Counter Reformation: The Council of Trent

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  • Counter Reformation: The Council of Trent (according to Gerritsen, Gould and Marshall)
    • Reasons for Council of Trent
      • Lutheran protest gathered steam
        • Led to secular leaders fearing disorder and disunity caused by confessional clashes
          • Led to calls for Papacy to act more effectively began to mount
      • Holy Roman Emperor Charles V
        • Foremost in calling for Papacy to act more effectively
        • Aggrieved at growing challenges to his authority from Protestant German rulers
        • 1521, imperial Diet of Worms (petition)
          • Charles demanded general council of Church be called matter of priority to reconcile faiths and so end the schism
          • Papacy rejected petition and deflected  subsequent calls by procrastinating over feasible locations of any assembly
            • Charles wanted to host council in the Empire
            • Papacy wanted to host council in Italian states
      • Rome could not deflect pressures for council indefinitely
    • Council of Trent (core details)
      • 13th December 1545
      • 19th general council in Church's long history
      • held at Trent
        • Small, northern Italian town
        • Technically part of Holy Roman Empire
      • Became clear site of assembly was only concession Rome was willing to make
        • Council's constitution, terms and agenda were all dictated by Papacy
          • Left secular rulers disenfranchised
            • Charles V failed to secure forum to restore order to his territories
            • France railed at papal control of affairs and refused its delegated permission to attend
            • Spain complained at prevalence of Italian bishops on Council
            • Lutheran delegates who attended first sessions were undermined or ignored
      • General council summoned in early 1520s could have reconciled Church's critics and keep them within the fold
        • Events had moved on
        • Arguably Council of Trent came 25 years too late - medieval Church was split irrevocably
      • Three sittings
        • 1545-49
        • 1551-52
        • 1562-63
    • Influence of Trent on fortunes of Catholicism
      • Described as 'profound' by Gerritsen, Gould and Marshall
      • Early sessions
        • Reflected personality of presiding chair, Paul III
        • Concerned with combating heresy rather than healing schism
        • Protestant principles of Sola Scriptura and Justification by faith were formally refuted
        • Orthodox Catholic tenet such as papal primacy, authority of tradition, validity of good works, transubstantiation and authenticity of seven sacraments were defined and confirmed
      • Later sessions
        • Showed greater concern with internal reform
        • every bishopric was order to establish seminary for training of priests
        • Bishops were ordered to be personally resident in their dioceses
        • Intense debate about whether residence was required 'by law of God'
          • Brought up question of whether bishops held office directly from God or only as delegates of the Pope
            • According to O'Malley the decree managed to fudge this crucial theological issue
      • Final sessions
        • Confirmed Index Librorum Prohoiborum
        • created one of the most vigorous opponents, Paul IV (1555-59)
          • Had been architect of reactivation of Roman Inquisition in 1542
      • Early C16th popes had feared general council would undermine their powers
        • papal authority emerged enhanced from Trent
      • Pius IV (1559-65) confirmed the decrees but reserved their interpretation to himself and his successors.
    • Following Trent
      • Next Pope, Pius V (1566-72), carried on reforming work of the council
        • Standardised text of the Mass
          • so-called Tridentine rite which remained standard form until 1960s
      • Standardised Catechism commissioned by council was issued in 1566 and new edition of Latin Vulgate Bible (declared by Trent the official version) followed in 1592
      • Many of these reforms were overseen by new administrative structure, so-called 'congregations'  of cardinals, which made Roman Curia or central administration seem less like medieval court and more like bureaucratic state
      • Fairly or not, the congregation responsible for propagation of the faith, Propaganda Fide, has given name to a modern term of political manipulation
      • By end of C16th, authority of the Papacy had been restored in moral as well as institutional terms
      • Tridentine popes like Pius V, Gregory XIII (1572-85) and Sixtus V (1585-90) were ascetic figures, quite unlike the 'Renaissance popes' of a century before

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