The Reformation of the Church of Rome was primarily a reaction to the Protestant Reformation.  Most of Catholic Church events took place later in history as a “reaction” to what the Protestants had accomplished.  The Catholic Church sought to “recapture” Protestants and bring them back into the Catholic Church through a variety of methods.

First of all, the Catholic Church used “carrots” to attract people back to Catholicism.  Mysticism inspired people to have a personal devotional relationship with God.  The new Reformation popes–especially Paul III and Paul IV–advocated papal reforms and even summoned the Council of Trent to discuss papal issues.  New monastic orders called upon people to denounce the world for a simpler, holy lifestyle, and Contarini’s “Evangelism” argued for the papacy to return to the gospel.  All of these “carrots” were successful in pulling people back to the Catholic Church.

Secondly, if the “carrots” failed, the Catholic Church endorsed the use of “sticks.”  The most infamous “stick” of the Roman Catholic Church was the Inquisition.  In its simplest form, it was merely to stamp out heresy.  The most notorious version of the Inquisition was the Spanish Inquisition which tortured and then burned its victims using heresy, treason, or racial profiling as an excuse.  Another “stick” was the Index of Prohibited Books which listed most of the Protestant writings as well as a few other non-Catholic books.  This “stick” was not as successful as the pope would have liked because it was difficult to enforce.

Finally, a new order, the Jesuits, emerged with the express desire of recapturing people for a purer Catholic Church.  Ignatius Loyola founded the order in Spain, and his followers went around the world converting people with huge success.  The Jesuits are responsible for the failure of the Polish Reformation.  Their excellent educational system won many people back to the Catholic Church.

The final result of this reactionary Catholic Reformation was a leaner, meaner Catholic Church.  Despite the Council of Trent and a few other meetings between Catholics and Protestants, such as the Regensbury Colloquy, the Catholic Church firmly denounced all forms of Protestant faiths and refused to acquiesce on any doctrinal statement.  The “sticks and carrots” method proved to the world how the Catholic Church would respond to any further attempts at Protestant evangelism in Europe.

– Hannah S. Bowers

Advertisements