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Before 1517, people had already brought the abuses of the Catholic Church to light. John Wyclif, an English theologian, told the Church to stop caring about wealth as well as power and instead focus on people in poverty. He continued to attack the Church by translating the Bible into English so that masses of people could interpret it. Jan Hus, a Bohemian theologian, denounced the abuses of priests and soon was burned at the stake upon sharing his philosophy in the Council of Constance. Through these two men, people were beginning to question the church and think individually. People were beginning to look at literature themselves and interpreting them independently from the Church. In 1517, Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Church for all to see. People began to support and join Martin Luther’s fight against the church. Martin Luther may seem like a pivotal figure, but he was carried by ideas in the past that laid the groundwork for his opposition. While Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses did help start the Protestant Reformation, the real driver of the reformation was that people were beginning to believe their own ideas while questioning all institutions of leadership both politically and religiously.
The troubles of the desire for power in the Catholic Church’s papacy as well as the Church’s vie for money through deceitfulness helped support the opposition against the Church. For example, the Great Schism happened about 100 years before the Protestant Reformation and displayed the fight for power in the Catholic Church. In response to an Italian pope being elected, the French elected their own pope. Soon, both popes excommunicated each other. This turmoil in the Church splitted Catholic loyalties and displayed the bitter political competition of the Church. Also, people were beginning to see the economical abuses that the Church was doing. The Church were tricking people to buy indulgences to make money. Indulgences were documents that reduced the waiting time in purgatory. They were granted by Pope Urban II in 1095 in order for the Church to build lavish buildings as well as support a magnificent lifestyle of the papal court. The Church didn’t really care about the people and were tricking them to make a lot of money for selfish reasons. These abuses led to the loss of respect for the Catholic Church. One can see that it was only a matter of time that people were going to separate from the church after seeing the political and economical troubles of the Catholic Church.
Also, people desired to keep their own power rather than submitting to royal authorities. For example, the French Valois Dynasty suppressed nobles’ power. Louis XI tricked vassals to turn against each other which in turn helped him limit the strength of nobles. He brought the end of the feudal system by using force and political power. Following Louis XI, King Francis I helped establish the Concordat of Bologna with Pope Leo X. The Concordat allowed the King of France to appoint people to become bishop in the Church. This overwhelming power shows the Church’s influence on people to follow the king through the nominations of the king. Once nobles realized that their power was becoming useless and that authorities were becoming overpowering, they found Martin Luther as an outlet to stopping “universal monarchy” while retaining their power. Through this, masses of people become to oppose the Church. In addition, nobles in Germany were beginning to resist the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V since he was becoming too powerful from all the land he was inheriting. Also, he was continually absent from Germany. Furthermore, the pope was a huge supporter of Charles V. Soon, these nobles were consolidating their power against him by bandwagoning together to break Charles V’s power by joining the opposition. One can see that the power of the nobles’ opposition were a huge contribution that led to the reform of the Church.
Furthermore, the growing individualistic mind and increase of humanism led to differing views of life contrary to the Catholic Church. The Renaissance was a time where people were determined to find the truth rather than just deter to the Church. Around 1439, the printing press was created by Johannes Gutenberg. Not only did the press give everyone the chance to look into the Bible, but it also gave people the chance to observe it their own way. Additionally, the establishment of the press caused the spreading of controversial ideas that could not be stopped by the Church. Also, the writer Desiderius Erasmus was writing way before Martin Luther’s 95 theses was posted. She fought for humanistic ideas and published the Praise of Folly during 1509-1511. In the Praise of Folly, Erasmus observed that many exploitations of her ministry and the greediness of the Catholic Church desire for just revenue through classical allusions. In addition, she displayed the superstitious abuses of the Church doctrine. These publications laid the groundwork for Martin Luther to expose the corruption of the church. Through the growing individualistic mind, people were beginning to ready themselves to separate from the Church and think independently.
People independently were beginning to question institutions of leadership both politically and religiously which laid the groundwork for Martin Luther. The Great Schism displayed the political struggles in the Church. Also, the Church proved to care only about the cash flow rather than teaching the doctrine of Catholicism by selling indulgences to trick innocent people to give money for a shorter stay in purgatory. In addition to the political and economical abuses of the church, powers of nobles were becoming limited by royal authorities. Also, the trickery of the French Valois Dynasty as well as their connection and influence in the Church led to limited power of nobles. Furthermore, the opposition of German nobles against Charles V who inherited great power showed that his power was being broken up by nobles. Additionally, the spread of ideas through the invention of the printing press led to controversial ideas opposing the Catholic Church to spread. Also, The humanist writer Erasmus exposed the Church’s abuses to the masses. All these factors contributed to the fuel for the Protestant Reformation led by Martin Luther. Although Catholic Church still has great influence on world issues, they are under pressure from individuals questioning the Church’s position on controversial ideas like gay marriage and abortion.
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