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Western Civilization 10, Lesson 175 – The Church on the Eve of the Reform

The term “Eve of the Reform” is used to describe the time right before the Protestant Reform that was led by Martin Luther in 1517.  During the Eve of the Reform, the Church, and Christianity as a whole, was starting to become more degenerate.  In this essay, I am going to talk about what the Church looked like before the Protestant Reform.

Many things were changing when it came to religion.  For example, people stopped attending Mass and other religious practices.  Instead, the people would listen to priests and only attended high Masses on feast days.  It seemed that the people were tired of the same, mundane events and wanted more excitement in their life when it came to worship.

People also started to make pilgrimages to the Holy Land and Rome.  The idea of Via Dolorosa also started to become more popular among the people and was practiced more.  For those who do not know, Via Dolorosa is the practice of walking the road Christ did on the way to his crucifixion.  Some would even walk the road on their knees to feel the pain that Christ did.

During this time there was also a heavy emphasis on death and superstition.  People relied heavily on astrology to predict their future or give them guidance.  There was also an exaggerated devotion to various patron saints among those who did not believe in astrology.

Political leaders and priests also started to show signs of degeneracy.  Men with high political standings would build lavish buildings that were supposedly dedicated to God, but would then order their enemies to be stabbed to death or tortured for months before their execution.  Priests also stopped giving Holy Communion to those who had a death sentence over their heads.  Many popes tried to stop this cruel and unmerciful practice, but to no avail.

Clergymen, like bishops and priests, seemed to stop caring about their duties to the Church and demonstrated concerning levels of absenteeism.  They became more focused on finding ways to get money, whether it was from the people or from other sources.

Church orders, like the Poor Clares, started become more lax in their rules and regulations.  This was completely different from what the order was like when it was first started by Saint Francis.  A woman named Saint Colette saw what was happening to Church orders and tried her best to reform them and the Church.  Unfortunately, her efforts were not enough, and all endeavours of hers ended after her death.

As you can see, the issue during this time was not the people losing their religion, but the men in the Church becoming less focused on their purpose.  Many of the common people stopped attending Mass because of this.  Standards were lowered to the point where popes had to practically beg their priests to celebrate Mass at least four times a year.  It was glaringly obvious that a reform was needed.

Thanks for reading!

Author: sophiaelahirpc

10th Grade student in the Ron Paul Curriculum. Full-time teen writer living in Singapore.

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