English Reformation:
Return

 

The Protestant Reformation:

This Protestant Reformation resulted in a split in Western Christendom and was when the Church of England broke away from the authority of the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church; before this only one church existed in Western Europe, the Roman Catholic Church, and at the top of this was the Pope in Rome who literally governed everything.

The Church was in disarray on the eve of the English Reformation, The Sweating Sickness had struck the population and the Catholic Church could offer no reason for the deadly disease and therefore, religious beliefs were sorely tested; the plague had such a devastating effect that people started to question religion in general, such as "How could God allow this to happen?"; many, previously devout, people became disillusioned with the church and its power and influence went into decline.

At that time there was also a growing Anticlericalism and disrespect towards the clergy in general; Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales is a perfect example of this; the clergy was becoming increasingly poorly educated and the act of Simony, the selling of church offices, such as indulgences, was another problem.

Indulgences began during the crusades and were offered to the knights who were fighting for Christendom; the idea was that if you gave the church money, once you died, your soul would spent less time in purgatory and go faster to Heaven; the Papacy sold this idea to raise church funds; Johann Tetzel, one of those who helped sell the idea, had a phrase for it: "As soon as gold in the basin rings, the soul to heaven rings."

Martin Luther (1483 to 1546) was a German priest, professor of theology and iconic figure of the Protestant Reformation; he strongly disputed the claim that freedom from God's punishment for sin could be purchased with money; he confronted indulgence salesman Johann Tetzel with his Ninety Five Theses in 1517; his refusal to retract all of his writings at the demand of Pope Leo X in 1520 and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms in 1521 resulted in his excommunication by the pope and condemnation as an outlaw by the Emperor.

Luther taught that salvation is not earned by good deeds but received only as a free gift of God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ as redeemer from sin; his theology challenged the authority of the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church by teaching that the Bible is the only source of divinely revealed knowledge and opposed sacerdotalism by considering all baptized Christians to be a holy priesthood; those who identifid with Luther's teachings were called Lutherans.

His translation of the Bible into the language of the people, from Latin, made it more accessible, causing a tremendous impact on the church and on German culture; it fostered the development of a standard version of the German language, added several principles to the art of translation, and influenced the translation into English of the King James Bible; his hymns influenced the development of singing in churches and his marriage to Katharina von Bora set a model for the practice of clerical marriage, allowing Protestant priests to marry.

Luther posted up his 95 theses at Wittenberg Castle, in which he denounced the selling of indulgences; part of his anger resulted from the fact that German money was going to Rome and thanks to the printing press, the 95 theses were printed all over Germany; in an Address to the Christian Nobility, he said that secular government had the right to reform the church; Luther was crafty here, he knew that if he got the nobles on his side it would mean that his ideas, and later his reformation would be successful, because it had support from the VIPs.

In one of the theses, 'On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church', Luther attacked the sacraments and in another the 'Liberty of a Christian Man', he put forward the idea of salvation by faith alone; in response Pope Leo X issued a Bull, a papal decree, and demanded that Luther recant; Luther took the Bull, went outside and publicly burned it, he no longer accepted papal authority and the pope excommunicated him.

In 1521 he went before the Diet of Worms, when asked by Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, "Do you or do you not repudiate your books and the errors that contain?", Luther responded, "Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason, I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other; my conscious is captive to the Word of God; I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me, Amen."; Luther was subsequently banned by the Empire.

During his time as an "outlaw" he translated the Bible into German and he went from 7 to 2 sacraments, he only left baptism and communion; he rejected Transubstantiation and celibacy of the clergy; and he himself left the monastery, ran off with some girl, got married, and had several children.

Within 30 years of his 95 theses the Reformation reached N. Germany, Scandinavia, parts of the Netherlands, France, Switzerland and ultmately England, and Scotland.

The English Reformation:

The English Reformation was less religious, than political; Henry VIII was married to Catherine of Aragon, the daughter of the Queen and King of Spain and after a number of tries Catherine was unable to give Henry the male heir that he wanted; the only child that Catherine gave Henry was Mary, who would later reign as Queen Mary.

Due to this Henry went to the pope to annul the marriage; however, Catherine was the aunt of Charles V, who was a devout defender of the Church and the Pope believed that if he gave the annulment to Henry, it would anger Charles V, who would then more than likely refuse to continue the defendce of the Church, and the Pope also knew that the Church needed all the defenders it could get at that time; so the Pope subsequently refused to annul the marriage.

This infuriated Henry, who was already in love with another woman, Anne Boleyn, who was the mother of the future Queen Elizabeth I, so in November 1529 Henry decided to take matters in his own hands; he began what came to be known as the Reformation Parliament.

Henry kept Anne as his mistress and secretly married her, but he was still married to Catherine; Anne became pregnant and Henry knew he had to do something soon, so that his child would not be born illegitimate; he had to end his marriage with Catherine ASAP; he decided that the only way to do this was by cutting his relations off with the Catholic Church.

He repudiated papal supremacy in England, created 'The Church of England', also known as the Anglican Church, was made supreme head of the church in England and used the new church to annul his marriage to Catherine; that September a child was born, Elizabeth Tudor; this further disappointed Henry because he wanted a boy; he married a total of 6 times.



His first wife was Catherine of Aragón.
(From 1509 to 1533 - She was divorced)
She had a daughter, who became Mary I.



His second wife was Anne Boleyn.
(From 1533 to 1536 - She was executed)
She had a daughter, who became Elizabeth I.



His third wife was Jane Seymour.
(From 1536 to 1537 - She died in childbirth)
She had a son, who became Edward VI.



His fourth wife was Anne of Cleves.
(From Jan to July 1540 - She was Divorced)



His fifth wife was Kathryn Howard.
(From 1540 to 1542 - She was executed)



His sixth wife was Katherine Parr.
(From 1543 to 1547 - She was widowed)

NB. Simony:

Simony is the act of paying for sacraments and consequently for holy offices or for positions in the hierarchy of a church, named after Simon Magus, who appears in the Acts of the Apostles 8:9-24; Simon Magus offers the disciples of Jesus, Peter and John, payment so that anyone on whom he would place his hands would receive the power of the Holy Spirit; this is the origin of the term simony; but, it also extends to other forms of trafficking for money in "spiritual things"..

Simony remains an offence; an unlawfully bestowed office can be declared void by the Crown and the offender can be disabled from making future appointments and fined up to £1000; clergy are no longer required to make a declaration as to Simony on ordination but offences are now likely to be dealt with under the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003.



Go back.