Martin Luther

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In Europe at the beginning of the 16th century, the Roman Catholic Church had become extremely powerful, but many felt that it had also become internally corrupt. In essence, many believed that the Renaissance popes were fraudulent because they no longer practiced Christianity due to the extravagant lives they were living. In the beginning of the 1500’s, educated Europeans began calling for a reformation, a change in the Church’s ways of teaching and practicing Christianity. Martin Luther, specifically, was highly influential in igniting the Protestant Reformation by challenging long-standing church traditions as well as new church policies.
The Protestant Reformation was begun by Martin Luther, a German monk and Catholic friar. He preached primarily against the sales of indulgences in the town of Wittenberg. Indulgences were certificates issued by the Church that were said to reduce or even cancel punishment for a person’s sin as long as one also truly repented. People purchased indulgences believing that the document would assure them admission to heaven. Luther knew that the Catholic Church was distorted; he believed that the sale of indulgences, in particular, was the major source of corruption. In response, Luther nailed on the door of the Wittenberg Church a placard with 95 theses, or statements, criticizing the sale of indulgences and attacking other church policies. He also published hundred of essays advocating his idea that a person could be made just, or good, simply by faith in God’s mercy and love. Luther’s idea became known as justification by faith. Consequently, Luther was excommunicated from the Church for refusing to withdraw his teachings and criticisms of the Church. With the support of German princes, howev...

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...ncil declared, could not be achieved by faith alone, but only faith and works together. The Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible was made the only acceptable version of scripture. In addition, the Church hierarchy alone was to decide the interpretation of the Bible. The Council of Trent also put an end to many church abuses that had been practiced for centuries such as the selling of indulgences. Furthermore, clergy were ordered to follow strict rules of behavior. For example, each diocese had to establish a seminary, or training school, for the proper education of priests. The Council also decided to maintain the elaborate art and ritual of the Church, and it declared that Mass should be said only in Latin; in particular, to serve as necessary sources of inspiration for less educated Catholics, who had difficulty understanding church teachings by other means.

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