THe Council fo Trent Cannot be Bent

Essay by CollisionHigh School, 12th gradeA+, February 2010

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Not only was the Council of Trent an effective response, it was THE response to the Reformation. The surge of the Protestant Reformation caused the eventual formation of the ecumenical Council of Trent. The Council sought to clarify and reaffirm its beliefs, while rejecting the doctrines and beliefs of the Protestants. With the new standards and the reaffirmation of the beliefs that the Council of Trent brought, the Church was made strong again for the next four hundred years. The Council was also the apex and the beginning of the Counter-Reformation. All in all, the Council of Trent was one the most important councils to have ever occurred in the Church.

Due to the apparent corruption occurring in the church, the Protestant Reformation began. Reformers such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Huldrych Zwingli took action when they found, what they believed to be, discrepancies in the Church’s teachings.

It took the loss of so many followers for the Church to realize they must reaffirm and clarify its beliefs. The Council of Trent did exactly this. The Church saw the Protestants as ‘lost souls’; therefore, the church wanted to use the Council of Trent to redeem those souls. In addition to the answer to the Protestant Reformation, the Council attempted to end all corruption and crimes within the entire Church.

Protestants mainly criticized the Pope and the Church for the selling of indulgences, doctrines on Mariology, monasticism, and veneration of saints. Consequently, Protestant doctrines were created and addressed the true aims of their religion. The doctrine,”Sola Scriptura”, states that the Bible is the only infallible authority of Christian faith. Meaning “by Scripture alone”, this doctrine states that the Scripture is clear and self-authenticating to the coherent reader. The doctrine, “Sola Fide”, states that only God saves and only through faith alone can one receive salvation.The Council of Trent aimed to reject and condemn all the Protestant doctrines. The Council issued numerous decrees and canons that essentially condemned the Protestant doctrines. The canons were direct condemnations of the teachings of Protestantism. The Fourth of the Justification Canons states, “If any one saith, that man's free will moved and excited by God, by assenting to God exciting and calling, nowise co-operates towards disposing and preparing itself for obtaining the grace of Justification; that it cannot refuse its consent, if it would, but that, as something inanimate, it does nothing whatever and is merely passive; let him be anathema” (Documents of the Council of Trent). This cannon specifically condemns those who believe in the “Sola Fide” doctrine of the Protestants. With the reaffirmation of the equal authority of both scripture and tradition, the upholding of the seven sacraments, and the justification by baptism and cooperation, the Council paved way for the next strong 400 years of the Church.

The church truly “caught itself from falling,” through the Council of Trent. There is no doubt that the Church was corrupt at this time. The presence of nepotism, indulgences, pluralism, and absenteeism clearly needed to be addressed; therefore, the Council of Trent convened in order to clear the entire Church of these crimes and corruption. Without the Council of Trent to address and rid these corruptions, the Church would have slowly deteriorated and lost many more faithful followers. The Council also improved the quality and standards of the priests. The Decrees of the Council of Trent states that:“The holy Synod, adhering to the traces of the ancient canons, ordains, that when a bishop has arranged to hold an ordination, all who may wish to be received into the sacred ministry shall be summoned to the city, for the Thursday before the said ordination, or for such other day as the bishop shall think fit. [Page 181] And the bishop, calling to his assistance priests and other prudent persons, well skilled in the divine law, and of experience in the constitutions of the church, shall diligently investigate and examine the parentage, person, age, education, morals, learning, and faith of those who are to be ordained” (The Council of Trent Chapter VII).

The moral and scholarly education of priests was taken into strong enforcement and therefore raised the standards of priests. This new standard will have, in effect, a new resurgence of hopefully corrupt-free priests, due to the Council of Trent.

The Council of Trent unofficially began the Counter-Reformation. The Counter-Reformation was the complete effort to revive the Church in doctrine, ecclesiastical reconfiguration, religious orders, spiritual movements and political aspects. One of the most important parts of the Council of Trent and the Counter-Reformation were the creation and ministry of the Jesuits. The Jesuits essentially improved rural churches, helped to restrain corruption within the church, and set examples that would be an impetus for the Counter-Reformation. Especially in today’s’ society, the process to become a Jesuit is rigorous and requires many years of religious and scholarly studies. The Jesuits were truly the most successful and vital order that came out of the Counter- Reformation. All in all, the Counter-Reformation and all the things that came of it could not have been started if it was not for the Council of Trent.

The Council of Trent also started a chain-reaction. Since it started the Counter-Reformation, and the Counter-Reformation unintentionally started the Scientific Revolution, The Council, figuratively, started the Scientific Revolution. It would be ignorant to believe that the Council of Trent was not effective. In one’s opinion, this ecumenical council was the most important council the church has ever held.

Bibliography:DOCUMENTS OF THE COUNCIL OF TRENT., J. The Council of Trent.