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Rome Responds


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Rome Responds to the Reformation

Separating from Rome was not the central goal of each of the reformers. While some of them ended up far beyond the reach of the Roman Catholic Church, others remained faithful to Rome, even contributing to a new spirit of devotion.

Rome responded to the Reformation in part by tightening up its organization. A Council met in Trent between 1545 and 1563, but it admitted to no faults in the past, merely redefining traditional views.

Napoleon BonaparteNationalism and the Roman Catholic Church

Rome was hit hardest by the growth of nationalist movements in Europe, and the rise of absolute rulers. In 1682, the French clergy declared that the pope and the church had no authority over the secular leaders.

In response to pressure from the secular governments of France, Portugal, and Spain, the Society of Jesus, with its absolute loyalty to the pope, was abolished in 1773. Following the Napoleonic Wars and the restoration of the old monarchies of Europe, the Jesuits were revived in 1814.

The French Revolution cut deeply into the power of the church with its enlightenment thinking, revolutionary politics, and egalitarian atmosphere. While Napoleon Bonaparte restored the church, he also used it to his own ends.

The church later identified itself with reactionary regimes such as Louis Napoleon in France, alienating itself from opposition groups within Europe. There were efforts by some to extricate the church from increasingly uncomfortable alliances by working to separate church and state, but these were mostly in vain.

Another Catholic reaction to these assaults was to make grander and grander claims. With no backing in Scripture, Pope Pius promulgated the new dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854. A few years later, in 1870, the Vatican Council offended other Christian churches by claiming official infallibility for the pope. Catholics who objected to this were excommunicated.

Pope Pius XIThe tendency to compromise with reactionary political movements has damaged the Catholic Church in the 20th century. Pope Pius XI was on good terms with Mussolini, even blessing as a "Holy War" his Abyssinian campaign. He was more skeptical of Hitler, but made arrangements with the dictators of Spain, Portugal, and Austria, hoping to gain their support in fighting communism, a strong enemy of the church in Poland, Hungary, and Yugoslavia.

Since the Vatican II Council of 1962-1965, there has been a fresh approach in many areas. In particular, the mass is said in local languages, and there is a new emphasis on reading the Bible. Also new is a willingness to consider issues that were previously simply matters of authority, and not open to discussion. Rome is again taking on the challenge of being the church in the world.













Overview of Bible Study