Skip to comments.Was The Protestant Reformation Good For Catholics?
Posted on 09/21/2010 8:41:25 AM PDT by pinochet
Yesterday, a friend called me from Brussels, and he told me that Belgium is undergoing a huge sexual abuse scandal in their Catholic Church. Here is a news story on the scandal: http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-world/belgium-priest-abuse-linked-to-suicides-20100911-155cp.html
I am a Catholic, and I love my Church, and the failings of individual officials of the Church will not undermine the faith that a billion people have in the core message of Christ and his Church.
I know that it is common for conservative Catholics to blame the sexual revolution of the 1960s, for the abuses in the Church. Unfortunately, sexual abuse of young boys in the Church has been going on for centuries. It seems to be a habit the Church picked up from the pagan Romans and the pagan Greeks, where sexual relations between men and boys was common place. For example, Pope Julius III (1487-1555), had a lover who was a 14 year old boy. The only reason why the boy is remembered by historians, is because Pope Julius made him a Cardinal at the age of 17, which caused a huge scandal in Europe in the 1500s. Here is the wikipedia entry on Pope Julius III: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_Julius_III
In times like these, we Catholics should give thanks to our Protestant brothers in Christ, because they introduced free speech, democracy, and freedom in Europe and America, which has enabled the rotten apples in the Catholic Church to be exposed. Imagine what young boys used to suffer in Medieval Europe before the Reformation. Who could you complain to? There were no newspapers which could expose such scandals. There were no police to go to. Young boys simply suffered in silence for centuries.
European governments during the Middle Ages were like the Islamic governments of today. They were ruled by autocratic kings, with powerful clerics, who imposed a Catholic version of sharia law on Europeans, but the powerful never had to follow the laws they imposed on the masses.
Fur Shur in 1066 William was going to invade and take over England with or without the Pope's approval.
A minor example, but still an example.
There’s a difference.
If you read what I wrote, you’ll note that kings throughout the Middle Ages tried to control the Church. The French kings in the 1300s were trying and they were more successful than any kings in the past.
But Henry VIII and the town council of Zurich made the 14thc French kings look like pikers on the scale of absolutist control.
I am well aware of short-comings in Protestant history. But it is time that Catholics and Protestants formed a united theological front, to fight the threat that radical Islam poses to the Christian civilizations of America and Europe.
Certainly, the best thing about Medieval Catholicism, is that it stopped Muslims from taking over Europe. We need to bring back the fighting spirit of King Richard the Lionheart, and other great warriors who defended the Christian civilizations of the West, if Christianity is to survive in the long-term.
The only true warrior against radical Islam in Europe happens to be an ex-Catholic, Geert Wilders, who is now an atheist. He is fighting a lonely battle, and Christians are not doing enough to help him. It is time that Christians fought back, in defense of their civilization.
William is a poor example. He did it as a temporal ruler in the two-sword context, acting on his claim to the throne. By the two-sword understanding, the Church did not normally get involved in adjudicating claims to thrones. Bishops did criticize kings who used naked abuse of power in unjust wars—e.g., Bishop Hugh of Lincoln against Richard I in Richard’s wars in France. Or Hugh’s dressing down, while still an abbot, of Richard’s father, Henry II—who actually listened to Hugh and changed his tune, on occasion. It took guts to face down a king who had contributed to the murder of an archbishop. Medieval kings simply were not absolutist rulers, certainly not William the Conquerer. William was dependent on his nobles’ support. Absolutist rulers had crushed the nobles’ effectual power. That you confuse William I with Henry VIII shows you are the smoker.
I welcome a united front of Protestants and Catholics against Islam. But it’s going to have to start by being honest out our histories. The article is not helpful in that regard.
There’s plenty of black pages in Catholic history. I’m all for being honest about them. But also the black pages in Protestant history and above all, being honest about the way in which the Protestant Reformation, which started (Luther) as an honest and good call for reform within the Church, was coopted by emerging absolutist rulers and used as a tool to create the state-church system and mercantilism against which our republic emerged.
We should make common cause, but it needs to be done in honesty, not special pleading.
Half a millenium later Henry owed more to his Grandfather Rene of Anjou than to Protestant theory. Rene had two wives, three concubines and made himself a Cardinal.
These guys did more than trade rugs with the Turks!
What would that look like?
The Tudors hold on power after Henry VIII was precarious and by no means absolutist. James I believed in the divine right of kings, but when his son tried tightening his grip it ignited a civil war that flared off and on for decades until the Glorious Revolution settled the question and established England as a constitutional monarchy.
The Protestant power that bedeviled Louis and for a time was the most prosperous Protestant country in Europe was the Netherlands, which famously and nearly disastrously limited the power of its monarchs.
The idea that absolute monarchy was a Protestant invention is just wrong. You seem to base the theory on the fact that Protestant princes decided whether their countries would be Protestant or Catholic, but the same prerogative was recognized and exercised by Catholic princes.
Drake sailed under Letters of Marque. To England he was a privateer and to her enemies he was a pirate. Catholic states also issued Letters of Marque - it was a standard tool of war until the practice died out in the 19th Century.
Yours is the more important question.
The Protestant Reformation and the NEED for the same was BAD for ALL of Christianity.
While Catholic Christians and Protestant Christians and Protestant Christians and Other Protestant Christians were slaughtering each other over matters of theological doctrine, ISLAM was attacking in Central Europe, the Balkans, the Mediterranean, Asia, and even, by way of Corsairs, as far north as England, Ireland and Iceland.
TODAY, we have the mainstream Protestant lines - Episcopalian/Anglican, Methodist, and Presbyterian - in the main - tied up with politically correct Christianity, and the Catholic Church reeling from the damage of unpunished pervert priests. And all factions are STILL sniping at one another, albeit more subtlely.
MEANWHILE, history is ONCE AGAIN repeating itself with militant Islam invading western Europe, the United States, Subsaharan Africa, the Indian Subcontinent and Southeastern Asia.
Just like Communism, with Islam its two steps forward and one step back - and it has been going on since the 600’s.
And even as far back as then, they were taking advantage of “Orthodox” Christianity versus various other flavors.
“Protestants have things to thank Catholics for as well of course, such as preserving the Scriptures, and helping to stop Islam from overrunning the entire known world. Maybe if we focused more on the good things the other side has done, wed be a bit more loving towards one another :)”
It’s good to have family discussions, but Christians of all traditions need to remember that the real enemy is out there, and his mission is to rob, steal, kill, and destroy.
We’re in a spiritual war first and foremost and Jesus Christ is our Victory.
Yes, each church seems to have its particular good points, but it seems like we too often get bogged down in the doctrinal arguments, and forget that even if we disagree on those matters, we should be working together towards the same goals.
If you don’t recognize the authority of the Pope, but I did, don’t we still both recognize the higher authority of Christ? Like a family, we should keep these arguments amongst ourselves, but provided a united front to the world, whenever we reasonably can.
“Medieval Christendom was different from Islam where no worked-out distinction between spiritual and temporal rule exists. Medieval Christian political structure distinguished between spiritual and temporal rule.”
I read his comparison with Islamic governments a little differently. I think his emphasis was on the fact that both Islamic states (even many today) and Medieval Christendom were imposing temporal punishments on their people for violations of spiritual statutes. Just as a heretic can be beheaded under Shariah, a heretic could have been killed by the Inquisition. The enforcement may have been less universal, but there is a legitimate comparison to be made.
More disturbing to me, is that Christ didn’t command us to kill anyone for our beliefs, while Mohammed did command his followers to do so. We took it upon ourselves, whether out of zeal or other motives.
Thats what the American Revolution was all about
You mean that tyranny which allowed Englad to prosper like never before and incrementally gain freedoms in Parliament? You mean the American Revolution fought by British settlers who had had the freedom under that "absolutism" to travel and expand their autonomy until they gained enough strength to shrug off monarchy altogether?
Yes, many of the kings tried again and again to cling to divine rule, but at least citizens had only their own state governments to reform and not the over-arching rule of Rome which they had already succeeded in escaping centuries before.
You make my point. There was a distinction between temporal and spiritual in medieval Christendom—if temporal rulers were imposing punishments for spiritual crimes.
Islam doesn’t have the distinction. Therefore I distinguished between Islam and medieval Christendom.
So did you.
I understand what youre getting at. The spectacle of sin in the Church is sickening and shocking; and looking into the details over the ages opens up vistas that are even worse. Which uncovers a paradox.
First, let me tell you about something seemingly quite far afield, which nevertheless will serve for a comparison: Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights. (I ask your patience, its not a total digression: youll see when I sketch out the connection.)
Back in the 1970s I was a member of an AI adoption group. We were assigned to write to, publicize, and generally advocate for adopted Prisoners of Conscience imprisoned because of political or religious persecution. At that time, some 35+ years ago, AI tried to do this in an even-handed fashion: Youd get one adoptee from a First World (Western) country, one from a Second World (Communist) country, and one from a Third World (underdeveloped) country. AI would send you background on your individual adoptees, plus country-reports and area-reports on the larger human rights situation.
What I noticed, was that there was a huge amount of information about political prisoners pouring in from, say, the UK or France; a far smaller amount from the USSR or Czechoslovakia; and virtually zero information about Prisoners of Conscience in, say, North Korea.
For Irish Republican Army people imprisoned in Northern Ireland, we could get photographs, pages of biographical material, transcripts of legal depositions, and practically daily updates on what was happening in the H-Blocks at Long Kesh. For Anatoly Koryagin, a dissident in punitive psychiatric confinement in the USSR, it was a year and a half before we could even find out where he was and what the charges were. For North Korea there was --- nothing. Not one name. The whole AI country report said something like, There may be an unspecified number of dissenters in involuntary labor camps. No information available at this time.
By now, you can guess where this analogy is going. In the UK, there was a huge amount of info. about human rights violations, precisely because the UK was, as a society, explicitly and officially opposed to such violations; and the victims (or putative victims) of injustice had access to the media, to lawyers, and ardent advocates who had the substantial moral weight of Anglo-Irish law and culture on their side.
Not so in the USSR, where there was little precedent for official self-scrutiny and no consensus that the abuse of dissidents was even wrong.
And if you went by the amount of available evidence, youd conclude that North Korea was a paradise of liberty, when the truth was that the entire country was a gushing bloody sewer of human suffering.
So heres Mrs. Don-os Amnesty International Paradox: the higher the standards of any group, the more minutely its violations will be exposed and examined, and the worse the group will appear to public opinion at large.
(With me so far? Ive been thinking about this for 35 years.)
So you can say, the sexual abuse of young boys in the Church has been going on for centuries, but the fact is, the sexual abuse of young boys in the Church and out of the Church has been going on, not for centuries but for millennia, and rare has been the society which even saw it as a crime or a sin--unless they had it spelled out to them by persistent and uncomfortable exposure to Leviticus, the Epistles of Paul, and Canon Law.
But only the good societies lay themselves under the microscope in recurrent episodes of conscience and conviction; in endemically fallen societies, crimes accumulate forever without exposure and without comment.
Similarly (another analogy here) who do you suppose practiced slavery in the New World: the Aztec-Inca-Maya civilizations, or the Spanish-Portuguese? Correct answer: both. But we know far more about the Spanish-Portuguese, because their culture had access to explicit Catholic teachings against slavery ---starting with Pope Eugene IV in 1435 protesting the enslaving of natives of the Canary Islands; and they had saints (like St. Peter Claver), scholars (like Bartholome de las Casas), jurists (like Francisco de Vitoria) and bishops (like St. Toribio) who kept preaching, writing, exposing, hitting away against the prevailing culture of sin.
In the case of slavery, you had, in short, the unfaithful against the faithful; just as, in the matter of sexual sin, you have the unfaithful against the faithful.
Much as we can value our Protestant brothers and free speech and democracy (I do), our Protestant brothers invented neither sexual virtue nor civic freedom. As I became more aware of Church history via, for instance, biographies of the saints, I began to realize that every century and every society has its characteristic sins, and in every age, the good (Catholic or Protestant or anybody else) have to strain every muscle against evils that seem on the point of inundating all.
I could go on, but wont! ---Pausing fingers on the keyboard.
(If you are still reading, thank youfor reading this far.)
I hope this has opened up a different angle of oversight. What we have here, I think, is not some characteristically Catholic corruption, but the Amnesty International paradox: the higher a groups virtues and values, the more likely its sins will be catalogued.
You apparently think “absolutist” means the degree of dynastic security. That’s not what it means when used by historians. It refers to the claim claim by kings that all power and authority, even religious, rests with them, rather than being divided among kings, nobles, towns, bishops.
It was distributed among all the above in the Middle Ages. Kings and some bishops and some towns and some nobles tried to gain more power for themselves. The others resisted. That’s what Magna Carta was about. The nobles appealed to their legitimate authority/power role against the king’s overreaching.
You are talking apples to my oranges. So what if the Tudor dynastic grasp was precarious compared to Charles V’s (you err when you lump France in with Spain—1500s in France was dynastic chaos, far worse than Tudor England). Absolutism has nothing to do with precarious or solid hold on the kingship.
It has to do with the claims made by whoever holds the kingship, claims vis a vis other possible claimants.
It is a simple fact that Henry VIII claimed superiority over the Church in England. That’s royal absolutism.
Neither Charles V nor Philip II in Spain ever, ever, ever, claimed anything like that. De facto Philip controlled a lot of the church in Spain but he did it as an abuse of authority. Henry VIII openly claimed that his having absolute supremacy was right and good.
So did the city council in Zurich.
And that claim and Luther’s granting of authority to reform the church to the prince and all sorts of other Protestant moves were breathtakingly new.
Catholic rulers were moving in the same direction but were not as far along—they had to make these moves under-the-table because the claims violated Catholic beliefs.
Excellent post, Mrs. Don-o.
I’ve been on both sides of the fence. My answer, is no. When I look at the 30 years war, would I argue it was worth it? No. Did Luther’s ‘reformation’, alter and fix the church? No. Did Henry VIII’s seizure of all the monasteries, and Elizabeth’s execution of Catholics worth it for the nebulous point of freedom from Catholicism, when the throne returned to a Catholic king after Elizabeth? No.
Quite the opposite. The only thing it produced is war and division. The Islam point is quite salient, when we were fighting ourselves, Islam marched right up to Vienna.
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