Essay: Church History the Inheritance of Generations

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Church History

The Inheritance of Generations: The Papacy, Protestantism, and Progress within the Church

Throughout the majority of its existence, the Roman Catholic Church was a far more politically potent entity than it was in the twentieth century or is in the current day. Religion itself was also highly political, in a much different way than is currently the case in the United States and certain other countries (where beliefs determine votes in many cases, but do not generally start wars or create massive political schisms with global ramifications), making the actions of the Church in all regards key historical events in the development and progress of Europe and Western civilization. All of this became quite clear in the period known as the Reformation, and in the events of the preceding centuries that presaged this period.

The Avignon Papacies

The Church suffered several splits in its early days, and even after it had been a long-established political power, yet before the final splits effected in the Reformation. Specifically the papacy suffered a great loss of prestige -- and with it a loss of political sway -- during the fourteenth century, when the papacy was twice removed from Rome to Avignon during periods that came to be known as the Babylonian Captivity and the Great Schism (Cairns 240). These periods were somewhat similar in some of their practicalities and in their ultimate effects of weakening the Pope and the Church's political (and eventually religious) position in Europe, yet also had great differences that played out with dramatically divergent effects in the overall political framework of Europe at the time.

The so-called Babylonian captivity began when Clement V, a newly elected French pope, moved the papacy's seat from Rome to France, eventually settling in Avignon in 1309. This move was largely the result of the influence of the French king, and though Avignon lay outside France's official territory, the new site of the papacy was seen -- quite rightly -- as evidence of undue political pressure from the French crown on what was meant to be an international (and un-national) political and religious force (Cairns 240-1). During this first period of the Avignon papacy, which lasted until 1377 with a succession of popes that were strongly dominated by the French king, the political pressures and influences on the Pope and the Church became exceedingly sharp, with resentment of France's newfound power influencing the actions of the Church and the crowns in many different European powers.

The political pressures of this world could be somewhat glossed over by the papacy, and indeed were so, by a reliance on strict scriptural interpretation. The excerpt from Matthew which establishes Peter as the foundation of the Church -- the first ordained Pope -- can also be read as granting the pope infallibility even in the political affairs of the earthly world: "And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven" (NKJV Matthew 16:18-19). By ensuring that whatever occurs on Earth shall become binding in heaven, the Pope could argue that no earthly… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Church History the Inheritance of Generations.  (2010, January 30).  Retrieved May 22, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/church-history-inheritance-generations/7746

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"Church History the Inheritance of Generations."  Essaytown.com.  January 30, 2010.  Accessed May 22, 2019.
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