After Westboro: The Trouble With “Tolerance”
A Mortal Ash Wednesday

The Reformation: The New Europe

Roman Catholicism began to take shape after the Council of Trent.  Unlike the medieval world, now the worship was made consistent across national borders and the Pope became the symbol of unity.  MacCulloch points out another interesting feature:

A symptom of this new papal centralization was that it now became automatic to look to Rome to decide doctrinal matters.  In the medieval Western Church it had been the universities, especially Paris, that had done this, but their role was now eclipsed; no doubt their dismal failure to produce a unified or convincing judgement on King Henry VIII's marital difficulty over Catherine of Aragon was one factor in discrediting them as theological referees.

 Another feature was creating a better-run society than the Protestants.  That included "more concentrated scrutiny of the sexual lives of the faithful."

The Counter-Reformation also began with a real austerity, including in architecture and art, but this "quickly dissipated into the emotional turbulence of Baroque architecture and design, as the Catholic Church realized that dramatic artistic statements were one of its best weapons against the restrained Protestant aethetic."

In this new age, more was demanded of parish clergy.  For instance, now preaching became an imporant part of the clergy's role in a way it was never before (in the late medieval church, preaching was more often the province of friars).  Clergy now had more responsibility for the education of the young and for hearing confession (the confessional was invented).  Seminaries became more common.

Interesting side note as we read also about gaming.  The rosary was very successful as a new form of private devotion because it was physically tangible and one could keep a tally of the prayers one had said.

Chapter 7 includes an interesting section on the defense of Europe against a resurgent Ottoman Empire.  This particularly focuses around the Knights of St. John who settled on Malta at this time.

 One result of the Protestant Reformation was bringing England and Scotland together.

Another interesting historical moment with lasting ramifications occurred in 1570 when Pope Pius V issued a Bull condemning England's Queen Elizabeth and "absolving her subjects from their allegiance to her."  This act backfired on the Church with the English population.  According to MacCulloch, "Pius's action was so generally recognized as a political blunder that it was even remembered in the 1930's when the papacy considered how to react to Adolf Hitler's regime."

The St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre was one of the signs that now ordinary people were claiming a clear religious sectarian identity and using it to distinguish themselves from those who were different.  "Spontaneous violence between rival mobs became familiar: ordinary people were now capable of being seized with a frenzy for eliminating their fellow human beings simply because they represented an idea."

Poland was the bright spot in the Europe of its time, the one place where a more diverse and tolerate religious culture existed.  In January 1573 an assembly in Warsaw unanimously approved a clause on religious freedom in the agreement with their newly elected King.

MacCulloch's nice summary of the period ending with the early 1570's:

The first reformers in the 1520s had believed that all that was necessary to right the faults of the old Church was to preach the true Word and to provide it for all to read in a freely available Bible.  Astonishingly, however, many listened and did not act on what they had heard, and there was confusion and division even among those who acknowledged the message.  Now the miseries [evidenced by multiple events] . . . promised affliction rather than deliverance.

He writes that in this climate Calvinism flourished because of its "stress on the providence of God, and of God's plan for his elect minority in predestination."



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