Monday, September 5, 2022


The Latin Church responds to Protestant reformers with a multi-faceted Counter-Reformation.

1. Society of Jesus (Jesuits)

Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556, fl. >1540): birth to conversion

Ignatius is born into a wealthy aristocratic family in the castle of Loyola in the kingdom of Navarre in northern Iberia (1491). Thirty years later a cannonball shatters one leg of this haughty soldier during a battle in Pamplona. While recovering, Ignatius decides to abandon weapons of the flesh and become a conquistador of the spirit.

Spiritual exercises

To train himself in his new vocation, Ignatius develops a series of spiritual exercises he designs to be done over a period of four weeks. Through these prayers and meditations, he is able to better detach himself from the things of this world and to focus more clearly on Jesus.

Paris: first friends

Ignatius leaves Iberia to study at the University of Paris (1528). While there, a small group of men become his friends, adopt his spiritual exercises, and with him commit their lives to witnessing to Jesus.

Rome: Jesuits

Ignatius and friends eventually travel to Rome (1538). There they promise complete obedience to Paul 3rd (1468-1549), pope (>1534), and his successors. Their goals are to share Latin Christianity especially with the marginal: the young, uneducated, or unfaithful, both within Latin Christendom and abroad. The pope officially approves their establishment of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) (1540). Given their commitment to the Latin Church, the pope commits them to fight the Protestant Reformation and, if possible, to regain lost governments, people, and land.

2. Rome: restoration not Renaissance

Rulers of the Latin Christian Church choose to become restorative champions rather than remain Renaissance patrons for internally coherent reasons as well as from competition with Protestant reformers.

Paul 3rd establishes the Roman Inquisition to suppress heresy (1542).

Paul 4th (1476-1559, r. >1555) forces all Jews in Rome to live in a particular neighborhood which becomes known as the Roman Ghetto (1555). He also requires them to wear distinctive clothing. He then creates the Index of Prohibited Books. On it are listed all books by Protestant reformers.

3. Council of Trent

A council of Latin Church leaders meets in the Norican city of Trent three times under three different popes (1545-47, 1551-52, 1562-63). There these leaders decide to reject the changes advocated by various Protestant reformers such as salvation by grace through faith, Sunday worship spoken in the vernacular language of ordinary people, and both wine and bread to lay people during the Lord’s Supper.

In keeping with the decisions made at Trent, Pius 5th, (1504-72), pope (>1566), strives to stop the sale of bishoprics and to provide all priests with the education, skills, and self-discipline needed to fulfill their vocations.

4. Wholesale oppression and war

Also at Trent, Latin Church leaders come to see conflict with Protestant reformers as one in which political oppression and war should be used without restraint.

5.  Baroque cultural movement

Latin Christian Church and State intentionally create the Baroque movement to contrast with the austerity of Reformation art and architecture. It is massive and expensive to emphasize the wealth, power, and permanence of Latin Church and State against anything or anyone else. It expresses its supreme confidence in total victory over all enemies in dramatic displays of detail and personal expressions of intense emotion.

The Jesuits in Rome construct the Church of the Gesu, the first church building in the Baroque style. On its ceiling, Jesus ascends to Heaven carrying the cross. Ignatius follows him closely. The two of them are surrounded by a host of similarly soaring saints. This too is in conscious contrast with reformers who insist that Jesus is the only existing mediator between man and God.

Copyright © 2022 by Steven Farsaci.
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