The Council of Trent: The Thirteenth Session

Topics: Protestant Reformation, Eucharist, Council of Trent Pages: 7 (2461 words) Published: September 19, 2013
The 16th century was an exciting time of economic and political growth and exploration. The Renaissance, which sparked Humanism, prompted intellectual growth, which stimulated critical questions on topics such as the church fathers, and scripture that gave a completely new approach to looking at the Bible. The birth of the European Reformation (or Protestantism) is often marked by Martin Luther’s posting of The Ninety-Five Theses on October 31, 1517 protesting the Catholic Church’s sale of indulgences. Luther’s initial intent was not to separate and divide the Holy Mother Church, but to reform ill practices and corruption. However, his good intention grew into a great schism in the Church as doctrinal and canonical differences were challenged, resulting in the Council of Trent as the Church’s response to both institutional and theological issues. It is the background to the Council of Trent and theological decrees that will be addressed this writing, particularly that of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist in session thirteen. The Reformation has maintained its status as the controversy in western theology despite the centuries that have passed since its occurrence. This controversy remains the decisive historical event that changed the Catholic Church forever. The Reformation is a complicated event with numerous contributing factors: political/historical, intellectual, technological and widespread corruption in the church. Martin Luther and John Calvin are often referred to as the fathers of the reformation period due to their theological interpretations and challenges to reform the abuses in the Catholic Church. While others had attempted reform previously their efforts were unsuccessful. The technology of the printing press was a valuable political tool, used by the Reformation leaders to spread their agenda against the Church. It fostered wider dissemination of their criticisms and ideas; this, coupled by widespread corruption and abuses in the Church made the time ripe for reformation in the Church. The actions of Luther and Calvin had far reaching effects that we live with today. During Medieval times, the Catholic Church councils were not a routine part of the church’s self-governance. Instead, they were used as instruments of internal and external crisis management. By the time of Martin Luther, it was generally understood that the convocation of a general council might be the church’s only recourse to resolve a crisis when other attempts had failed. The 19th general council of the Catholic Church, the Council of Trent was just such an event, convened by Pope Paul III in 1545 in response to such: the Protestant Reformation, an issue that had become unmanageable. Many political, institutional and theological factors led up to this crisis. Many elements of the crisis were old and had troubled the church for years. Critics, both Catholic and Protestant listed issues in need of reform that included the non-residency of bishops, lax enforcement of clerical celibacy, and ecclesiastical appointments of unqualified individuals. Other issues were new and included a wide-ranging critique of the teaching authority of the Catholic Church that challenged the heart of the Catholic Church; such a challenge required a response. The theological critique began as an intra-Catholic debate. It is important to note that all of the initial Protestant reformers had been baptized in the Catholic Church and many, such as Luther and Thomas Cranmer had risen to important leadership roles. However, by the time of the Council of Trent, Luther had been excommunicated for approximately 20 years. In this time, the Protestant ideas spread and developed roots in northern Europe. Although the majority of Reformers accepted the basic Christian dogmas of the Trinity and two natures of Christ declared at the Councils of Nicea (325) and Chalcedon, they focused on critiques of other theological issues. These issues...
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