How important was the Catholic Church in bringing about the reformation? 24 marks Although there were many factors that led to the reformation, the Catholic Church was the most important. As without the corruption and ignorance of the Catholic Church there would have been no need for the reformation. Other factors which aided the reformation were humanists such as Erasmus and the invention of the printing press. The Catholic Church was the basis of the need for reformation. This was because of the corrupt nature is possessed. Examples of this were the selling of Indulgence and the manipulation of the bible as only 5% of the population were literate. The Church used this to their advantage by gaining wealth and power. Arguably this could be blamed on the common people for being ignorant and gullible. However Propaganda was common in the Catholic Church. People were threatened with excommunication for offences like Heresy so were scared to voice their opinions of the Church as excommunication was considered the worst form of punishment. This links to the development of Humanism which was dangerous but effective to the build-up of the reformation.
Humanism was catalysed by the invention of the printing press. The Catholic Church were often criticised for their anticlericalism. In other words not abiding to the idealistic visions they were supposed to be. For example priests were supposed to be in theory married to the church. However many cases of sexual activities were reported. Simony was also present, the selling of jobs in the church to the highest bidder to gain wealth, in many cases men were illiterate and unqualified. Highlighting the corruption in the church, the neglect for honoured roles which led to the need of the reformation. Although there examples were present they were not in every church just enough for the corrupt nature to be noticed. Also Lax discipline was becoming increasingly common in the Catholic Church, leading to a spiritual decline and ignorance of the daily routine. The pureness of religion was often question by people often humanists such as Erasmus. With all these items the Catholic Church’s corrupt nature began to spiral out of control and became increasingly noticed and questioned leading to the reformation.
However some may argue that the Catholic Church’s corruption may have continued as the propaganda was so strong if the Humanists had not been present, as they become some of the first ones to be brave and criticise the Catholic Church. Another factor that could be argued to bring about the reformation is the creation of the Printing Press by Johann Guttenburg. It allowed information to be spread quickly around Europe which played a big part in shaping the new religious opinion. For example 300,000 copies of Martin Luther’s works were printed between 1517 and 1520. This enabled humanists such as Erasmus and Martin Luther to share ideas and gain support. However it also allowed the church to be glorified and increase the power of state by printing propaganda. This could be seen as preventing the reformation. Although the Printing Press could also used to undermine the church and heighten awareness of anticlericalism and highlight how far the Catholic Church had strayed from the original texts. Leading to the need for the reformation.
However books were expensive so the rich could obtain them. Also reading was an important skill to access the information being spread, with the high illiteracy levels many people could not share the ideas of humanism as no visual aids were present. Many historians believe the invention of the printing press was just a catalyst for the reformation as the reformation would still have occurred without the presence of the printing press just at a much slower process. Meaning the Catholic Church was the primary cause for the reformation, just aided by other factors. The Final factor that could be argued to bringing about a reformation is the development and practise of Humanism. It involved individuals daring to speak against the Catholic Church and demand changes in the church. An example is Erasmus he looked away from the Catholic Church’s Latin Vulgate and towards the original sources, stressing the need to create a purer religion.
It allowed people to see in a new light, it uncovered how far the Catholic Church had strayed from the original texts and it encouraged people to not be afraid to question the church. This led to the reformation as people demanded changes to be made to the church in order to return to a purer religion. Heretical groups played an important part in bringing about the reformation, an example was the Lollards. They believed that the bible in English was the only source of authority and the the Catholic Church’s teachings should be tested against. Also they denied authority from the church and urged the monarch to reform the church. They were some of the first people to suggest the need for a reformation as they disagreed which everything the Catholic Church stood for. Although it was a dangerous approach it shocked the monarch and people into evaluating the Catholic Church and deciding whether a reformation was needed.
Evidently it was need, Humanism made people question the authenticity of the Catholic Church and evaluate whether it was pure and genuine which bought about the reformation. Arguably Humanism would have not been needed if it was not for the corruption displayed by the Catholic Church. In conclusion, the Catholic Church was the most important factor in bringing about the reformation. This is because the reformation would have not been needed if the Catholic Church had stuck to idealistic and pure visions it should have instead of becoming corrupt and ignorant. Humanism often demanded reformation, so although it was important in bringing about the reformation as it made people evaluate the church and assess what needed to be changed it is not important as the Catholic Church itself which created the problems in the first place. Finally the Printing Press, it was important as it spread the ideas of Humanism allowing the corrupt nature of the church to be uncovered to people. However the reformation would have occurred without it just instead at a much slower rate, in theory it acted as a catalyst.