History Essay

Topics: Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther, Pope Pages: 5 (1792 words) Published: November 27, 2013
How accurate is it to say that corruption within the Catholic Church was the main reason for the German Reformation? [30 marks] On the 31st of October 1517, Martin Luther, a catholic monk at the time, pinned the 95 theses on the doors of Wittenberg Church and although unintended, this triggered theological debate about the state of the Catholic Church which ultimately led to the German Reformation. These theses were a list of complaints about corruption in the Catholic Church and in particular the selling of indulgences hoisted by Dominican friar John Tetzel. From there on Martin Luther’s personal protest would transform into a more widespread reformation due to the German laity’s grievances with corruption in the Catholic Church. However, other factors also played a part in heating up the climate of the reformation. Yet, it is accurate to say that the Corruption, both spiritually and monetarily, within the Catholic Church was the main reason for the spread of the German reformation. Another key factor of course was the role of Martin Luther himself, as the success of the reformation was based around the alternative Luther proposed to Catholicism, in the form of the more liberal and trustworthy, Lutheranism, after continuous debates with the catholic clergy. Furthermore the role of the humanists at the time was also important as it again supported the need for reformation. It is accurate to say that spiritual corruption within the Catholic Church was the main cause of the German reformation. It is important to consider the state of the Catholic Church prior to 1517. There seemed to be widespread acceptance of papal authority, the seven sacraments and even the purchase of indulgences. However, the anti-papal behaviour on a spiritual level reached far up the Clergy’s hierarchy, for example Pope Leo X, who was said to be infallible sold off more than 2,000 church offices which was clearly symony. Symony was one of 4 of the church’s major abuses, and as the Pope was so high up, the blatant corruption upset the laity. Luther went on to call out the Pope for these sorts of acts which led to the authority of the Pope being questioned. Again as the Pope was of such high status, the spiritual corruption was bound to support the reformation. Furthermore, the abuses of this sort; pluralism, nepotism, simony and absenteeism were becoming more and more rife. Only 10% of bishops resided in their parishes, Jean of Lorraine was made Archbishop of Metz at the age of three which was clearly nepotism. This unpopular, corrupt papacy was therefore a very significant factor of why the need for reform became more popular as it is clear that due to these crimes being pointed out, some of the German Laity were fuelled to support the reformation. Another way, in which spiritual corruption was a cause, was the lies regarding the holiness of indulgences and relics. The catholic clergy claimed that indulgences had the power to relieve years in purgatory if the followers paid for them. This became extensive when John Tetzel’s indulgences became the so called ‘most powerful.’ The reason that this form for spiritual corruption was so significant to the German Reformation is that it was because of indulgences that Luther primarily was outraged with. Luther saw these as immoral, as catholic clergymen were abusing both their spiritual status as well as the lack of education in society. This was the main reason why Luther made the 95 theses, to reform the abuses of the Catholic Church, and as said the 95 theses was the trigger that sparked the reformation. Lastly, most people believed in the power of religious relics and there was a total lack of scepticism. Relics that were obviously false were sold and worshipped. The promotion of this was another aspect of corruption that upset the more educated members of society as the church was deceiving the worshippers, again abusing their spiritual title. In the fifteenth and sixteenth century the spiritual...
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