The Spread of Protestantism in the 1500’s During sixteenth century Europe a wave of religious dissatisfaction swept the European continent. There were cries for the restructuring of the Catholic Church. These cries grew into more than just a simple remodeling of the Catholic faith they grew into the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther is credited for the reformation movement against the Catholic Church that began in 1517.
The reformation began because of the corruption in the Catholic Church and the enormous amount of power the church had over Europe. During the sixteenth century the Catholic Church had tremendous sovereignty over the population of Europe. It was almost impossible to fight the Catholic Church because of the fear of excommunication. During the sixteenth century excommunication was a serious punishment to be inflicted upon a person. It was almost as bad as being sentenced to death.
The Catholic Church obtained much of its power from its land holdings, political influence over the local governments, and the money gained from the taxes issued over the populace of Europe by the Church. The church's power led them down a spiral of corruption. Martin Luther's reformation movement caught on with the populace of Europe and evolved and spread all across the continent. The reformation forced the church to respond or disintegrate into oblivion in the wake of the reformation. The Catholic Church's response to the reformation was the Council of Trent. The Council of Trent set a clear dividing line between the two factions of Christianity by clearly defining the Catholic Doctrines. Protestantism varied greatly from Catholicism with regards to its doctrines, the way Protestantism spread, and the way that Protestantism evolved into different forms. The supporters of each religious point of view were drawn to the various appealing aspects of their respected religion.
Protestant doctrine varied greatly from the doctrines of Catholicism. The main deviance in Protestant doctrine in is the answer of how a person obtains salvation. In Catholic doctrine a person obtains salvation through good works and penance. Luther felt that there is no amount of good works a person could perform to be worth of everlasting salvation. In "Justification by Faith Alone" Luther says, "… I grasp that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith" (Luther 261). Luther's statement means that the way to obtain salvation is to believe and trust Jesus Christ and God (Kagen 357). Also Protestantism emphasized scripture over ritual. Luther attacked the catholic ritual in his “Babylonian Captivity of the Church.” He said that only two of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church were biblical. Those two sacraments are baptism and the Eucharist. The Catholic Church’s policy of selling indulgences was another important part of the Catholic Church Luther attacked. He thought the idea that a person could buy their way to salvation was utterly wrong. He went on to say that the pope was not infallible (Kagen 360). That idea went completely against what the Catholic Church believed. These were some of the ways that Protestant Doctrine differed from Catholic Doctrine.
Protestantism spread in a very unique way. The spread of Protestantism did not just spread because people truly believed in the teachings of Luther and other Protestant reformers. A main reason that it spread was that it gave the laymen the opportunity to gain more power for themselves. Cammeron writes that the “blending and coalition of reformers’ protest and laymen’s political ambitions is the essence of the Reformation” (Cammeron, 272). With the laymen support of the Reformation new laws and ordinances began to spring up in sixteenth century Europe. Ozment writes, “…cities and territories passed laws and ordinances that progressively ended or severely limited a host of traditional beliefs, practices, and institutions…” (Ozment, 277). Since Protestantism spread with the help of the laymen’s political ideas it is of no surprise to find out that the laws were changed to fight the new agenda.
Protestantism unlike Catholics mutated into different forms. In the beginning there was Lutheranism. After a few years the Anabaptist formed. The Anabaptist was a stricter form of Protestantism where the members could not go to war, swear oaths, and hold secular offices.
Another trait of the Anabaptist was their disbelief in infant baptism. The Anabaptist performed baptism during adulthood. They also lived in communities separated from the rest of society so they could build a utopia (Kagen, 365). Another offshoot of Protestantism was Calvinism. A man named John Calvin formed Calvinism. Calvinist believes in divine predestination. This means people are chosen by God to go to Heaven. If a person has not been chosen there is nothing they could do in life to earn entrance into heaven. They also believe that mankind needs to conform to God’s will, and that man needs to reorder society to God’s plan. In modern society Protestantism is continually to evolve and mutated in to different forms (Kagen 366).
Protestantism and Catholicism appealed to different people for different reasons. Many people that followed Protestantism were tired of the corruption of the Catholic Church, or for there own political ambitions. The people that Catholicism were the majority of the Catholic clergy, (for obvious reasons), traditionalist, and superstitious people.
After the Reformation the Catholic Church decided that it was in fact time to reform. They made the clergy act more piously and tried to decrease the corruption of the church. Ignatius of Loyola was one of the great Catholic reformers. Ignatius preached the traditions of Catholicism and strict obedience to church authority. Ignatius helped win back many Protestants (Kagen 374).
In conclusion there were many distinct differences between Catholics and Protestantism. The two forms of Christianity appealed to different people in different ways. With Religious fervor behind their respective beliefs, both groups worked with intensity for their causes, which perpetuated both the Protestant and Catholic reformations.