Reformation Essay Essay, Research Paper

Decades past and present have been plagued by corruption all the way

from the time of Moses to the Nixon presidency. Out of all the corruption

that has occurred it seems that one of the most fraudulent is that of

the Catholic Church. In the late fifteenth and early sixteenth

centuries the dominating factor that motivated thousands of Catholic clergy,

from the lowest friars to the pope, was money. It started out with the

occasional small sin but escalated until it was out of control. Bishops

were committing the sin of pluralism; cheating the people by not having

ample time to travel and minister to individual towns. Simony became a

stench in the noses of reformists because clergy were selling positions

in the church to anybody regardless of the person’s knowledge of the

church. Luther, as well as other Protestants, strongly disputed the use

of indulgences to fund for the rebuilding of St. Peter’s Cathedral

saying, “Christians are to be taught that he who sees a man in need, and

passes him by, and gives [his money] for pardons, purchases not the

indulgences of the pope, but the indignation of God.? While the secular and

political leaders strongly opposed Luther and his teachings saying,

“…like a madman plotting the manifest destruction of the holy Church, He

(Luther) daily scatters abroad much worse fruit and effect of his

depraved heart and mind…”, the church was very corrupt and guilty of the

sins of pluralism, simony, and the selling of indulgences.

The first reason for the protests against the Catholic Church was the

practice of pluralism. This form of corruption was made manifest in

Albert of Brandenburg who at an early age acquired the bishoprics of

Halberstadt and Magdeburg and aspired to be the archbishop of Mainz. When he

asked his people to fork over the money to pay for his induction fee

they flatly refused having paid the fees for his previous two titles.

Albert then went to the pope to talk things over and made a deal with him

stating that Albert would pay 10,000 ducats to the pope on top of the

regular induction fee. Then the pope sanctioned the inductions to enable

Albert to reimburse himself and to fund for the St. Peter’s Cathedral.

Pluralism brought protests because it showed the greed of the bishop in

that he would get more money from the sacraments while the people

suffered because they would have to travel great distances to see their top

religious leader.

The second reason that the Protestants revolted against the rule of the

Catholic Church was the practice of simony. The clergy were selling

positions in the church to anybody who had enough money regardless of the

persons knowledge, or lack of it about the church and/or being a

minister. Dietrich Vrie, a German, describes simony stating, “The once

accepted proverb, ‘ Freely give for freely ye have received,’ is now most

vilely perverted: ‘Freely I have not received, nor will I freely give,

for I have bought my bishopric for a great price and must (repay)

myself’…” In this satirical dialogue Vrie speaks the truth about the

corruption within the church. An example of simony in the church is found in

the person of pope Leo the tenth. J. McCabe, the author of Rationalists

Encyclopedia, wrote, “…he bribed his way to the Papal chair through

friends and settled down to a life of vulgar display and sensuous

enjoyment.” Leo the tenth played an immense part in bringing about the

Protestant reformation, not only through his way of living and his

unawareness of church protocol, but through his corrupt methods of earning

capital namely through the St. Peter’s Indulgences.

The Indulgences for St. Peter’s basilica represented the third reason

for the Reformation. To fund the work being done to the church, Leo the

tenth approved the selling of indulgences to the surrounding

population. The official appointed to conduct the sale of indulgences in Germany,

Johann Tetzel, would march into a city with a cross bearing the papal

arms and would have messengers going before him, announcing, “The grace

of God and of the holy father is at your gates.” He would then preach a

sermon in the city square saying, “Listen to the voices of your dear

dead relatives and friends beseeching you saying, ‘Pity us , pity us. We

are in dire torment from which you can redeem us for a pittance.’ Hear

the father saying to his son, the mother to her daughter,

‘We bore you, nourished you … Will you let us lie here in flames?

Will you delay our promised glory?’” He would end with his ever famous:

“As soon as the coin in the coffer rings

The soul from purgatory springs.”

When some of Luther’s followers bought indulgences from Tetzel and

asked Luther why he wouldn’t accept them he told the people to repent from

their former lives. Perplexed, they went back to Tetzel and openly

demanded their money back. Tetzel was enraged and declared that he “had

received an order from the pope to burn all heretics who presumed to

oppose his most holy indulgences.” Luther’s attack on the indulgences came

in the form of the 95 Theses stating that the Catholic Church should

abolish the selling of the indulgences saying, “Every Christian who truly

repents has full forgiveness, even without letters of pardon.”

Whereas the powerful leaders in society disagreed with Luther’s ideas

and teachings, writing, “Since…the authority of the Popes is

disregarded, and doubtful, or rather erroneous opinions are alone received, it

is bound to occur that those…(who follow Luther) should be lead

astray…”, the church was responsible for most of the things Luther said

about them and guilty of simony, pluralism, and condoning indulgences.

Corruptness has played a part in history in the secular and religious

world especially as seen in the Catholic church at the time of the

Protestant Reformation. This can be distinguished clearly from a letter

written by Luther in 1535 saying, “A German, making his confession to a

priest at Rome, promised, on oath, to keep secret whatsoever the priest

should impart unto him, until he reached home; whereupon the priest gave

him a leg of the ass on which Christ rode into Jerusalem, very neatly

bound up in silk, and said: This is the holy relic on which the Lord

Christ corporally did sit, with his sacred legs touching this ass’s leg.

Then was the German wondrous glad, and carried the said holy relic with

him into Germany. When he got to the borders, he bragged of his holy

relic in the presence of four others, his comrades, when, lo! it turned out

that each of them had likewise received from the same priest a leg,

after promising the same secrecy. Thereupon, all exclaimed, with great

wonder: Lord! had that ass five legs?”


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