• GERMANIC MIGRATIONS AND
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  • C

    style='font-size:31.5pt;font-family:ATClassicRoman;color:black'>OUNTER-REFORMATION AND THIRTY YEARS WAR

     

    During the years between the Peace of Augsburg and the Thirty Years War,

    forces for a fresh struggle were taking shape. A turning point in the Reformation

    took place during the pontificate of Pope Paul III (153439), who

    appointed a reform commission that clearly identified the causes of corruption

    in the Catholic Church. In 1545 he initiated the Council of Trent, which met in

    three sessions, concluding in 1563. In 1555 Pope Paul IV initiated a vigorous

    policy of Catholic reform that was continued by his successors. The papal court

    was purged of its worst evils. The Tridentine Decrees were the outcome of the

    third and most successful session of the Council of Trent. These final decrees

    were uncompromising and disappointed moderate Catholics who had hoped

    for concessions to Protestants. Papal authority was vindicated, the Catholic doctrine

    of faith and tradition restated, the seven sacraments and transubstantiation

    upheld, and an unmarried clergy was to be maintained. The machinery

    of church government was thoroughly reorganized. The Counter-Reformation

    went to war against heresy with the militant and learned Society of Jesus, the

    reformed monastic orders, and the great saints and mystics. Pope Paul III had

    already instituted in 1547 the Roman Inquisition and the Index of Forbidden

    Books as two of its weapons.

    From the beginning Germany became the center of the Counter-Reformation

    where circumstances made rapid success most likely. The imperial authority

    could be counted on to support the Catholic cause. Ferdinand I, Charles Vs

    successor in the Habsburg lands and the Empire, pursued a moderate policy,

    both from conviction and necessity. His successors, Maximilian II, Rudolf II,

    and Matthias, however, were Catholic zealots who worked steadily and with

    increasing fervor to eradicate Protestantism in their ancestral lands, and who

    threw all their influence on the side of Catholicism in the Empire. In addition

    to these challenges Protestantism was suffering from the lassitude that follows

    the successful emergence from a great struggle. Various factions divided it. Its

    lack of a center of authority and foundation on individual interpretation of

    Scripture encouraged variations in interpreting the Gospel message, and

    church organization became a source of division. There were extremists like

    the Anabaptists at Müntzer who had created a bad reputation for Protestantism

    through their lawlessness and defiance of authority. Competition from Calvinism,

    which had spread rapidly from Switzerland, had attracted many Lutherans

    because of its clear doctrine and cohesive organization. Calvinist states

    were mingled with Lutheran ones, and their rulers were more concerned with

    organizing leagues to advance their form of Christianity than to unite against

    27

    the Catholics. Finally, the Peace of Augsburg contained within itself the roots

    of further conflict. Only those who had signed the Confession of Augsburg

    were considered Protestants and free to practice their faith, while Lutherans

    in Catholic states were not allowed freedom of religion. Also, no settlement

    had been made of the territories that had been under the rule of a bishop and

    were now Protestant. Between 1555 and 1618 many Protestants returned to

    Catholicism, which finally encouraged the Protestant princes to put aside their

    differences and resume the militancy they had known earlier. Now war

    appeared to be inevitable. Meanwhile France had overcome the problems of

    its religious divisions under King Henry IV and became interested in expanding

    its power in Germany, which continued to be divided. On the other hand,

    the French had to deal with the power of the Habsburgs in both Spain and

    Austria. With its plans to dominate the Baltic Sea, Sweden also was pleased

    that the power of the German states was too weak to resist its expansion.

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