“Assess the contribution of 16th century popes to the Catholic Reformation” - Part 5

Without establishing these basic steps towards reform, momentum towards reform would not have gathered. The papacy was vital in fronting reform, there had been previous attempts had been made by individuals, however these attempts towards reform had been chaotic and haphazard. Without this succession of popes in favour of reform would have gathered no pace, and there would have been no lasting effect. However the role of popes was variable during the 16th century and the assessment of their commitment and contribution to reform is not a black and white answer. Many introduced attempts towards reform took a long time to have any effect, suggesting that the church wasn’t fully in support or they would have put into immediate action. For instance there had been need to call the Council of Trent for over 100 years, yet it wasn’t until Paul III that this possibility became a reality. Although Paul III was in no doubt in favour of reform, clearly setting a standard, not all succeeding popes followed to such an extent. The progress made towards reform went to different extremes between the popes; Paul IV was not in favour of the Council of Trent, and was more anti-protestant than Pro-reformation, aggressively condemning Protestant ideas (for instance by creating the Index) but making little headway into actually reforming the Catholic Church. The Protestant threat can be seen as a major contributor to the Catholic Reformation, as Protestantism offered a new alternative to salvation by faith alone. There had never been an alternative to Catholicism, and it was this that forced the Catholic Church to take action. It was faced with a real possibility of losing all power and credibility, as sympathy grew for Protestant ideology and large areas of land (e.g. Germany) were lost to Protestantism. Without the Protestant threat highlighting the need for complete reform, it would have never have gathered the pace it did in such little time. It can be argued that eventually the church would have revived itself, but to what extent or over what scale of time is debatable.

Part 4                                                                                                          
Part 6  
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