“Assess the contribution of 16th century popes to the Catholic Reformation”
By the end of the 16th century the Roman Catholic Church has undergone complete revival, and the succession of popes in favour of reform was no doubt vital in achieving this. Initially the popes were more focused on political matters rather than spiritual, defending the Papal States from the threat of France, Spain and the Holy Roman Empire. In comparison to later popes it is easy to look over the work achieved by popes such as Leo X and Julius II, but it’s important to consider the political context at the time. The purpose of the church was to ensure the spread of the Catholic Faith, whilst keeping it an independent political unit. Although these popes are criticised for their deep corruption and lack of contribution of the Catholic Reformation, their work of defending the Papal States paved the way for future popes, allowing them to reform the church independently without fear of it becoming a puppet. In this way their contribution to the Catholic Reformation at the beginning of the 16th century is underestimated, as without their work the church’s mission of reform could not have been fulfilled, with the church being a political puppet; they were justified in this view by looking at the sack of Rome in 1527, and the fear of a repeat of this event. Leo X can be credited with establishing the 5th Lateran Council, which concentrated on improving priestly teaching, paving the way for the Council of Trent. However the political instability at the time meant that Leo X were restricted in reforms that could be introduced. Their contributed to the Catholic Reformation was the maximum effort that could have been achieved at the time, considering the other threats facing the church, which took priority. However it can be argued that although these attempts toward reform were valid, they were on a low level in comparison with those made towards the latter part of the 16th century, subsequently indicating that reform was low on the church’s agenda.