The Reformation, also called the Protestant Reformation, was the religious revolution that took place in the western church in the 16th century. Its best leaders were undoubtedly Martin Luther and John Calvin. This reform had a number of far-reaching political, economic, and social effects, and became the basis for the founding of Protestantism, one of the three major branches of Christianity.
It was a movement during the 16th century that succeeded in bringing about an important change within the Catholic Church. There was strong opposition to the pope's dominion over the Christian people and the church returning to its roots in Christianity.
The reform consisted of a movement against the pope and his power over Catholic Church. It was driven by religious, politicians and important intellectuals who sought to interpret medieval doctrines from the point of view of the Holy Scriptures.
It involved Luther’s rejection of the sacraments of the time that included indulgences; for him, gospel was a matter not to be commercialized. There was then a crisis within the church as there was continual criticism of corruption and lack of mercy.
With this rebellion, Orthodox leaders proclaimed themselves as the only ones who had the Christian truth and began to persecute those who were against and, at the same time, groups were formed against the medieval Christian heritage fighting to restore the church. This situation caused the church in Europe to divide, those who supported the pope and those who did not, and the latter began to call themselves Protestants.
The main characteristics of the Protestant Reformation are as follows:
The Reformation of the sixteenth century did not happen without having antecedents. Reformers within medieval church such as St. Francis of Assisi, Valdes, Jan Hus, and John Wycliffe addressed aspects of church life in the centuries prior to 1517. In the sixteenth century, Erasmus of Rotterdam, a great humanist scholar, was the main advocate of liberal Catholic reform that attacked popular superstitions in the church and urged imitation of Christ as the supreme moral teacher.
These figures reveal a constant concern for renewal within the church in the years before Luther published his Ninety-five Theses at the door of Castle Church, Wittenberg, Germany, on October 31, 1517, All Saints Day Eve: the traditional date for the beginning of the Reformation.
At that time, there were many moral and ecclesial abuses, and the church was concerned only about managing resources and goods. The people of the villages wanted religious changes, and more mercy for the people.
The story begins in 1517 when Martin Luther challenged the Catholic Church and questioned the Pope’s authority through a document called “The 95 Theses“. There was already a deterioration of the Catholic Church at spiritual and institutional level since the Late Middle Ages and many people advocated a profound reform of the Church to recover the doctrinal aspects of early Christianity, to put an end to the abuses and corruption of the ecclesiastical hierarchy.
In 1516 and 1517, Johan Tetzel, a Dominican friar commissioned papal indulgences and was sent by the Catholic Church to Germany to sell indulgences (reduction of penalties for forgiveness of sins) and raise money for the reconstruction of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
Luther protested this practice of selling indulgences in a letter sent to Albert, Archbishop of Mainz and Magdeburg on October 31, 1517, the 95 theses. For Luther, forgiveness was only a privilege of God. The sale of indulgences and absolutions could not be permitted. Christians were to earn their salvation by following Christ and not by buying indulgences.
Luther was followed by Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli. After Luther’s excommunication, Calvin’s writings helped fuel the movement in Germany, Switzerland, Scotland, Hungary, and the rest of Europe. Protestant groups such as Lutherans, Calvinists, Presbyterians, Anglicans, and Anabaptists began to develop.
It is now 500 years since the Protestant movement began, which caused a change in Christianity forever. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther made public his criticism of the Catholic Church and its power center in Rome by launching the reform.
The Protestant Reformation began in Germany during the 16th century where the cities were very rich, and the bourgeois were interested only in the reform of the Catholic Church.
The main precursors of the reform were:
The causes that drove the reform are several, the high ecclesiastical hierarchies lived full of luxury and wealth, the clergy had very little formation and the ecclesiastical positions were generally bought by people who had no religious vocation and only wanted economic benefits and did not take into account the misery in which the settlers lived.
In 1515, Pope Leo X gave the order to preach new indulgences with the sole objective of building the Vatican of St. Peter. There were preaching of heretical doctrines that undermined the morals of the church and a broad and deep criticism against humanism.
Some consequences of the Protestant Reformation were:
The principles of the Protestant Reformation are as follows:
The reform was of great importance in countries where it developed while Catholic countries lived in obscurantism, Protestant countries came out of ignorance, giving importance to reading and studying the Holy Scriptures. It created a sociological revolution and work began to be dignified, sex was seen as the expression of God to form a family, knowledge freed us from the bonds of superstition, and freedom of conscience became an insurer of coexistence.
It produced prosperity while Catholic countries lagged behind living in ignorance and illiteracy.