by HFH Reuvers


In 1517, the Austin friar Martin Luther published his theses that led to the reformation. The direct provocation was the scandalous traffic in indulgences, but there was already much discord about the externals of the Roman Catholic Church since a long time. Luther criticized the veneration of priests, because he thought they couldn't represent Christ, and he criticized the cult of virgin Mary and the 'whole stall of saints'. He said the bible contains God's words, and ecclesiastical authorities can't add anything. Furthermore, he thought man is saved by his faith alone, not by his good works. And faith is a grace that God gives to whomever He chooses.
Some twenty years later, John Calvin published his principal writings that formed a sharpened version of Luther's theology. Calvin thought God decides from His position outside time which people He wants to save and which not. He said that Catholic mass is essentially an idolatry, and there are no sacraments except baptism and communion.
The Germanic speaking countries chose mostly for the reformation. In England, the king declared he was independent of the pope and founded the Anglican Church. Holland revolted against the Spanish governor, knocked in all churches the stone statues into smithereens, and became Calvinistic. The north of Germany became Lutheran.

There were some good reasons for reformation, but reformation should have stayed within the Church. As to this, Saint Francis and his poverty movement had already given a good example. The false doctrine of predestination brought much despair. Moreover, striving after independence from tradition and ecclesiastical authority isn't sensible, because then each community will have its own interpretation of the bible. And that's exactly what happened ...
To resist reformation, the pope convoked the council of Trent. In the Romanic speaking countries the counter reformation came into being. It emphasized that God revealed Himself externally, in Jesus, and we mortals need earthly means to be able to communicate with Our Lord. Counter reformation was strongest in Spain. Teresia of Avila reformed the Carmelites there, and Ignace of Loyola founded there the Jesuits. Now the Catholic Church began to pay even more attention to mission. That's how, for example, all Latin America became Catholic.