At the start of the 16th century Western Europe had only one religion, Roman Catholicism. The Catholic Church was rich and powerful and had preserved Europe's classical culture. However, despite General Councils called to impose reforms, disputes and lax practices had grown up within the church. "Catholic Reformation" highlights the existence of a spontaneous reform within the church itself that sought to revitalize religious life through the improvement and application of Gospel teachings to the life of both the individual and the institution. This movement predates Martin Luther and represents the culmination of medieval reform efforts. The goal of the Catholic Reformation was to reform the existing institutional church by fostering a renewal of its spiritual life and mission. At the end of the middle Ages, the church was, institutionally and spiritually, in a state of decline. Corruption and abuse had set in on all levels—unworthy men held office in the church; politics came to dominate the papacy; bishops did not reside in their dioceses; priests were uneducated; monastic discipline was disorderly. It was clear that the church was in urgent need of reform, yet the cry for a "reformation in head and members" went unanswered "from above." There was, however, a movement for restructuring "from below" led by individuals who sought not rebellion but restoration. These reformers, scattered throughout Europe, did not desire to inaugurate a new way but rather to return to the origins of the Christian religion. Regardless of the form that these individual efforts took, the aim was the spiritual renewal of the individual and the purification of the church. Thus, the Catholic Reformation would be marked by reformed congregations of the leading monastic and mendicant orders; reform-minded bishops who resided in their dioceses personally looking after the religious lives of their flock; and groups of clergy and laity devoted to personal sanctification and the works of...
References: 1. Mullett, Michael A. The Catholic Reformation. London and New York. 1999.
2. De Molen, Richard L., ed. Religious Orders of the Catholic Reformation. New York, 1994. A collection of essays on nine religious orders.
Please join StudyMode to read the full document