Questions about the Reformation

Hi, this is my first thread and only my seconds post on catholic answers.

In history class we are learning about the reformation. The class has been heavily biased, in my opinion, as the teacher has said some less than truthful things about the Church in the middle ages and the reformation. He said some things today, namely about indulgences, which I am unsure are correct. So, I have some questions.

1.What is an indulgence? Is it a, quote, “get out of purgatory free card”?
2. Did the Church abuse indulgences in the 1500’s?
3. Did Luther make any valid arguments in the 95 theses?
4. Did abuse of indulgences justify a reformation?
5. Did the Pope take “money from the poor, when he was rich.”?
6. Was the Church “corrupt.”?
7. Were priests in it for the money?
8. What about pluralism?

My teacher has made it sound like the Church was gravely immoral. I am unsure as to what is fact. Later, we watched a video about the reformation. It was a parody sketch, and gave a very harsh view of our faith. I felt very offended by one painting in it, the “Asphyxiation of Mary”, and how nuns were portrayed as women who would ditch their position for sex with local lords, and were not religious at all. So now, I feel like the bad guy in class. I am a member of some money stealing cult, a vestige of medieval society, to the other students, and the reformers are heroes for breaking away. If you could help me answer these questions, I would be very grateful.

Thanks, y’all.

Is this a high school class or a college class? Either way I’d protest this hachet job on anyone’s faith community. Obviously the instructor has deep biases and has scrounged up spurious material to cast the Church in the worst light possible. If you are a high school student you should talk to your parents about this. You priest may want to talk to the school about such a biased presentation, as well. If you are a college student you should take this to your dean to complain about your faith being denigrated like this in a class you are paying for.

From EWTN: "A plenary indulgence means that by the merits of Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints, the full remission of the temporal punishment due to sacramentally forgiven sins is obtained. The person becomes as if just baptized and would fly immediately to heaven if he died in that instant. A partial indulgence means that a portion of the temporal punishment due to forgiven sin is remitted. Partial indulgences are received either by doing some act to which a partial indulgence is attached (e.g. praying a partially indulgenced prayer), or by the incomplete fulfillment of the conditions attached to a plenary indulgence. "

Further: "Depending on our degree of sorrow, absolution may result in the expiation of all the temporal guilt of sin. However, for that which it does not repair, we must offer further expiation through prayer, penance, carrying the Cross etc., or after death be purified in purgatory (Rev 21:27). "

That depends on how you define “Church”. Officially, no. However, some members of the Church did. That is an historical fact. Officially, there never was a “policy” or ruling that indulgences should be freely sold. But “on the ground” - in various parishes and dioceses, the issue became corrupted. This is a bit like asking , does the Church abuse children sexually? No, it does not, but some priests (about 3% during the 60’s - late 80’s) did. The statistics of sexual abuse by members of the clergy is definitely less than that encountered within, say, public school systems. Neither the Church nor the public school systems promote sexual abuse, but it does occur.

yes, but he went way, way too far.

Internally, the Church needed to clean house. What happened was not simply isolated to Luther; there had been “reformers” of the Church well prior to him. Realistically, part of the underlying issues were about theology; others were about power, others about politics. Not a “clean” basis, but in light of history of the Church and various heresies, not the first time.

No. However, undoubtedly, poor gave money and other goods to the Church. This is not a theological issue, it is a political issue.

No, but some of the members were. It is like asking, “Is the Church sexually abusive?” No, but a few members are.

Some may have been (and some bishops, if truth be told). It is always surprising that people see sinners in the Church and are scandalized. Sin is wrong, and sinners need to change; that is why they are in the Church. Not all change. But that goes back to Adam, not (just) to Christ.

You need to expand the question.

Hello OD.

If this is a high school class grin and bear it and offer it up. You could attempt to defend the Church against his accusations but it will probably do two things - get you flunked in the class and not change his opinions of the Church one iota. If it is a college course you can report his false accounts of history and mud slinging to the Dean responsible and ask to transfer to another Professor’s class for your course. And don’t forget to talk to Mom and Dad about this at dinner. They may give you the best answer of them all. Keep in mind when one gets slapped on one cheek, offer the other. By going thru this little bit of trouble, your teacher is actually heaping blessings on your head. Read about that in the Sermon on the Mount.


The weeds grow along with the wheat in the Catholic Church, and in all the rest of society whether they are Protestant, agnostic, atheist, etc.

Luther had a right to be upset about some things, BUT he should not have changed doctrine.

That is the short story.

We should all be concerned about our own spiritual growth, and not have to resort to twisting and hyperbole to put down someone’s faith.

If my husband or I got a hold of this information being presented to our child, you’d betcha we’d be talking to the teacher…:slight_smile:

Thanks yall for your answers. Otjm pointed out that although some were corrupt, the church as a whole wasn’t. A few bad apples shouldn’t ruin the Church’s reputation, even if the Pope himself screws up. Thank you for your answer.

As for the theological aspect of the reformation, it wasn’t discussed in class. However, I have no doubt in the correctness of Catholic teaching, about things such as the apocrypha, purgatory, and the church’s hierarchy. Martin Luther was surely wrong about these subjects. The only poinst brought up in class basically were, “the church is stealing money from the people to rebuild St. Peters, and they are corrupt.” I think this ignores a large part of the reformation. Luther would not have split if he believed fully in Catholic teaching.

Otjm, pluralism is when a single Bishop in in charge of multiple diocese, and is unable to be a good bishop due to distance, and a lack of modern communication. Therefore diocese are essentially without a bishop, and have no guidance. To me, this seems like a matter of practicality. The Church only has a finite number of clergy. However, Luther considered this a great fault, and I want to know if it is.

I am in high school, and the teacher is the most popular and well known in the entire school. I don’t think I should be confrontational, and it wouldn’t work anyway, as I appear to be the only one who doesn’t adore him. There are four other Catholics in the class as well. They were quite vocal, but today were silent when we discussed the reformation. I felt very alone, but I’m sure they are just struggling with the whole “evil church” thing.

Another thing. My parents are devout protestants. As a result, they would merely give me a hard time if I brought up this issue. To them, the reformation was almost a great as the crucifixion and resurection of Christ. My dad grew up Catholic, and hates the Church. I’m unsure if they are any help.

…great question and great answers…

Ohh buddy, you’ve got your plate full!

I’m in your situation except now that I’m in college my parents can’t reach me and try to reconvert me, and there’s a Catholic college group I can be grateful for. My parents don’t know about the Reformation other than this movie, appropriately called “Luther” because he’s the main character and he goes around showing the audience the corruption of the priests. What high school classes fail to mention is that Luther was anti-Semitic and supported the subjugation of poor people in Germany to the princes. Although I can’t fault him for his music, I will tell you he was a monk before nailing his 95 Theses got him fame from German nobles who didn’t want to pay tithes. In short, he got a big head.

Mention also that Luther remained a devotee of the Blessed Virgin Mary throughout his life. He promptly did away with Confession because of his own insecurities, but Mary and praying to saints was not to be insulted. He also famously added the word “alone” to one passage and wanted to cut the book of James from the Bible along with our seven extra Old Testament books which aren’t actually extra but were with us since the formation of the Bible by, oh yeah, the Catholic Church.

Popes had for a long time been selected from the Italian aristocracy and were used to nobles’ standards of living. That’s one point against us. But no pope, from St. Peter to Pope Francis, has ever taught heresy. Yes, that’s including Pope Urban and Innocent III from the Crusades. When people tried to soften our religion by claiming Jesus was only a man or only God, or that the Eucharist was only bread, our popes defended the faith.

There were priests who abused their offices, certainly, but there were also many who were disgusted with the abuse of indulgences. They just don’t get the attention. The difference between them and Luther is that while Luther eventually abandoned ship, other priests and those presiding at the Council of Trent (the Counter-Reformation has some great art, btw, and prompted Michaelangelo’s Sistine Chapel) decided not to compromise on faith but to clean up the ship. Mr. Kreeft has this great analogy, that just because there are barnacles on a ship doesn’t mean it’s not taking you where you need to go (I’m paraphrasing).

If I were you, I would ask the teacher when the Counter-Reformation would be covered and humbly express concern that your classmates might come away from the class believing that you and your other Catholic classmates are as described in the curriculum. There is no harm in this. He is a member of an institution and chances are he’s been advised by his contract to be respectful of all kinds of people, even Catholics.

I know how you feel as I went to an Anglican School while I was Jewish, and they were always making snide remarks against the Catholics, which got me interested in why, hence when I read about Catholicism I knew it was all about jealousy and misinformation,
as I was very good at English History, I stood up and told my teacher that when
Henry V111 broke from Rome, he kept all the following Palaces which the present Queen has and keeps as Governor of the Church of England.
Apart from her Jewels, horses, and famous paintings, acres and acres of Land, she also owns

I. Buckingham Palace
2. Windsor Castle
3. Palace of Holyroodhouse
4. Balmoral Castle
5. Sandringham House
6. St. James’s Palace
7. Kensington Palace
8. Clarence House.

So how dare anyone point at one Building of St. Peters, when the Queen owns all the above Palace’s most of which are not open to the public. A Case of looking at the splinter in your brother’s eye when one has a plank in your own.

Take the Crystal Cathedral just bought for Catholic usage, this was a large Protestant Church, which was built at great cost, and the suppliers of equipment, to build it, plus all the other things like electricity had not been paid, some of the people might have had to get large overdrafts because they were not getting paid, some might have gone out of business due to not being paid, hence this is why they had to sell, your teacher wants to ask herself what this honest in dealings with Suppliers, tell her to wake up and smell the Coffee, of course it this was me, I would dive back at her for her lies.,

Regarding England stealing from the Catholic Church:

Celtic Maiden.

You said in post 10

. . . when Henry VIII broke from Rome, he kept all the following Palaces which the present Queen has and keeps as Governor of the Church of England.

Apart from her Jewels, horses, and famous paintings, acres and acres of Land, she also owns

I. Buckingham Palace
2. Windsor Castle
3. Palace of Holyroodhouse
4. Balmoral Castle
5. Sandringham House
6. St. James’s Palace
7. Kensington Palace
8. Clarence House.

Wow! I did not know the extent of this shenanigans (perhaps some of my history teachers studied at the same proverbial place as OldDominion’s history teacher). Thanks for posting this information.

OldDominion. I don’t know where your teacher is coming from (in perspective). Perhaps the religion of secularism, perhaps Protestantism, maybe some other perspective.

There is unfortunately a grain (only a grain) of truth to his/her admonitions about indulgences in the 1500’s (almost certainly admixed with a lot of error too).

If he/she is Protestant and you want to see or challenge him/her on abuses of “indulgences” (but not called “indulgences”), just flip a channel to some of the TV preachers.

Yes you will need to have other information concerning indulgences too otherwise he/she will say you are committing a tu quoque fallacy which would be true if that was your WHOLE basis for your position–but since you will have studied other aspects, this won’t be the BASIS of your argument.

I don’t have TV but I used to. It seemed as though any time I observed some of what these televangelists said, they were often saying things like . . .

. . . “God wants to grace you today . . . (eventually invariably) by you sending our televangelistic ministry money TODAY!”

Or something like . . . . “God wants to heal your health today . . . (eventually invariably) by you sending our televangelistic ministry money TODAY!”

I call those types of things, “Protestant Indulgences”.

Bring this up in class and ask him/her to explain about “Protestant Indulgences”.

OldDominion, I rather thought this must be a high school class. It’s totally inappropriate for any public high school teacher, no matter how popular, to be doing such a thing in the classroom. He should only be dealing with the socio-political aspects of the reformation, not theology, about which he is not qualified to speak. Someone should notify the principal about this behavior because it’s wrong to subject students to bigotry no matter whose religion is being denigrated. Let your priest know about it. He may wish to discuss it with the principal, and prehaps the school board, as well. At the least he can advise you about the situation.

Note: Holyroodhouse, Balmoral Castle, Sandringham, Clarence House, Buckingham Palace, and Kensington were not the property of King Henry VIII. Holyroodhouse came into the possession of the British Crown when James VI of Scotland (Stuart) inherited the English throne from Elizabeth I (Tudor), Henry VIII’s daughter.

Balmoral Castle was purchased by Queen Victoria and the Prince Consort Albert in 1852, and Sandringham was purchased by them in 1862.

Kensington Palace was purchased by the Crown from the Earl of Nottingham in 1689. Clarence House was built in 1825 for the Duke of that name on property already owned by the Crown. Buckingham Palace was purchased in 1761 by George III as a residence for his Queen.

Of the properties mentioned above, Henry VIII owned Windsor Castle, St. James Palace, and a host of others (Richmond, Hampton Court, and the Tower of London) which are no longer in the possession of the current Sovereign. And, by the way the Pope does have a summer residence, Castel Gandolfo as well as the Vatican.

I don’t agree with denigrating the faith traditions of students, and I don’t agree with presenting history in an unbalanced and inaccurate manner. However, I’m a public high school world history teacher, and I teach some of the more important theological issues. You simply can’t do justice to the Reformation by dealing only with socio-political aspects. Furthermore, state-mandated curricula sometimes actually require you to teach the religious issues. For example, in Virginia, where Old Dominion lives, the state standards state:

The student will demonstrate knowledge of the Reformation in terms of its impact on Western civilization by
a) explaining the effects of the theological, political, and economic differences that emerged, including the views and actions of Martin Luther, John Calvin, Henry VIII, and Elizabeth I;
b) describing the impact of religious conflicts, the Inquisition, and the Catholic Reformation on society and government actions;
c) describing changing cultural values, traditions, and philosophies, and assessing the role of the printing press.

In Texas, our standards call for us to teach the basic beliefs of several religious traditions. Even if I didn’t want to teach about religion in my class (which is not the case, it’s actually a subject matter where my students consistently show a high level of interest and engagement), there’s no way around it without jeopardizing my job, as we are not infrequently reminded that the curriculum is nonnegotiable.

Teaching about the theological “effects” of the reformation should not include denigrating the Catholic Church or any other faith community, spreading misinformation, and outright lies. How is that education? It’s not. It’s propaganda. Such mandates can be changed, especially since they can be so easily abused, and should be, IMHO. I wouldn’t want someone who couldn’t be impartial and has no real education in theological matters to be teaching my children about it. I don’t see why OldDominion need put up with hearing lectures questioning his faith simply because the reformation is an historical topic. A balanced approach is what is needed not a heavy-handed attack against one side of the issue.

Did you read all of my post? It began with “I don’t agree with denigrating the faith traditions of students, and I don’t agree with presenting history in an unbalanced and inaccurate manner.”

My fire was not directed at you :tiphat:, forgive me for not making that clear :blush: but at the flawed thinking that went into expecting people uneducated in theology to discuss the effects of theology on history. In this case, it was used as an excuse to push an anti-Catholic agenda–which should never have been allowed and should be stopped at once.

Thanks again for your answers everyone.

I don’t think he should be teaching theology, I was just thinking he could say something like, “catholic and protestants also disagree theologically. They have different bibles, and views of purgatory and things like that. It wasnt just a political split”. Just so people know its more complicated, and it aint black and white.

We have only been on the reformation for one day, so I feel its fair to give him a second day at least, to expand on his previous points. However, I don’t think it will be good. What I am worried about are the test and the quizzes we have each class. One study question is, " List 3 reason the Catholic Church was corrupt." What if one doesn’t believe they were?

then you need to reflect on the answers above, and shape your response accordingly. There was corruption within certain members of the clergy and the hierarchy; but that doe not mean the institution itself was corrupt.

As noted, there was sexual misconduct and crime within certain clergy and a few of the hierarchy; that doe not mean that the Church promotes, or even tolerates it.

Sin in the members of the Church does not eclipse the Truth.

Members of the Church always need renewal, not change in what the Church teaches.

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