The catholic side of the reformation

Whenever I hear the reformation being brought up it always seems (either rightly or wrongly) the focus is on the reformers with only tangential mentions to the Catholic side during this time. Are there any good resources on this subject? Are there any key catholic figures who defended the Catholic church against the accusations of protestant forces?

Would be interested to know.

Well, the pope excommunicated Luther and it all led to the Council of Trent. That was a pretty good defense. Am I misunderstanding you?

There was the counter-reformation and the council of Trent.

I mean in terms of apologetics geared at defending the Catholic side of the reformation. History that covers the time is usually dedicated to the protestant formulations and ideas but not so much catholic ideas.

Cajetan, papal legate and erudite theologian, and Johan Eck, brilliant theological scholar, we’re two important players on the RCC side. Eck disputed Luther, trying valiantly to win him over and failing, of course, but not for lack of solid argumentation.

Desiderius Erasmus, who also wanted reform of the Church, but believed in the Church. He is the adversary against whom Martin Luther wrote “The Bondage of the Will” against Erasmus’ work on free will (which I have never found in English), so all I know of it is little quotes by Luther in his book (which I loved 25 years ago, but after reading Thomas’ Summa, and now as a Catholic I go back and look at the “Bondage of the Will” and can see what is wrong)

Besides those already named, one thinks of King Henry VIII’s defense of the seven sacraments against the reformers, and Cardinal Cajetan, papal legate.
In document form, the link provides the Augsburg Confession. Article by Article is a link to the Confutation (Confutatio Pontificia) of the Augsburg Confession.


Look for St. Francis de Sales, and the founding of the Jesuit order was a counter-Reformation by St. Ignatius of Loyola.

The publication of the Roman Catechism.

Post #3 mentioned the Council of Trent. Of particular interest are sessions 5 & 6, especially 6, where the Reformer’s positions on justification are specifically addressed-and the Catholic teaching set forth. The documents can be found here:

Actually, there were Catholics who were calling for reform, also. They just went about it in the right way. It’s called the Counter-Reformation.

Well sure, because the protestants were the ones changing stuff. The Catholics just kept every as it had been, albeit with more things set in stone (e.g. the number of sacraments and books of the Old T).

Granted, the protestants say otherwise (poor fellows :o :cool:).

Look into the writings of St. Robert Cardinal Bellarmine.

You can find Bondage of the Will at or at
The last site is at Internet Archives.

Thanks for the link, Randy. It places a different perspective on the events.

“For in the first place the name suggests that the Catholic movement came after the Protestant; whereas in truth the reform originally began in the Catholic Church, and Luther was a Catholic Reformer before he became a Protestant.

As I ponder how the wounds to the unity of the Body of Christ must grieve Him, I have tears in my eyes.

How did the situation become so dire that attempts to fix it ended in schism?

From the same article…under Igntius and the Jesuits:

The monk Luther and many like him began by denouncing abuses. The abuses were serious, no doubt, but from the nature of the case abuses in matters or of matters themselves holy and laudable. Yet so violent did the accusers become that they gradually forgot any good there was connected with the object decried, though the good perhaps in reality far outweighed the evil. Then came attacks upon the persons who maintained or defended the thing impugned, or who failed to make the changes demanded, and they were almost always declared to have virtually or actually betrayed or deserted the Church itself. Finally the reformer, setting himself up as the true standard of orthodoxy, fell to self-exaltation, and at last rebelled and separated from the Church, which he had originally intended to serve.

A better understanding between the clerical and the state parties ensued, and so the council was concluded, with much more expedition and satisfaction than had seemed possible. While the politicians had been squabbling, the theologians had been doing their work well, and when the decrees came to be promulgated, there was general admiration at the amount of definition that had been accomplished. Though there had been so many rumours of quarrels and divisions, the points on which all were agreed were surprisingly numerous and formed a striking contrast to the contradictions and feuds among the Protestant sects, which were becoming ever more conspicuous and bitter.

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