Requirement of Reform of the Church in Europe During 15th and 16th Centuries
The Church in Europe required reform at the end of the fifteenth
century and the beginning of the sixteenth century for a number of
reasons. The main reason being the behaviour of the papacy and their
priorities which were no longer the welfare of the Church. There were
other factors which contributed to the development of the Reformation
in Europe other than the state of the Church and Christian Humanism,
however these were the main factors.
The first reason why the Church in Europe needed reform was the papacy
who became more interested in wealth than in spiritual welfare. It was
normal for priests and bishops to charge a small amount for baptism,
weddings and burials as well as taking a tithe of everyman’s produce.
This was acceptable because it was the only way for them to survive,
however the situation became unacceptable when the papacy started
charging more for these services. This is an important factor, as
taking money away for holy ceremonies would bring resentment towards
the church from the common man who would definitely look to a
reformation to eliminate these charges.
Sales of Indulgences, which ‘were portrayed as a convenient way of
absolving one’s sins… preachers were encouraged to associate the coin
falling into the money chest with the soul moving from purgatory into
heaven,’ (Armstrong) angered many, including the German reformer
Martin Luther. The clergy who were profiting from this shows one of
the reasons why reform was needed and why profiting from the
impoverished is an important factor leading up to this reform.
Another example of the way the Church authorities neglected their
duties was their political interests and need for power. ‘They were
too involved in politics rather than important issues of the Church’
(Green) This is the most important reason why the Church in Europe
required reform because had the Church prioritised sorting out abuses
within the Church rather than politics, a reform would not have been
required at the end of the fifteenth century.
A different reason why the Church in Europe needed reform was that
members of the nobility, had become higher clergy because it
strengthened their position, rather than for religious reasons.
‘Senior clergy were generally outsiders, often nobility imposed upon
the diocese by royal parentage…these clergy regarded their spiritual
duties as little more than a source of income…’ (McGrath) This is an
important point because many of them had little or no theological
training so spiritual guidance for others would be limited, thus a
reformation is needed. They used their position to increase their
income and their power.
Pluralism was another reason why the Church needed reforming in the
late 1400’s and early...