During the 16th Century, when Philip II was King of Spain, he was also governor of the Netherlands. Unfortunately, he was not very tolerant of any religion other than Catholicism. So this made it hard for him to deal peacefully with the Protestants. While Philip was never actually in the Netherlands, his sister Margaret, Duchess of Parma was living in the Netherlands as regent. And what she saw was that the Protestants were very tolerant towards all and that nobody was forced to do anything against their will. However, because Philip didn’t believe in religious toleration, he tried to stem the protestant growth in the Netherlands by instating the Inquisition. There were many different times in Europe when the Inquisition was used, but this was a time when the Protestants were not allowed any religious freedom and were persecuted. It was religious prejudice.
A bit fearfully, Margaret wrote to Philip pleading with him to stop the Inquisition because in the Netherlands was very happy. So Philip did the right thing and gave the Protestants some space. But what worried him next was that the Protestants were now having large gatherings, and they were all showing up armed. This made Philip start to think that maybe he had been too nice to them. Had he? Philip began receiving reports about more large gatherings and how Catholic churches and houses were being vandalized by Protestants now as well. Now that was it for Philip, he immediately organized a 10,000 strong army, led by the Duke of Alba to get the Protestants under control. He didn’t reinstate the Inquisition, but it was still just as bad. The Duke of Alba also issued a 10% tax increase, which added to the mix of the Protestants’ anger and frustration. No matter what the King did, he could no longer contain the revolting Protestants.
The revolt finally ended in 1648, long after all the people who had started it in 1568 were dead, and when the Treaty of Münster was signed and gave the Protestants religious freedom. The Netherlands as a whole was also given its own freedom.
You can read more about the Dutch Revolt and the Treaty of Münster here:
Many people today struggle with finding or staying with a religion. This isn’t a new problem. Many people, especially important people, sometimes struggled with this. Elizabeth I, Queen of England was one of these.
In the 16th Century, while Elizabeth I, was able to create a system of order and a thriving economy with low taxes in her England. Being queen for 45 years probably helped too! I’m sure many people were happy to have Elizabeth as their queen. However, she struggled to pick a religion for her country to use. Did she want Protestantism? Or would she try something relatively new? Did she want Catholicism? If she did, she would have to share power with the Catholic church which was not what she wanted to do. She most definitely wanted to be absolutist or the only one in charge of church and state. But, Catholicism was the religion that was accepted by previous monarchs. And although, she did like some views of the Catholic church, she was reluctant to share any power. She abandoned trying to choose between Protestantism or Catholicism and chose, instead, the religion of Anglicanism. She even forced Ireland to abandon Catholicism and have Anglicanism as their religion. They had no choice.
Unfortunately, this confirms one of humankind’s major weaknesses: That powerful people will often do anything to keep their power and have it all. In Queen Elizabeth’s case, there’s a good chance that she didn’t believe in or truly want Anglicanism for England — except as a wise political move. Maybe she just did it to avoid the Catholics and to keep the Protestants ‘Okay’ with her decision. Looking back, history must ask if she ever picked a national religion for the benefit of her people? Or just to stay in power? Maybe she felt it was both.
I was recently asked by Dr. Tom Woods, instructor of my on-line Western Civilization course, to consider: “What were the 95 Theses about? What was the basic message of Luther’s complaint?
Here are my thoughts.
Martin Luther, who is sometimes referred to as the ‘father’ of the Protestant Reformation, wanted to reform the Catholic church. In a sense, he wanted to reboot the whole system. If possible, his goal was to replace all the Catholic beliefs with new ones. And, naturally, preferably with his. As one can imagine, this did not go over well with the Catholic leadership or even normal, everyday parishioners so he ended up forming his own sect of religion instead. What he is most known for was the bold way he and ‘hand-delivered’ his complaints, nailing 95 statements against the selling of indulgences.
An indulgence was a slip of paper that, when purchased, declared you forgiven of your sins. Along with a few required actions, like saying a prayer, all you really had to do was purchase one every time you needed to do some repenting. For instance, Theses No. 27 chides, “They [Catholic bishops and other authorities] preach man that as soon as the penny jingles in the money box, the souls fly out of purgatory.” I am curious to know if the Catholic bishops back then actually believed that divine forgiveness required money more than a change of heart, but either way it is easy to understand how this could get out of hand. For the poor, what was it like if they had to choose between buying food or indulgences?
Another one of Luther’s arguments that kills the practice at its core, and one that I particularly liked, is No. 36: “Every truly penitent Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt without letters of pardon.” He is saying that not just some Christians have the chance to be saved, but all of them!
While I’m sure the Catholic church has changed and moved on since the 16th Century, I believe God inspired Martin Luther, and other truth seekers like him, to courageously stand up against what they felt was wrong for the benefit of believers.
Wow! How many posts was that? Not counting posts unrelated to history, I think that’s about 28? 32? No! 36! This is my last post on this site, but I will continue posting on a different blog. I’ll let you know when that’s up and running! In this post I finish up with what I learned throughout my history posts. (I will be creating one more small post with a timeline of events that occurred.)