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To What Extent Was The German Reformation Caused By Humanist Criticisms Of The Catholic Church? Essay Reformation Essay

1283 words - 6 pages

To what extent was the German Reformation caused
by humanist criticisms of the Catholic Church?
To say the German Reformation was caused by humanist criticisms of the Catholic Church is
true to only a small extent. Despite some historians saying ‘no humanism, no reformation [?] this
is incorrect. Although the criticisms made by humanists contributed to making the reformation
more likely, to say it was the cause of the reformation is only true to a small extent because the
causes of the German Reformation extend further to things such as Papal abuses such as high
taxes due to the weak structure of the Holy Roman Empire and lack of a strong leader to satisfy
demands of the Pope (as places such as France and Spain had).
One reason as to why humanist criticisms of the Catholic Church contributed to the Reformation
(rather than being the cause of it) was because Humanists such as Erasmus who wrote many
books in which he made people aware of the abuses of the Catholic Church. Humanists study
original texts and Christian Humanists study the original texts of the bible. From doing so,
humanists such as Erasmus were able to convince people and make people aware of how far
the Catholic church had strayed from teachings in the Bible. For example, in his 1504 book ‘The
Dagger of a Christian Gentleman’ Erasmus said how people pay too much attention to small
things such as how many angles can dance on the tip of a pin head whilst neglecting their own
sole and the main teachings of texts such as the bible. In 1509, he wrote his well known satire ‘In
Praise of Folly’ which again he was able to make people aware of the abuses of the church and
how far they had strayed from the original teachings of the bible. Erasmus is believed to be the
author of the 1513 pamphlet ‘Julius Excluses’ in which there was a direct attack on the Pope
Julius who was known as a warrior king and was also homosexual. Through such criticisms of
the Catholic Church by humanists they helped spread dissatisfaction with the church amongst
the ordinary people, however, they were only the cause of the German Reformation to a small
extent. Without such criticisms, the reformation still would have occurred. Similarly, many
humanists such as Erasmus did not want to ‘reform’ the church entirely, but only wanted to
change it from within, therefore, even though people such as Cardinal Aleander have said that
“Erasmus laid the egg that Luther hatched” suggesting that he started the reformation and
provided the foundations for Luther, Erasmus himself has said this is incorrect because he laid a
“hens egg” but what Luther hatched was “a bird of a different sort” showing that Erasmus
humanist criticisms of the Catholic Church were not to trigger the reformation but to change the
church from within. Furthermore, the importance of humanists criticisms such as those of
�1
Erasmus in causing the German Reformation is limited because although they were spread far
and wide by the printing press, they were...

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