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The usual term for the religious movement which made its appearance in Western Europe in the sixteenth century, and which, while ostensibly aiming at an internal renewal of the Church, really led to a great revolt against it, and an abandonment of the principal Christian beliefs. We shall review the general characteristics of this movement from the following standpoints:

I. Causes of the Reformation ;
II. Original Ideas and Purposes of the Reformers;
III. Methods of Spreading the Reformation;
IV. Spread of the Reformation in the Various Countries;
V. Different Forms of the Reformation ;
VI. Results and Consequences of the Reformation.

CAUSES OF THE REFORMATION

The causes of the great religious revolt of the sixteenth century must be sought as far back as the fourteenth. The doctrine of the Church, it is true, had remained pure; saintly lives were yet frequent in all parts of Europe, and the numerous beneficient medieval institutions of the Church continued their course uninterruptedly. Whatever unhappy conditions existed were largely due to civil and profane influences or to the exercise of authority by ecclesiastics in civil spheres; they did not obtain everywhere with equal intensity, nor did they always occur simultaneous in the same country. Ecclesiastical and religious life exhibited in many places vigour and variety; works of education and charity abounded; religious art in all its forms had a living force; domestic missionaries were many and influential; pious and edifying literature was common and appreciated. Gradually, however, and largely owing to the variously hostile spirit of the civil powers, fostered and heightened by several elements of the new order, there grew up in many parts of Europe political and social conditions which hampered the free reformatory activities of the Church, and favoured the bold and unscrupulous, who seized a unique opportunity to let loose all the forces of heresy and schism so long held in check by the harmonious action of the ecclesiastical and civil authorities.

A

Since the barbarian invasions the Church had effected a complete transformation and revival of the races of Western Europe, and a glorious development of religious and intellectual life. The papacy had become the powerful centre of the family of Christian nations, and as such had for centuries, in union with the episcopate and the clergy, displayed a most beneficent activity. With the ecclesiastical organization fully developed, it came to pass that the activities of the governing ecclesiastical bodies were no longer confined to the ecclesiastical domain, but affected almost every sphere of popular life. Gradually a regrettable worldliness manifested itself in many high ecclesiastics. Their chief object -- to guide man to his eternal goal -- claimed too seldom their attention, and worldly activities became in too many cases the chief interest. Political power, material possessions, privileged position in public life, the defence of ancient historical rights, earthly interests of various kinds were only too often the chief aim of many of the higher clergy. Pastoral solicitude, the specifically religious and ecclesiastical aim, fell largely into the background, notwithstanding various spirited and successful attempts to rectify the existing evils.

B

Closely connected with the above were various abuses in the lives of the clergy and the people. In the Papal Curia political interests and a worldly life were often prominent. Many bishops and abbots (especially in countries where they were also territorial princes) bore themselves as secular rulers rather than as servants of the Church. Many members of cathedral chapters and other beneficed ecclesiastics were chiefly concerned with their income and how to increase it, especially by uniting several prebends (even episcopal sees ) in the hands of one person, who thus enjoyed a larger income and greater power. Luxury prevailed widely among the higher clergy, while the lower clergy were often oppressed. The scientific and ascetic training of the clergy left much to be desired, the moral standard of many being very low, and the practice of celibacy not everywhere observed. Not less serious was the condition of many monasteries of men, and even of women (which were often homes for the unmarried daughters of the nobility). The former prestige of the clergy had thus suffered greatly, and its members were in many places regarded with scorn. As to the Christian people itself, in numerous districts ignorance, superstition, religious indifference, and immorality were rife. Nevertheless, vigorous efforts to revive life were made in most lands, and side by side with this moral decay appear numerous examples of sincere and upright Christian life. Such efforts, however, were too often confined to limited circles. From the fourteenth century the demand for "reform of head and members" ( reformatio in capite et in membris ) had been voiced with ever-increasing energy by serious and discerning men, but the same cry was taken up also by many who had no real desire for a religious renewal, wishing merely to reform others but not themselves, and seeking only their own interests. This call for reformation of head and members, discussed in many writings and in conversation with insistence on existing and often exaggerated abuses, tended necessarily to lower the clergy still more in the eyes of the people, especially as the councils of the fifteenth century, though largely occupied with attempts at reformation, did not succeed in accomplishing it extensively or permanently.

C

The authority of the Holy See had also been seriously impaired, partly through the fault of some of its occupants and partly through that of the secular princes. The pope's removal to Avignon in the fourteenth century was a grievous error, since the universal character of the papacy was thus obscured in the minds of the Christian people. Certain phases of the quarrel with Louis the Bavarian and with the Franciscan Spirituals clearly indicate a decline of the papal power. The severest blow was dealt by the disastrous papal schism (1378-1418) which familiarized Western Christians with the idea that war might be made, with all spiritual and material weapons, against one whom many other Christians regarded as the only lawful pope. After the restoration of unity, the attempted reforms of the Papal Curia were not thorough. Humanism and the ideals of the Renaissance were zealously cultivated in Rome, and unfortunately the heathen tendencies of this movement, so opposed to the Christian moral law, affected too profoundly the life of many higher ecclesiastics, so that worldly ideas, luxury, and immorality rapidly gained ground at the centre of ecclesiastical life. When ecclesiastical authority grew weak at the fountain-head, it necessarily decayed elsewhere. There were also serious administrative abuses in the Papal Curia. The ever-increasing centralization of ecclesiastical administration had brought it about that far too many ecclesiastical benefices in all parts of Christendom were conferred at Rome, while in the granting of them the personal interests of the petitioner, rather than the spiritual needs of the faithful, were too often considered. The various kinds of reservation had also become a grievous abuse. Dissatisfaction was felt widely among the clergy at the many taxes imposed by the Curia on the incumbents of ecclesiastical benefices. From the fourteenth century these taxes called forth loud complaints. In proportion as the papal authority lost the respect of many, resentment grew against both the Curia and the Papacy. The reform councils of the fifteenth century, instead of improving the situation, weakened still more the highest ecclesiastical authority by reason of their anti-papal tendencies and measures.

D

In princes and governments there had meanwhile developed a national consciousness, purely temporal and to a great extent hostile to the Church ; the evil powers interfered more frequently in ecclesiastical matters, and the direct influence exercised by laymen on the domestic administration of the Church rapidly increased. In the course of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries arose the modern concept of the State. During the preceding period many matters of a secular or mixed nature had been regulated or managed by the Church, in keeping with the historical development of European society. With the growing self-consciousness of the State, the secular governments sought to control all matters that fell within their competence, which course, although in large measure justifiable, was new and offensive, and thus led to frequent collisions between Church and State. The State, moreover, owing to the close historical connection between the ecclesiastical and secular orders, encroached on the ecclesiastical domain. During the course of the Western Schism (1378-1418) opposing popes sought the support of the civil powers, and thus gave the latter abundant occasion to interfere in purely ecclesiastical affairs. Again, to strengthen their authority in the face of anti-papal tendencies, the popes of the fifteenth century made at various times certain concessions to the civil authorities, so that the latter came to regard ecclesiastical affairs as within their domain. For the future the Church was to be, not superordinate, but subordinate to the civil power, and was increasingly menaced with complete subjection. According as national self-consciousness developed in the various countries of Europe, the sense of the unity and interpendence of the Christian family of nations grew weaker. Jealousy between nations increased, selfishness gained ground, the rift between politics and Christian morality and religion grew wider, and discontent and perilous revolutionary tendencies spread rapidly among the people. Love of wealth was meanwhile given a great incentive by the discovery of the New World, the rapid development of commerce, and the new prosperity of the cities. In public life a many-sided and intense activity revealed itself, foreshadowing a new era and inclining the popular mind to changes in the hitherto undivided province of religion.

E

The Renaissance and Humanism partly introduced and greatly fostered these conditions. Love of luxury was soon associated with the revival of the art and literature of Graeco-Roman paganism. The Christian religious ideal was to a great extent lost sight of; higher intellectual culture, previously confined in great measure to the clergy, but now common among the laity, assumed a secular character, and in only too many cases fostered actively and practically a pagan spirit, pagan morality and views. A crude materialism obtained among the higher classes of society and in the educated world, characterized by a gross love of pleasure, a desire for gain, and a voluptuousness of life diametrically opposed to Christian morality. Only a faint interest in the supernatural life survived. The new art of printing made it possible to disseminate widely the works of pagan authors and of their humanistic imitators. Immoral poems and romances, biting satires on ecclesiastical persons and institutions, revolutionary works and songs, were circulated in all directions and wrought immense harm. As Humanism grew, it waged violent war against the Scholasticism of the time. The traditional theological method had greatly degenerated owing to the finical, hair-splitting manner of treating theological questions, and a solid and thorough treatment of theology had unhappily disappeared from many schools and writings. The Humanists cultivated new methods, and based theology on the Bible and the study of the Fathers, an essentially good movement which might have renewed the study of theology, if properly developed. But the violence of the Humanists, their exaggerated attacks on Scholasticism, and the frequent obscurity of their teaching aroused strong opposition from the representative Scholastics. The new movement, however, had won the sympathy of the lay world and of the section of the clergy devoted to Humanism. The danger was only too imminent that the reform would not be confined to theological methods but would reach the content of ecclesiastical dogma, and would find widespread support in humanistic circles.

The soil was thus ready for the growth of revolutionary movements in the religious sphere. Many grave warnings were indeed uttered, indicating the approaching danger and urging a fundamental reform of the actual evil conditions. Much had been effected in this direction by the reform movement in various religious orders and by the apostolic efforts of zealous individuals. But a general renewal of ecclesiastical life and a uniform improvement of evil conditions, beginning with Rome itself, the centre of the Church, were not promptly undertaken, and soon it needed only an external impulse to precipitate a revolution, which was to cut off from the unity of the Church great territories of Central and almost all Northern Europe.

II. ORIGINAL IDEAS AND PURPOSES OF THE REFORMERS

The first impulse to secession was supplied by the opposition of Luther in Germany and of Zwingli in German Switzerland to the promulgation by Leo X of an indulgence for contributions towards the building of the new St. Peter's at Rome. For a long time it had been customary for the popes to grant indulgences for buildings of public utility (e.g. bridges). In such cases the true doctrine of indulgences as a remission of the punishment due to sin (not of guilt of sin ) had been always upheld, and the necessary conditions (especially the obligation of a contrite confession to obtain absolution from sin ) always inculcated. But the almsgiving for a good object, prescribed only as a good work supplementary to the chief conditions for the gaining of the indulgence, was often prominently emphasized. The indulgence commissaries sought to collect as much money as possible in connexion with the indulgence. Indeed, frequently since the Western Schism the spiritual needs of the people did not receive as much consideration as a motive for promulgating an indulgence, as the need of the good object by promoting which the indulgence was to be gained, and the consequent need of obtaining alms for this purpose. The war against the Turks and other crises, the erection of churches and monasteries, and numerous other causes led to the granting of indulgences in the fifteenth century. The consequent abuses were heightened by the fact that secular rulers frequently forbade the promulgation of indulgences within their territories, consenting only on condition that a portion of the receipts should be given to them. In practice, therefore, and in the public mind the promulgation of indulgences took on an economic aspect, and, as they were frequent, many came to regard them as an oppressive tax. Vainly did earnest men raise their voices against this abuse, which aroused no little bitterness against the ecclesiastical order and particularly the Papal Curia. The promulgation of indulgences for the new St. Peter's furnished Luther with an opportunity to attack indulgences in general, and this attack was the immediate occasion of the Reformation in Germany. A little later the same motive led Zwingli to put forth his erroneous teachings, thereby inaugurating the Reformation in German Switzerland. Both declared that they were attacking only the abuses of indulgences ; however, they soon taught doctrine in many ways contrary to the teaching of the Church.

The great applause which Luther received on his first appearance, both in humanistic circles and among some theologians and some of the earnest-minded laity, was due to the dissatisfaction with the existing abuses. His own erroneous views and the influence of a portion of his followers very soon drove Luther into rebellion against ecclesiastical authority as such, and eventually led him into open apostasy and schism. His chief original supporters were among the Humanists, the immoral clergy, and the lower grades of the landed nobility imbued with revolutionary tendencies. It was soon evident that he meant to subvert all the fundamental institutions of the Church. Beginning by proclaiming the false doctrine of "justification by faith alone", he later rejected all supernatural remedies (especially the sacraments and the Mass), denied the meritoriousness of good works (thus condemning monastic vows and Christian asceticism in general), and finally rejected the institution of a genuine hierarchical priesthood (especially the papacy ) in the Church. His doctrine of the Bible as the sole rule of faith, with rejection of all ecclesiastical authority, established subjectivism in matters of faith. By this revolutionary assault Luther forfeited the support of many serious persons indisposed to break with the Church but on the other hand won over all the anti-ecclesiastical elements, including numerous monks and nuns who left the monasteries to break their vows, and many priests who espoused his cause with the intention of marrying. The support of his sovereign, Frederick of Saxony, was of great importance. Very soon secular princes and municipal magistrates made the Reformation a pretext for arbitrary interference in purely ecclesiastical and religious affairs, for appropriating ecclesiastical property and disposing of it at pleasure, and for deciding what faith their subjects should accept. Some followers of Luther went to even greater extremes. The Anabaptists and the "Iconoclasts" revealed the extremest possibilities of the principles advocated by Luther, while in the Peasants' War the most oppressed elements of German society put into practice the doctrine of the reformer. Ecclesiastical affairs were now reorganized on the basis of the new teachings; henceforth the secular power is ever more clearly the supreme judge in purely religious matters, and completely disregards any independent ecclesiastical authority.

A second centre of the Reformation was established by Zwingli at Zurich. Though he differed in many particulars from Luther, and was much more radical than the latter in his transformation of the ceremonial of the Mass, the aims of his followers were identical with those of the Lutherans. Political considerations played a great role in the development of Zwinglianism, and the magistracy of Zurich, after a majority of its members had declared for Zwingli, became a zealous promoter of the Reformation. Arbitrary decrees were issued by the magistrates concerning ecclesiastical organization; the councillors who remained true to the Catholic Faith were expelled from the council, and Catholic services were forbidden in the city. The city and the canton of Zurich were reformed by the civil authorities according to the ideas of Zwingli. Other parts of German Switzerland experienced a similar fate. French Switzerland developed later its own peculiar Reformation; this was organized at Geneva by Calvin. Calvinism is distinguished from Lutheranism and Zwinglianism by a more rigid and consistent form of doctrine and by the strictness of its moral precepts, which regulate the whole domestic and public life of the citizen. The ecclesiastical organization of Calvin was declared a fundamental law of the Republic of Geneva, and the authorities gave their entire support to the reformer in the establishment of his new court of morals. Calvin's word was the highest authority, and he tolerated no contradiction of his views or regulations. Calvinism was introduced into Geneva and the surrounding country by violence. Catholic priests were banished, and the people oppressed and compelled to attend Calvinistic sermons.

In England the origin of the Reformation was entirely different. Here the sensual and tyrannical Henry VIII, with the support of Thomas Cranmer, whom the king made the Archbishop of Canterbury, severed his country from ecclesiastical unity because the pope, as the true guardian of the Divine law, refused to recognize the invalid marriage of the king with Anne Boleyn during the lifetime of his lawful wife. Renouncing obedience to the pope, the despotic monarch constituted himself supreme judge even in ecclesiastical affairs; the opposition of such good men as Thomas More and John Fisher was overcome in blood. The king wished, however, to retain unchanged both the doctrines of the Church and the ecclesiastical hierarchy, and caused a series of doctrines and institutions rejected by Luther and his followers to be strictly prescribed by Act of Parliament (Six Articles) under the pain of death. In England also the civil power constituted itself supreme judge in matters of faith, and laid the foundation for further arbitrary religious innovations. Under the following sovereign, Edward VI (1547-53), the Protestant party gained the upped hand, and thenceforth began to promote the Reformation in England according to the principles of Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin. Here also force was employed to spread the new doctrines. This last effort of the Reformation movement was practically confined to England ( see ANGLICANISM ).

III. METHOD OF SPREADING THE REFORMATION

In the choice of means for extending the Reformation its founders and supporters were not fastidious, availing themselves of any factor which could further their movement.

A

Denunciation of real and supposed abuses in religious and ecclesiastical life was, especially at the beginning, one of the chief methods employed by the reformers to promote their designs. By this means they won over many who were dissatisfied with existing conditions, and were ready to support any movement that promised a change. But it was especially the widespread hatred of Rome and of the members of the hierarchy, fostered by the incessantly repeated and only too often justifiable complaints about abuses, that most efficiently favoured the reformers, who very soon violently attacked the papal authority, recognizing in it the supreme guardian of the Catholic Faith. Hence the multitude of lampoons, often most vulgar, against the pope, the bishops, and in general against all representatives of ecclesiastical authority. These pamphlets were circulated everywhere among the people, and thereby respect for authority was still more violently shaken. Painters prepared shameless and degrading caricatures of the pope, the clergy, and the monks, to illustrate the text of hostile pamphlets. Waged with every possible weapon (even the most reprehensible), this warfare against the representatives of the Church, as the supposed originators of all ecclesiastical abuses, prepared the way for the reception of the Reformation. A distinction was no longer drawn between temporary and corrigible abuses and fundamental supernatural Christian truths ; together with the abuses, important ecclesiastical institutions, resting on Divine foundation were simultaneously abolished.

B

Advantage was also taken of the divisions existing in many places between the ecclesiastical and civil authorities. The development of the State, in its modern form, among the Christian peoples of the West gave rise to many disputes between the clergy and laity, between bishops and the cities, between monasteries and the territorial lords. When the reformers withdrew from the clergy all authority, especially all influence in civil affairs, they enabled the princes and municipal authorities to end these long-pending strifes to their own advantage by arbitrarily arrogating to themselves all disputed rights, banishing the hierarchy whose rights they usurped, and then establishing by their own authority a completely new ecclesiastical organization. The Reformed clergy thus possessed from the beginning only such rights as the civil authorities were pleased to assign them. Consequently the Reformed national Churches were completely subject to the civil authorities , and the Reformers, who had entrusted to the civil power the actual execution of their principles, had now no means of ridding themselves of this servitude.

C

In the course of centuries an immense number of foundations had been made for religious, charitable, and educational objects, and had been provided with rich material resources. Churches, monasteries, hospitals, and schools had often great incomes and extensive possessions, which aroused the envy of secular rulers. The Reformation enabled the latter to secularize this vast ecclesiastical wealth, since the leaders of the Reformation constantly inveighed against the centralization of such riches in the hands of the clergy. The princes and municipal authorities were thus invited to seize ecclesiastical property, and employ it for their own purposes. Ecclesiastical principalities, which were entrusted to the incumbents only as ecclesiastical persons for administration and usufruct, were, in defiance of actual law, by exclusion of the incumbents, transformed into secular principalities. In this way the Reformers succeeded in depriving the Church of the temporal wealth provided for its many needs, and in diverting the same to their own advantage.

D

Human emotions, to which the Reformers appealed in the most various ways, were another means of spreading the Reformation. The very ideas which these innovators defended -- Christian freedom, license of thought, the right and capacity of each individual to found his own faith on the Bible , and other similar principles -- were very seductive for many. The abolition of religious institutions which acted as a curb on sinful human nature ( confession, penance, fasting, abstinence, vows ) attracted the lascivious and frivolous. The warfare against the religious orders, against virginity and celibacy, against the practices of a higher Christian life, won for the Reformation a great number of those who, without a serious vocation, had embraced the religious life from purely human and worldly motives, and who wished to be rid of obligations towards God which had grown burdensome, and to be free to gratify their sensual cravings. This they could do the more easily, as the confiscation of the property of the Churches and monasteries rendered it possible to provide for the material advancement of ex-monks and ex- nuns, and of priests who apostasized. In the innumerable writings and pamphlets intended for the people the Reformers made it their frequent endeavour to excite the basest human instincts. Against the pope, the Roman Curia , and the bishops, priests, monks, and nuns who had remained true to their Catholic convictions, the most incredible lampoons and libels were disseminated. In language of the utmost coarseness Catholic doctrines and institutions were distorted and ridiculed. Among the lower, mostly uneducated, and abandoned elements of the population, the baser passions and instincts were stimulated and pressed into the service of the Reformation.

E

At first many bishops displayed great apathy towards the Reformers, attaching to the new movement no importance; its chiefs were thus given a longer time to spread their doctrines. Even later, many worldly-inclined bishops, though remaining true to the Church, were very lax in combating heresy and in employing the proper means to prevent its further advance. The same might be said of the parochial clergy, who were to a great extent ignorant and indifferent, and looked on idly at the defection of the people. The Reformers, on the other hand, displayed the greatest zeal for their cause. Leaving no means unused by word and pen, by constant intercourse with similarly minded persons, by popular eloquence, which the leaders of the Reformation were especially skilled in employing, by sermons and popular writings appealing to the weaknesses of the popular character, by inciting the fanaticism of the masses, in short by clever and zealous utilization of every opportunity and opening that presented itself, they proved their ardour for the spread of their doctrines. Meanwhile they proceeded with great astuteness, purported to adhere strictly to the essential truths of the Catholic Faith, retained at first many of the external ceremonies of Catholic worship, and declared their intention of abolishing only things resting on human invention, seeking thus to deceive the people concerning the real objects of their activity. They found indeed many pious and zealous opponents in the ranks of the regular and secular clergy, but the great need, especially at the beginning, was a universally organized and systematically conducted resistance to this false reformation.

F

Many new institutions introduced by the Reformers flattered the multitude -- e.g. the reception of the chalice by the whole people, the use of the vernacular at Divine service, the popular religious hymns used during services, the reading of the Bible , the denial of the essential difference between clergy and laity. In this category may be included doctrines which had an attraction for many -- e.g. justification by faith alone without reference to good works, the denial of freedom of will, which furnished an excuse for moral lapses, personal certainty of salvation in faith (i.e. subjective confidence in the merits of Christ ), the universal priesthood, which seemed to give all a direct share in sacerdotal functions and ecclesiastical administration.

G

Finally, one of the chief means employed in promoting the spread of the Reformation was the use of violence by the princes and the municipal authorities. Priests who remained Catholic were expelled and replaced by adherents of the new doctrine, and the people were compelled to attend the new services. The faithful adherents of the Church were variously persecuted, and the civil authorities saw to it that the faith of the descendants of those who had strongly opposed the Reformation was gradually sapped. In many places the people were severed from the Church by brutal violence ; elsewhere to deceive the people the ruse was employed of retaining the Catholic rite outwardly for a long time, and prescribing for the reformed clergy the ecclesiastical vestments of the Catholic worship. The history of the Reformation shows incontestably that the civil power was the chief factor in spreading it in all lands, and that in the last analysis it was not religious, but dynastic, political, and social interests which proved decisive. Add to this that the princes and municipal magistrates who had joined the Reformers tyrannized grossly over the consciences of their subjects and burghers. All must accept the religion prescribed by the civil ruler. The principle "Cuius regio, illius et religio" (Religion goes with the land) is an outgrowth of the Reformation, and was by it and its adherents, wherever they possessed the necessary power, put into practice.

IV. SPREAD OF THE REFORMATION IN THE VARIOUS COUNTRIES

A. Germany and German Switzerland

The Reformation was inaugurated in Germany when Luther affixed his celebrated theses to the doors of the church at Wittenberg, 31 October, 1517. From the consequences of papal excommunication and the imperial ban Luther was protected by Elector Frederick of Saxony, his territorial sovereign. While outwardly adopting a neutral attitude, the latter encouraged the formation of Lutheran communities within his domains, after Luther had returned to Wittenberg and resumed there the leadership of the reform movement, in opposition to the Anabaptists. It was Luther who introduced the arbitrary regulations for Divine worship and religious functions; in accordance with these, Lutheran communities were established, whereby an organized heretical body was opposed to the Catholic Church. Among the other German princes who early associated themselves with Luther and seconded his efforts were:

  • John of Saxony (the brother of Frederick);
  • Grand-Master Albet of Prussia, who converted the lands of his order into a secular duchy, becoming its hereditary lord on accepting Lutheranism ;
  • Dukes Henry and Albert of Mecklenburg ;
  • Count Albert of Mansfield;
  • Count Edzard of East Friesland;
  • Landgrave Philip of Hesse, who declared definitively for the Reformation after 1524.

Meanwhile in several German imperial cities the reform movement was initiated by followers of Luther -- especially in Ulm, Augsburg, Nuremburg, Nördlingen, Strasburg, Constance, Mainz, Erfurt, Zwickau, Magdeburg, Frankfort-on-the-Main, and Bremen. The Lutheran princes formed the Alliance of Torgau on 4 May, 1526, for their common defence. By their appearance at the Diet of Speyer in 1526 they secured the adoption of the resolution that, with respect to the Edict of Worms against Luther and his erroneous doctrine, each might adopt such attitude as he could answer for before God and emperor. Liberty to introduce the Reformation into their territories was thus granted to the territorial rulers. The Catholic estates became discouraged, while the Lutheran princes grew ever more extravagant in their demands. Even the entirely moderate decrees of the Diet of Speyer (1529) drew a protest from the Lutheran and Reformed estates.

The negotiations at the Diet of Augsburg (1530), at which the estates rejecting the Catholic faith elaborated their creed (Augsburg Confession), showed that the restoration of religious unity was not to be effected. The Reformation extended wider and wider, both Lutheranism and Zwinglianism being introduced into other German territories. Besides the above-mentioned principalities and cities, it had made its way by 1530 into the principalities of Bayreuth, Ansbach, Anhalt, and Brunswick-Lunenburg, and in the next few years into Pomerania, Jülich-Cleve, and Wurtemberg. In Silesia and the duchy of Liegnitz the Reformation also made great strides. In 1531 the Smalkaldic League, an ofensive and defensive alliance, was concluded between the Protestant princes and cities. Especially after its renewal (1535) this league was joined by other cities and princes who had espoused the Reformation, e.g. Count Palatine Rupert of Zweibrücken, Count William of Nassau, the cities of Augsburg, Kempten, Hamburg, and others. Further negotiations and discussions between the religious parties were instituted with a view to ending the schism, but without success. Among the methods adopted by the Protestants in spreading the Reformation force was ever more freely employed. The Diocese of Naumburg-Zeitz becoming vacant, Elector John Frederick of Saxony installed by force in the see the Lutheran preacher Nicholas Amsdorf (instead of the cathedral provost, Julius von Pflug , chosen by the chapter) and himself undertook the secular government. Duke Henry of Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel was exiled in 1542, and the Reformation introduced into his domains by force. In Cologne itself the Reformation was very nearly established by force. Some ecclesiastical princes proved delinquent, taking no measures against the innovations that spread daily in widening circles. Into Pfalz-Neuburg and the towns of Halberstadt, Halle, etc., the Reformation found entrance. The collapse of the Smalkaldic League (1547) somewhat stemmed the progress of the Reformation: Julius von Pflug was installed in his diocese of Naumburg, Duke Henry of Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel recovered his lands, and Hermann von Wied had to resign the Diocese of Cologne, where the Catholic Faith was thus maintained.

The formula of union established by the Diet of Augsburg in 1547-48 (Augsburg Interim ) did not succeed in its object, although introduced into many Protestant territories. Meanwhile the treachery of Prince Moritz of Saxony, who made a secret treaty with Henry II of France, Germany's enemy, and formed a confederation with the Protestant princes William of Hesse, John Albert of Mecklenburg, and Albert of Brandenburg, to make war on the emperor and empire, broke the power of the emperor. At the suggestion of Charles, King Ferdinand convened the Diet of Augsburg in 1555, at which, after long negotiations, the compact known as the Religious Peace of Augsburg was concluded. This pact contained the following provisions in its twenty-two paragraphs:

  • between the Catholic imperial estates and those of the Augsburg Confession (the Zwinglians were not considered in the treaty) peace and harmony was to be observed;
  • no estate of the empire was to compel another estate or its subjects to change religion, nor was it to make war on such on account of religion;
  • should an ecclesiastical dignitary espouse the Augsburg Confession, he was to lose his ecclesiastical dignity with all offices and emoluments connected with it, without prejudice, however, to his honour and private possession. Against this eccclesiastical proviso the Lutheran estates protested:
  • the holders of the Augsburg Confession were to be left in possession of all ecclesiastical property which they had held since the beginning of the Reformation; after 1555 neither party might seize anything from the other;
  • until the conclusion of peace between the contending religious bodies (to be effected at the approaching Diet of Ratisbon ) the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Catholic hierarchy was suspended in the territories of the Augsburg Confession;
  • should any conflict arise between the parties concerning land or rights, an attempt must first be made to settle such disputes by arbitration ;
  • no imperial estate might protect the subjects of another estate from the authorities;
  • every citizen of the Empire had the right of choosing either of the two recognized religions and of practising it in another territory without loss of rights, honour, or property (without prejudice, however,

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2 for you have said: love is built to last for ever, ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 1:26-38
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by ... Read More

Reading 2, Romans 16:25-27
25 And now to him who can make you strong in ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for December 21st, 2014 Image

St. Peter Canisius
December 21: In 1565, the Vatican was looking for a secret agent. It was ... Read More

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