders and the most vigorous champions of the Church were driven from the town. At Kronstadt the Lutheran preacher Johann Honter gained the ascendency in 1534, the Mass being abolished and Divine service organized after the Lutheran model. At a synod held in 1544 the Saxon nation in Transylvania decided in favour of the Augsburg Confession, while the rural Magyars accepted Calvinism. At the Diet of Klausenburg in 1556 general religious freedom was granted and the ecclesiastical property confiscated for the defence of the country and the erection of Lutheran schools. Among the supporters of the Reformation far-reaching divisions prevailed. Besides the Lutherans, there were Unitarians (Socinians) and Anabaptists, and each of these sects waged war against the others. A Catholic minority survived among the Greek Walachians.
Poland, Livonia, and Courland
Poles learned of the Reformation through some young students from Wittenberg and through the Bohemian and Moravian Brethren. Archbishop Laski of Gnesen and King Sigismund I (1501-48) energetically opposed the spread of heretical doctrines. However, the supporters of the Reformation succeeded in winning recruits at the University of Cracow, at Posen, and at Dantzig. From Dantzig the Reformation spread to Thorn and Elbing, and certain nobles favoured the new doctrines. Under the rule of the weak Sigismund II (1548-72) there were in Poland, besides the Lutherans and the Bohemian Brethren, Zwinglians, Calvinists, and Socinians. Prince Radziwill and John Laski favoured Calvinism, and the Bible was translated into Polish in accordance with the views of this party in 1563. Despite the efforts of the papal nuncio, Aloisius Lippomano (1556-58) free practice of religion was secretly granted in the aforementioned three cities, and the nobility were allowed to hold private religious services in their houses. The different Reformed sects fought among one another, the formula of faith introduced at the General Synod of Sandomir in 1570 by the Reformed, the Lutherans, and the Bohemian Brethren producing no unity. In 1573 the heretical parties secured the religious peace of Warsaw, which granted equal rights to Catholics and "Dissidents", and established permanent peace between the two sections. By the zealous inauguration of true ecclesiastical reform, the diligent activity of the papal legates and able bishops, and the labours of the Jesuits, further progress of the Reformation was prevented.
In Livonia and Courland, the territories of the Teutonic Order, the course of the Reformation was the same as in the other territory of the Order, Prussia. Commander Gotthard Kettler of Courland embraced the Augsburg Confession, and converted the land into a secular hereditary duchy, tributary to Poland. In Livonia Commander Walter of Plettenberg strove to foster Lutheranism, which had been accepted at Riga, Dorpat, and Reval since 1523, hoping thus to make himself independent of the Archbishop of Riga. When Margrave William of Brandenburg became Archbishop of Riga in 1539, Lutheranism rapidly obtained exclusive sway in Livonia.
During the reign of Charles V the seventeen provinces of the Netherlands remained fairly immune from the infection of the new doctrine. Several followers of Luther had indeed appeared there, and endeavoured to disseminate the Lutheran writings and doctrines. Charles V, however, issued strict edicts against the Lutherans and against the printing and spreading of the writings of the Reformer. The excesses of the Anabaptists evoked the forcible suppression of their movement, and until 1555 the Reformation found little root in the country. In this year Charles V granted the Netherlands to his son Philip II, who resided in the country until 1559. During this period Calvinism made rapid strides, especially in the northern provinces. Many of the great nobles and the much impoverished lower nobility used the Reformation to incite the liberty-loving people against the king's administration, the Spanish officials and troops, and the strictness of the government. Disaffection continued to increase, owing chiefly to the severe ordinances of the Duke of Alva and the bloody persecution conducted by him. William of Orange-Nassau, governor of the Province of Holland, aimed for political reasons at securing the victory for Calvinism, and succeeded in several of the northern districts. He then placed himself at the head of the rebellion against the Spanish rule. In the ensuing war the northern provinces (Niederlande) asserted their independence, whereupon Calvinism gained in them the ascendancy. In 1581 every public exercise of the Catholic Faith was forbidden. The "Belgian Confession" of 1562 had already a Calvinistic foundation; by the synods of Dordrecht in 1574 and 1618 Calvinism received a fixed form. The Catholics of the country (about two-fifths of the population) were subjected to violent suppression. Among the Calvinists of Holland violent conflicts arose concerning the doctrine of predestination.
England and Scotland
The Reformation received its final form in England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth (1558-1603). On the basis of the liturgy established in the "Book of Common Prayer" under Edward VI (1547-53) and the confession of Forty-two Articles composed by Archbishop Cranmer and Bishop Ridley in 1552, and after Queen Mary (1553-58) had failed to restore her country to union with Rome and the Catholic Faith, the ascendancy of Anglicanism was established in England by Elizabeth. The Forty-two Articles were revised, and, as the Thirty-nine Articles of the Anglican Church, became in 1562 the norm of its religious creed. The ecclesiastical supremacy of the queen was recognized, an oath to this effect (Oath of Supremacy) being required under penalty of removal from office and loss of property. Several prelates and the universities offered resistance, which was overcome by force. The majority of the lower clergy took the oath, which was demanded with ever-increasing severity from all members of the House of Commons, all ecclesiastics, barristers, and teachers. In externals much of the old Catholic form of worship was retained. After the failure of the movement in favour of Mary Stuart of Scotland, who had fled to England in 1568, the oppression of the English Catholics was continued with increasing violence. Besides the Anglican Established Church there were in England the Calvinistic Nonconformists, who opposed a presbyterian popular organization to the episcopal hierarchy; like the Catholics, they were much oppressed by the rulers of England.
In Scotland the social and political situation gave a great impetus to the Reformation, aided by the ignorance and rudeness of the clergy (to a great extent the result of the constant feuds). The nobility used the Reformation as a weapon in their war against the royal house, which was supported by the higher clergy. Already under James V (1524-42) supporters of the Lutheran doctrines e.g. Patrick Hamilton, Henry Forest, and Alexander Seton, the king's confessor, came forward as Reformers. The first two were executed, while the last fled to the Continent. However, the heretical doctrines continued to find fresh adherents. On the death of James V his daughter and heiress was only eight days old. The office of regent fell to James Hamilton, who, though previously of Protestant sentiments, returned to the Catholic Church and supported Archbishop David Beaton in his energetic measures against the innovators. After the execution of the Reformer George Wishart, the Protestants formed a conspiracy against the archbishop, attacked him in his castle in 1545, and put him to death. The rebels (among them John Knox), joined by 140 nobles, then fortified themselves in the castle. Knox went to Geneva in 1546, there embraced Calvinism, and from 1555 was the leader of the Reformation in Scotland, where it won the ascendancy in the form of Calvinism. The political confusion prevailing in Scotland from the death of James V facilitated the introduction of the Reformation.
Different forms of the Reformation
The fundamental forms of the Reformation were Lutheranism, Zwinglianism, Calvinism, and Anglicanism. Within each of these branches, however, conflicts arose in consequence of the diverse views of individual representatives. By negotiations, compromises, and formulae of union it was sought, usually without lasting success, to establish unity. The whole Reformation, resting on human authority, presented from the beginning, in the face of Catholic unity of faith, an aspect of dreary dissension. Besides these chief branches appeared numerous other forms, which deviated from them in essential points, and gradually rise to the countless divisions of Protestantism. The chief of these forms may be shortly reviewed.
- The Anabaptists, who appeared in Germany and German Switzerland shortly after the appearance of Luther and Zwingli, wished to trace back their conception of the Church to Apostolic times. They denied the validity of the baptism of children, saw in the Blessed Eucharist merely a memorial ceremony, and wished to restore the Kingdom of God according to their own heretical and mystical views. Though attacked by the other Reformers, they won supporters in many lands. From them also issued the Mennonites, founded by Menno Simonis (d. 1561).
- The Schwenkfeldians were founded by Kaspar of Schwenkfeld, aulic councillor of Duke Frederick of Liegnitz and canon. At first he associated himself with Luther, but from 1525 he opposed the latter in his Christology, as well as in his conception of the Eucharist, and his doctrine of justification. Attacked by the German reformers, his followers were able to form but a few communities. The Schwenkfeldians still maintain themselves in North America.
- Sebastian Franck (1499-1542), a pure spiritualist, rejected every external form of ecclesiastical organization, and favoured a spiritual, invisible Church. He thus abstained from founding a separate community, and sought only to disseminate his ideas.
- The Socinians and other Anti-Trinitarians. Some individual members of the early Reformers attacked the fundamental doctrine of the Blessed Trinity, especially the Spaniards Miguel Servede (Servetus), whose writing, "De Trinitatis erroribus", printed in 1531, was burned by Calvin in Geneva in 1553. The chief founders of Anti-Trinitarianism were Laelius Socinus, teacher of jurisprudence at Siena, and his nephew, Faustus Socinus. Compelled to fly from their home, they maintained themselves in various parts, and founded special Socinian communities. Faustus disseminated his doctrine especially in Poland and Transylvania.
- Valentine Weigel (1533-1588) and Jacob Böhme (d. 1624), a shoemaker from Gorlitz, represented a mystical pantheism, teaching that the external revelation of God in the Bible could be recognized only through an internal light. Both found numerous disciples. Böhme's followers later received the name of Rosenkreuzer, because it was widely supposed that they stood under the direction of a hidden guide named Rozenkreuz.
- The Pietists in Germany had as their leader Philip Jacob Spener (1635-1705). Pietism was primarily a reaction against the barren Lutheran orthodoxy, and regarded religion mainly a thing of the heart.
- The Inspiration Communities originated in Germany during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries with various apocalyptic visionaries. They regarded the kingdom of the Holy Ghost as arrived, and believed in the universal gift of prophecy and in the millennium. Among the founders of such visionary societies were Johann Wilhelm Petersen (d. 1727), superintendent at Luneberg, and Johann Konrad Duppel (b. 1734), a physician at Leiden.
- The Herrnhuter were founded by Count Nicholas of Zinzendorf (b. 1700; d. 1760). On the Hutberg, as it was called, he established the community of Herrnhut, consisting of Moravian Brethren and Protestants, with a special constitution. Stress was laid on the doctrine of the Redemption, and strict moral discipline was inculcated. This community of Brethren spread in many lands.
- The Quakers were founded by John George Fox of Drayton in Leicestershire (1624-1691). He favoured a visionary spiritualism, and found in the soul of each man a portion of the Divine intelligence. All are allowed to preach, according as the spirit incites them. The moral precepts of this sect were very strict.
- The Methodists were founded by John Wesley. In 1729 Wesley instituted, with his brother Charles and his friends Morgan and Kirkham, an association at Oxford for the cultivation of the religious and ascetic life, and from this society Methodism developed.
- The Baptists originated in England in 1608. They maintained that baptism was necessary only for adults, upheld Calvinism in its essentials, and observed the Sabbath on Saturday instead of Sunday.
- The Swedenborgians are named after their founder Emmanuel Swedenborg (d. 1772), son of a Swedish Protestant bishop. Believing in his power to communicate with the spirit-world and that he had Divine revelations, he proceeded on the basis of the latter to found a community with a special liturgy, the "New Jerusalem". He won numerous followers, and his community spread in many lands.
- The Irvingites are called after their founder, Edward Irving, a native of Scotland and from 1822 preacher in a Presbyterian chapel in London.
- The Mormons were founded by Joseph Smith, who made his appearance with supposed revelations in 1822.
Besides these best-known secondary branches of the Reformation movement, there are many different denominations; for from the Reformation the evolution of new forms has always proceeded, and must always proceed, inasmuch as subjective arbitrariness was made a principle by the heretical teaching of the sixteenth century.
Results and consequences of the Reformation
The Reformation destroyed the unity of faith and ecclesiastical organization of the Christian peoples of Europe, cut many millions off from the true Catholic Church, and robbed them of the greatest portion of the salutary means for the cultivation and maintenance of the supernatural life. Incalculable harm was thereby wrought from the religious standpoint. The false fundamental doctrine of justification by faith alone, taught by the Reformers, produced a lamentable shallowness in religious life. Zeal for good works disappeared, the asceticism which the Church had practised from her foundation was despised, charitable and ecclesiastical objects were no longer properly cultivated, supernatural interests fell into the background, and naturalistic aspirations aiming at the purely mundane, became widespread. The denial of the Divinely instituted authority of the Church, both as regards doctrine and ecclesiastical government, opened wide the door to every eccentricity, gave rise to the endless division into sects and the never-ending disputes characteristic of Protestantism, and could not but lead to the complete unbelief which necessarily arises from the Protestant principles. Of real freedom of belief among the Reformers of the sixteenth century there was not a trace; on the contrary, the greatest tyranny in matters of conscience was displayed by the representatives of the Reformation. The most baneful Caesaropapism was meanwhile fostered, since the Reformation recognized the secular authorities as supreme also in religious matters. Thus arose from the very beginning the various Protestant "national Churches", which are entirely discordant with the Christian universalism of the Catholic Church, and depend, alike for their faith and organization, on the will of the secular ruler. In this way the Reformation was a chief factor in the evolution of royal absolutism. In every land in which it found ingress, the Reformation was the cause of indescribable suffering among the people; it occasioned civil wars which lasted decades with all their horrors and devastations; the people were oppressed and enslaved; countless treasures of art and priceless manuscripts were destroyed; between members of the same land and race the seed of discord was sown. Germany in particular, the original home of the Reformation, was reduced to a state of piteous distress by the Thirty Years' War, and the German Empire was thereby dislodged from the leading position which it had for centuries occupied in Europe. Only gradually, and owing to forces which did not essentially spring from the Reformation, but were conditioned by other historical factors, did the social wounds heal, but the religious corrosion still continues despite the earnest religious sentiments which have at all times characterized many individual followers of the Reformation.
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APA citation. (1911). The Reformation. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12700b.htm
MLA citation. "The Reformation." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12700b.htm>.
Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Marie Jutras.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. June 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.
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