The Catholic Church over the ages and millennia of its existence has influenced the basis of most modern systems. Legal systems, secular beliefs, and even the arts all have heavy Christian influences. The Renaissance and other periods of artistic freedom are rife with Christian art pieces Before the official and legal push for the separation of Church and state, the Catholic Church held ultimate power. The power of the Church rested in the belief that no one could enter Heaven without its expressed approval. The elaborate and systemic implementation of rules which set a standard for living and morality eventually made the Church the most powerful entity on the planet at the time. There were no kings, republics, or city-states that had the power to rally the people or the financial resources as the Pope did.
The Fallibility of Man Continues
“Absolute power corrupts absolutely” is a late 19th -century quote that rings true throughout the ages. The Bible was printed and distributed in a very limited quantity and at that time, conventional wisdom dictated that a dead language be used. The Feudal System of the day relied on restricting education which leads to higher thought to the ruling class. Therefore, in a time where reading and speaking Hebrew, Latin or Greek were all limited to a privileged few, a person can easily be tempted to acquire great personal wealth under the guise of representing God.
For a Spot in Heaven Pay Here
Imagine being able to sell Indulgences for both the living and dead. Imagine once again someone guarantying a family that by giving the Church or the priest himself land and money, they or their already dead relative(s) can be absolved of all sin and pass into Heaven? A famous quote for the Dominican preacher Johann Tetzel reflects the mood of the day “He errs who denies that a soul can fly as quickly up to Heaven as a coin can chink against the bottom of the chest.”
Defy at Your Own Risk
Another form of protection for these abusers was the ability to silence anyone who dared to question the practices of the priesthood. Any dissent could be met with a variety of reproves which included:
· Seizing all lands and titles
· Excommunication from the Church
· Banishment from the realm or empire
Deaths that occurred were in essence sanctioned state killings as the righteous punishment was seen as a form of cleansing for the accused who needed to confess and repent. Persons who died in questioning could have been considered as lucky because survivors could have the conclusion of their trial being publicly burnt at the stake.
A New Day but Divided Church
The corrupt practices of a few eventually snowballed into the events which lead to the Protestant Reformation. The crux of the Protestant concerns was not the biblical teachings of Christ as shown in Catholicism per se; the issue lay with the immoral behavior of the representatives of the Church. Protestants, therefore, refused to practice sacerdotalism, while this was and remains to this day a central tenet of practicing Roman Catholics.
What do you think about the split? Did reformers have a right to question the Church? Please comment below and let us know your thoughts on the matter.