How far did the condition of the church at the beginning of the sixteenth century suggest that the Reformation was likely?

Essay by xjainaxHigh School, 12th gradeA, September 2006

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At the beginning of the sixteenth century, the Church was corrupt and highly criticised. The ideology of the rulers of the major European countries was striving to become individual and set themselves apart from the Church. The whole of humanity was becoming less concerned with the Church and religious implications and more so with the importance of humans and human development.

At the beginning of the sixteenth century, there was no alternative to the Roman Catholic Church. So the Church had complete power over the religious lives of the people of Europe; the Pope had total control over the running of the Church and so over the people of Europe. Through this, the Pope was corrupt, using his power and authority in ways against that which he should do in accordance with living simply and peacefully as God's representative on Earth. There had been problems with the Pope and a splitting of power through the fourteenth century with the 'Great Schism' and political rivalries exposing the corrupt system in place and allowing there to be a lack of confidence in the authority of the Pope.

The Popes in the early sixteenth century were ambitious, political and interested in the attainment of wealth; Julius II, 'The Warrior Pope', wanted to control Italy and Leo X was more interested in building the Basilica than his spiritual role. Although there was a lot of corruption involving Popes, which was exaggerated by Protestants, respect for the Pope remained.

As well as the Pope being corrupt, the Clergy were too; many in the Priesthood seemed to have forgotten their vows and were acting against them, often ignorant and hypocritical, exploiting their parishes with relics and indulgences. Members of the clergy were guilty of breaking their vows of poverty through materialism, obedience through absenteeism and...