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7th Grade Social Studies / Lesson 4 - Reformation ideas spread
What will we be learning in this unit?
- What ideas did radical reformers support?
- Why did England form a new church?
- How did the Catholic Church reform itself?
- Why did some groups face persecution?
- As the Reformation continued, hundreds of new Protestant sects sprang up. These sects often had ideas that were even more radical than those of Luther and Calvin. A number of groups, for example, rejected infant baptism. Infants, they argued, are too young to understand what it means to accept the Christian faith. Only adults, they felt, should receive the sacrament of baptism. They became known as Anabaptists.
- A few Anabaptist sects sought radical social change as well. Some wanted to abolish private property. Others sought to speed up the coming of God's day of judgment by violent means. When radical Anabaptists took over the city of Munster in Germany, even Luther advised his supporters to join Catholics in suppressing the threat to the traditional order.
- Most Anabaptists were peaceful. They called for religious toleration and separation of church and state. Despite harsh persecution, these groups influenced Protestant thinking in many countries. Today, the Baptists, Quakers, Mennonites, and Amish all trace their ancestry to the Anabaptists.
- In England, religious leaders such as John Wycliffe had called for Church reform as early as the 1300s. By the 1520s, some English clergy were toying with Protestant ideas. The break with the Catholic Church, however, was the work not of religious leaders but of King Henry VIII. For political reasons, Henry wanted to end papal control over the English church.
- At first, Henry VIII stood firmly against the Protestant revolt. The pope even awarded him the title "Defender of the Faith" for a pamphlet that he wrote denouncing Luther.
- In 1527, an issue arose that set Henry at odds with the Church. After 18 years of marriage, Henry and his Spanish wife, Catherine of Aragon, had one surviving child, Mary Tudor. Henry felt that England's stability depended on his having a male heir. He wanted to marry Anne Boleyn, hoping that she would bear him a son. Because Catholic law does not permit divorce, he asked the pope to annul, or cancel, his marriage. Popes had annulled royal marriages before. But the current pope refused. He did not want to offend the Holy Roman emperor Charles V, Catherine's nephew.
- Henry was furious. Spurred on by his advisers, many of whom leaned toward Protestant teachings, he decided to take over the English church. Acting through Parliament, he had a series of laws passed. They took the English church from the pope's control and placed it under Henry's rule. In 1534, the Act of Supremacy made Henry "the only supreme head on Earth of the Church of England." Many loyal Catholics refused to accept the Act of Supremacy and were executed for treason. Among them was Sir Thomas More, the great English humanist. More was later canonized, or recognized as a saint, by the Catholic Church.
- At the same time, Henry appointed Thomas Cranmer archbishop. Cranmer annulled the king's marriage. Henry then wed Anne Boleyn, who bore him a second daughter, Elizabeth. In the years ahead, Henry married four more times but had only one son, Edward.
- Between 1536 and 1540, royal officials investigated English convents and monasteries. Claiming that they were centers of immorality, Henry ordered them closed. He then confiscated, or seized, their lands and wealth. Henry shrewdly granted some of these lands to nobles and other high-ranking citizens. He thus secured their support for the Anglican Church, as the new Church of England was called.
- Despite these actions, Henry was not a religious radical. He rejected most Protestant doctrines. Aside from breaking away from Rome and allowing use of the English Bible, he kept most Catholic forms of worship.
- When Henry died in 1547, his 10-year-old son, Edward VI, inherited the throne. The young king's advisers were devout Protestants. Under Edward, Parliament passed new laws that brought the Protestant reforms to England. Thomas Cranmer drew up the Book of Common Prayer. It imposed a moderate form of Protestant service, while keeping many Catholic doctrines. Even so, the changes sparked uprisings that were harshly suppressed.
- When Edward died in his teens, his half-sister, Mary Tudor, became queen. She was determined to return England to the Catholic faith. Under Queen Mary, hundreds of English Protestants were burned at the stake.
- On Mary's death in 1558, the throne passed to Elizabeth. For years, Elizabeth had survived court intrigues, including the religious swings under Edward and Mary. As queen, Elizabeth had to determine the future of the Church of England. Moving cautiously at first, she slowly enforced a series of reforms that later were called the Elizabethan settlement.
- The queen's policies were a compromise, or acceptable middle ground, between Protestant and Catholic practices. The Church of England preserved much Catholic ceremony and ritual. It kept the hierarchy of bishops and archbishops, but the queen reaffirmed that the monarch was the head of the Anglican Church. At the same time, Elizabeth restored a version of the Book of Common Prayer, accepted moderate Protestant doctrine, and allowed English to replace Latin in church services.
- During a long reign, Elizabeth used all her skills to restore unity to England. Even while keeping many Catholic traditions, she made England a firmly Protestant nation. After her death, England faced new religious storms. But it escaped the endless religious wars that tore apart France and many other European states during the 1500s.
- As the Protestant Reformation swept across northern Europe, a vigorous reform movement took hold within the Catholic Church. The leader of this movement, known as the Catholic Reformation, was Pope Paul III. During the 1530s and 1540s, he set out to revive the moral authority of the Church and roll back the Protestant tide. To end corruption within the papacy itself, he appointed reformers to key posts. They and their successors guided the Catholic Reformation for the rest of the century.
- To establish the direction that reform should take, the pope called the Council of Trent in 1545. It met off and on for almost 20 years. The council reaffirmed traditional Catholic views, which Protestants had challenged. Salvation comes through faith and good works, it declared. The Bible, while a major source of religious truth, is not the only source.
- The council also took steps to end abuses in the Church. It provided stiff penalties for worldliness and corruption among the clergy. It also established schools to create a better-educated clergy who could challenge Protestant teachings.
- To deal with the Protestant threat more directly, Pope Paul strengthened the Inquisition. As you have read, the Inquisition was a Church court set up during the Middle Ages. The Inquisition used secret testimony, torture, and execution to root out heresy. It also prepared the Index of Forbidden Books, a list of works considered too immoral or irreligious for Catholics to read. It included books by Luther and Calvin.
- In 1540, the pope recognized a new religious order, the Society of Jesus, or Jesuits. Founded by Ignatius of Loyola, the Jesuit order was determined to combat heresy and spread the Catholic faith.
- Ignatius was a Spanish knight raised in the crusading tradition. After his leg was shattered in battle, he found comfort reading about saints who had overcome mental and physical torture. Vowing to become a "soldier of God," Ignatius drew up a strict program for the Jesuits. It included spiritual and moral discipline, rigorous religious training, and absolute obedience to the Church. Led by Ignatius, the Jesuits embarked on a crusade to defend and spread the Catholic faith throughout the world.
- To further the Catholic cause, Jesuits became advisers to Catholic rulers, helping them combat heresy in their lands. They set up schools that taught humanist and Catholic beliefs and enforced discipline and obedience. Daring Jesuits slipped into Protestant lands in disguise to minister to the spiritual needs of Catholics. Jesuit missionaries spread their Catholic faith to distant lands, including Asia, Africa, and the Americas.
- As the Catholic Reformation spread, many Catholics experienced renewed feelings of intense faith. Teresa of Avila symbolized this renewal. Born into a wealthy Spanish family, Teresa entered a convent in her youth. Finding convent routine not strict enough, she set up her own order of nuns. They lived in isolation, eating and sleeping very little and dedicating themselves to prayer and meditation.
- Impressed by her spiritual life, her superiors in the Church asked Teresa to reorganize and reform convents and monasteries throughout Spain. Teresa was widely honored for her work, and after her death the Church canonized her. Her mystical writings rank among the most important Christian texts of her time.
- Did the Catholic Reformation succeed? By 1600, Rome was a far more devout city than it had been 100 years earlier. Across Catholic Europe, piety and charity flourished. The reforms did slow the Protestant tide and even returned some areas to the Catholic Church. Still, Europe remained divided into a Catholic south and a Protestant north.
- During this period of heightened religious passion, persecution was widespread. Both Catholics and Protestants fostered intolerance. Catholic mobs attacked and killed Protestants. Protestants killed Catholic priests and wrecked Catholic churches. Both Catholics and Protestants persecuted radical sects like the Anabaptists.
- Almost certainly, the religious fervor of the times contributed to a wave of witch hunting. Those accused of being witches, or agents of the devil, were usually women, although some men faced similar attacks. Between 1450 and 1750, tens of thousands of women and men died as victims of witch hunts.
- Scholars have offered various reasons for this persecution. At the time, most people believed in magic and spirits. They saw a close link between magic and heresy. In addition, during times of trouble, people often look for scapegoats on whom they can blame their problems. People accused of witchcraft were often social outcasts-beggars, poor widows, midwives blamed for infant deaths, or herbalists whose potions were seen as gifts from the devil.
- Most victims of the witch hunts died in the German states, Switzerland, and France, all centers of religious conflict. When the wars of religion came to an end, the persecution of witches also declined.
- The Reformation brought hard times to Europe's Jews. For many Jews in Italy, the early Renaissance had been a time of relative prosperity. Unlike Spain, which had expelled its Jews in 1492, Italy allowed Jews to remain. Some Jews followed the traditional trades they had been restricted to in medieval times. They were goldsmiths, artists, traders, and moneylenders. Others expanded into medicine, law, government, and business. Still, pressure remained strong on Jews to convert. By 1516, Venice ordered Jews to live in a separate quarter of the city, which became known as a ghetto. Other Italian cities also forced Jews into walled ghettos.
- During the Reformation, restrictions on Jews increased. At first, Luther hoped that Jews would be converted to his teachings. However, when they did not convert, he called for them to be expelled from Christian lands and for their synagogues and books to be burned. In time, some German princes did expel Jews. Others confined Jews to ghettos, requiring them to wear a yellow badge if they traveled outside.
- In the 1550s, Pope Paul IV placed added restrictions on Jews. Even Emperor Charles V, who supported toleration of Jews in the Holy Roman Empire, banned them from Spanish colonies in the Americas. After 1550, many Jews migrated to Poland-Lithuania and to parts of the Ottoman empire, where they were permitted to prosper. Dutch Calvinists allowed Jewish families who were driven out of Portugal and Spain to settle in the Netherlands.