Counter Reformation Factors

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What forces were most important in determining the spread of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation?

The reformation refers to the 16th-century movement for the reform of the Roman Catholic Church based on Martin Luther’s criticisms. The Catholic Church responded with the counter-reformation. This addressed some key criticism but retained central beliefs such as the intervening role of the clergy and saints in one’s relationship with God. In general, historians agree that the failures of Catholicism, influence of charismatic preachers and political structures were key factors in bringing about the Reformation. However, there is some debate over where the driving forces originate and if different forces drove the Reformation and Counter-Reformation.
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Dixon highlights the role of commoners in mandating princely support such as the Wedelstein village’s published call for reform in 1524 . Although the princes made some attempt at halting reform after the Edict of Worms (1521) the sheer popularity of the reformation made these attempts unsuccessful. In fact, religious tension contributed to the outbreak of civil war in Germany and Scandinavia. This clearly demonstrates the power of the popular reformation. England is the exception to this trend as the reformation was spread from the monarch down to the masses. As such it was a much slower process and Elizabeth largely waited for the clergy to be replaced with a new generation of Protestant preachers . However, Marshall recognizes that this was not a typical path for the spread of the …show more content…
The nature of reformed Catholicism favoured this approach. Laven argues its essence of discipline and confessionalization enabled the clergy to have unprecedented involvement in their parishioner’s lives . This influence extended past church attendance into matters of virginity and purity. Similar involvement in lay people’s lives was seen in Spain due to the activities of the inquisition. Coleman argues that Spain had the rising print culture and humanist centers in which the reformation flourished elsewhere but their history of minority ‘subversion’ had established an effective defense . Furthermore, as political instability weakened the control of the monarch over such matters, once these issues were resolved they could focus on the counter-reformation. For instance, peace with the Turks undermined the noble’s previously strong position and Ferdinand concentrated his resources to reasserting is control over Eastern Europe and virtually eradicating Protestantism by 1627. Murdock goes further and states that many of the previously protestant nobles converted back to Catholicism in order to show their loyalty to the Hapsburgs . Consequently, it is a valid argument that the control of the monarch and clergy was a major contributing force for the counter-reformation. This in turn favours the argument that the impetus for the counter-reformation came from

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