World History Unit 1, Lesson 4: The Catholic Church
The Early Catholic Church
The tradition of the Catholic Church claims the Catholic Church began with Jesus Christ and his teachings (c. 4 BC – c. AD 30); the Catholic tradition considers that the Catholic Church is a continuation of the early Christian community established by the Disciples of Jesus. The Church considers its bishops to be the successors to Jesus’s apostles and the Church’s leader, the Bishop of Rome (also known as the Pope), to be the sole successor to Saint Peter who ministered in Rome in the first century AD after his appointment by Jesus as head of the Church. By the end of the 2nd century, bishops began congregating in regional synods to resolve doctrinal and policy issues. Eamon Duffy claims that by the 3rd century, the church at Rome might even function as a court of appeal on doctrinal issues.
Christianity spread throughout the early Roman Empire, with all persecutions due to conflicts with the pagan state religion. In 313, the persecutions were lessened by the Edict of Milan with the legalization of Christianity by the Emperor Constantine I, and in 380, under Emperor Theodosius, Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire by the Edict of Thessalonica, a decree of the Emperor which would persist until the fall of the Western Roman Empire (Western Empire), and later, with the Byzantine Empire (Eastern Roman Empire), until the Fall of Constantinople. During this time, the period of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, there were considered five primary sees (jurisdictions within the Catholic Church) according to Eusebius: Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria, known as the Pentarchy.
The battles of Toulouse preserved the Christian west against the Umayyad Muslim army, even though Rome itself was ravaged in 850, and Constantinople besieged. In the 11th century, already strained relations between the primarily Greek church in the East, and the Latin church in the West, developed into the East-West Schism, partially due to conflicts over papal authority. The Fourth Crusade, and the sacking of Constantinople by renegade crusaders proved the final breach.
Prior to and during the 16th century, the Church engaged in a process of reform and renewal. Reform during the 16th century is known as the Counter-Reformation. In subsequent centuries, Catholicism spread widely across the world despite experiencing a reduction in its hold on European populations due to the growth of Protestantism and also because of religious skepticism during and after the Enlightenment. The Second Vatican Council in the 1960s introduced the most significant changes to Catholic practices since the Council of Trent four centuries before.
The Inquisition, in historical ecclesiastical terminology, also referred to as the “Holy Inquisition”, was a group of institutions within the Catholic Church whose aim was to combat heresy. Studies of the records have found that the overwhelming majority of sentences consisted of penances, but that cases of repeat unrepentant heretics were handed over to the secular courts, which generally resulted in execution or a life sentence.
The Inquisition had its start in 12th-century France, with the aim of combating religious deviation (e.g. apostasy or heresy), particularly among the Cathars and the Waldensians. The inquisitorial courts from this time until the mid-15th century are together known as the Medieval Inquisition.
Other groups investigated during the Medieval Inquisition, which primarily took place in France and Italy, including the Spiritual Franciscans, the Hussites, and the Beguines. Beginning in the 1250s, inquisitors were generally chosen from members of the Dominican Order, replacing the earlier practice of using local clergy as judges.
During the Late Middle Ages and the early Renaissance, the scope of the Inquisition grew significantly in response to the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counter-Reformation expanding to other European countries, resulting in the Spanish Inquisition and the Portuguese Inquisition. The Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions focused particularly on the anusim (people who were forced to abandon Judaism against their will) and on Muslim converts to Catholicism. The scale of the persecution of converted Muslims and converted Jews in Spain and Portugal was the result of suspicions that they had secretly reverted to their previous religions, although both religious minority groups were also more numerous on the Iberian Peninsula than in other parts of Europe.
During this time, Spain and Portugal operated inquisitorial courts not only in Europe, but also throughout their empires in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. This resulted in the Goa Inquisition, the Peruvian Inquisition, and the Mexican Inquisition, among others.
With the exception of the Papal States, the institution of the Inquisition was abolished in the early 19th century, after the Napoleonic Wars in Europe and the Spanish American wars of independence in the Americas. The institution survived as part of the Roman Curia, but in 1908 it was renamed the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office. In 1965, it became the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The Protestant Reformation
The Reformation (alternatively named the Protestant Reformation or the European Reformation) was a major movement within Western Christianity in 16th-century Europe that posed a religious and political challenge to the Catholic Church and in particular to papal authority, arising from what were perceived to be errors, abuses, and discrepancies by the Catholic Church. The Reformation was the start of Protestantism and the split of the Western Church into Protestantism and what is now the Roman Catholic Church. It is also considered one of the events that signify the end of the Middle Ages and beginning of Early modern period in Europe.
Prior to Martin Luther, there were many earlier reform movements. Although the Reformation is usually considered to have started with the publication of the Ninety-five Theses by Martin Luther in 1517, he was not excommunicated until January 1521 by Pope Leo X. The Edict of Worms of May 1521 condemned Luther and officially banned citizens of the Holy Roman Empire from defending or propagating his ideas.
The spread of Gutenberg’s printing press provided the means for the rapid dissemination of religious materials in the vernacular. Luther survived after being declared an outlaw due to the protection of Elector Frederick the Wise. The initial movement in Germany diversified, and other reformers such as Huldrych Zwingli and John Calvin arose.
Key events of the period include: Diet of Worms (1521), formation of the Lutheran Duchy of Prussia (1525), English Reformation (1529 onwards), the Council of Trent (1545–63), the Peace of Augsburg (1555), the excommunication of Elizabeth I (1570), Edict of Nantes (1598) and Peace of Westphalia (1648). The Counter-Reformation, also called the Catholic Reformation or the Catholic Revival, was the period of Catholic reforms initiated in response to the Protestant Reformation. The end of the Reformation era is disputed.
The Counter Reformation
The Counter-Reformation, also called the Catholic Reformation or the Catholic Revival, was the period of Catholic resurgence that was initiated in response to the Protestant Reformation, also known as the Protestant Revolution. It began with the Council of Trent (1545–1563) and largely ended with the conclusion of the European wars of religion in 1648.
Initiated to address the effects of the Protestant Reformation, the Counter-Reformation was a comprehensive effort composed of apologetic and polemical documents and ecclesiastical configuration as decreed by the Council of Trent. The last of these included the efforts of Imperial Diets of the Holy Roman Empire, heresy trials and the Inquisition, anti-corruption efforts, spiritual movements, and the founding of new religious orders. Such policies had long-lasting effects in European history with exiles of Protestants continuing until the 1781 Patent of Toleration, although smaller expulsions took place in the 19th century.
Such reforms included the foundation of seminaries for the proper training of priests in the spiritual life and the theological traditions of the Church, the reform of religious life by returning orders to their spiritual foundations, and new spiritual movements focusing on the devotional life and a personal relationship with Christ, including the Spanish mystics and the French school of spirituality. It also involved political activities that included the Spanish Inquisition and the Portuguese Inquisition in Goa and Bombay-Bassein etc. A primary emphasis of the Counter-Reformation was a mission to reach parts of the world that had been colonized as predominantly Catholic and also try to reconvert nations such as Sweden and England that once were Catholic from the time of the Christianization of Europe, but had been lost to the Reformation.
Various Counter-Reformation theologians focused only on defending doctrinal positions such as the sacraments and pious practices that were attacked by the Protestant reformers, up to the Second Vatican Council in 1962–1965. Key events of the period include: the Council of Trent (1545–63); the excommunication of Elizabeth I (1570), the codification of the uniform Roman Rite Mass (1570), and the Battle of Lepanto (1571), occurring during the pontificate of Pius V; the construction of the Gregorian observatory, the founding of the Gregorian University, the adoption of the Gregorian calendar, and the Jesuit China mission of Matteo Ricci under Pope Gregory XIII; the French Wars of Religion; the Long Turkish War and the execution of Giordano Bruno in 1600, under Pope Clement VIII; the birth of the Lyncean Academy of the Papal States, of which the main figure was Galileo Galilei (later put on trial); the final phases of the Thirty Years’ War (1618–48) during the pontificates of Urban VIII and Innocent X; and the formation of the last Holy League by Innocent XI during the Great Turkish War.
Previous Lesson: The Italian Renaissance
Next Lesson: Absolute Monarchs
Lesson 1: Fall of Rome to the Middle Ages
Lesson 2: Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire
Unit 2: The Age of Exploration
Unit 3: Revolutions Around The World
Unit 4: Political Change
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