Learning Along with Fr. Chuck

Learning Along with Father Chuck - The Reformations

March 3rd & 4th

The Protestant Reformation started in 1517 and the Counter-Reformation, also known as the Catholic Reformation began with the Council of Trent (1545-1563).  Both ended at the close of the Thirty Years’ War (1648).  Father Chuck’s Sabbatical is focused on these Reformations.  During the next several weeks, you will learn about many aspects of these Reformations.  Topics will include Pre-Reformation figure St. Catherine of Siena and the Western or Papal Schism; Reformation figures include Martin Luther, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Philip Neri and The Council of Trent.  We are excited to also include Father Chuck’s Patron Saint, St. Charles Borromeo, Archbishop of Milan, Italy.  

We look forward to sharing more insights into these changing times within the Catholic Church and the positive influence of these key leaders and saints that helped shape the Catholic Church as we know today. 


March 10th & 11th

St. Catherine of Siena was a Pre-Reformation Figure in the Catholic Church.  Born March 25, 1347, Catherine was the 25th child born to her mother.  It is believed that at age 5 or 6, she had her first vision of Christ and by age 7, Catherine vowed to dedicate her life to God.  At age 16, after the death of one of her sisters, Catherine’s parents wanted her to marry her sister’s widower.  Her parents finally relented and allowed her to pursue her devotion to God.  She entered the Third Order of the Dominicans as a lay member which provided the opportunity for young Catherine to stay at home with her family while the Dominican Sisters taught her how to read.

Catherine’s life changing event happened when she experienced her “mystical marriage to Christ” when she was 21 years old.  In her vision, Our Lady presented her to Jesus like a spouse with whom an intimate, communal and faithful relationship existed.  She began caring for terminally ill patients and administered to those on death row, providing spiritual guidance to men and women searching for God.  Political and Social tension began to grow in Italy which provoked Catherine to begin traveling, calling for reform of the Church and for people to turn from sin and profess total love for God. She also worked hard to keep city states loyal to the Pope.  Catherine played a key role in re-unifying the Papacy in Rome.  She and her followers traveled on foot for many months to convince the Pope (Pope Gregory XI) to leave Avignon, France and return to Rome.  He returned 6 months later in January 1377.  (More on the Western or Papal Schism will be next week’s Reformation Topic)

Don’t miss the opportunity to see Sr. Nancy Murray’s portrayal St. Catherine of Siena on April 21st here at Queen of Apostles Parish.  Sr. Nancy’s performance depicts the spunk, humor and feistiness of St. Catherine while drawing parallels between the wars, scandals and politics of the 14th century and the realities of the 21st century.


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March 17th & 18th

The Western or Papal Schism occurred from 1378 to 1417.  During this time, there were three rival popes acting independently.  Shortly after Catherine of Siena pleaded with then Pope, Gregory XI to move back to Rome after nearly 70 years in Avignon, France, the Papacy was returned to Rome in January 1377.  After his death in March 1378, the College of Cardinals, under Roman pressure to elect a Roman or an Italian Pope, elected Pope Urban VI.  Thinking this was a compromise as he was an Italian, but also served in the curia at Avignon, they soon regretted this choice due to Urban’s volatile personality.  All but 4 Italian Cardinals fled to Avignon where they elected another pope, a French cardinal, Clement VII who would reside in Avignon.  Western Europe’s allegiances were split for nearly 50 years. 

  • Roman Line Popes: Urban VI (1378-89); Boniface IX (1389-1404); Innocent VI (1404-06) and Gregory XII (1406-15)
    • Allegiance from Italy, the Germanic Holy Roman Empire and England:


  • Avignon Line Popes: Clement VII (1378-94) and Benedict XIII (1394-1417)
    • Allegiance from France, Scotland and Spanish Castile:

At the Council of Pisa in 1409, yet another pope was elected after neither rival pope supported the council.  Alexander V (1409-10) became the 3rd Pope with John XXIII (1410-15) his successor after his untimely death.

In 1414, the Council of Constance (1414-1418) assembled to address various issues including uniting the church in the wake of a schism between 3 rival popes.  Eventually the schism was resolved by the Council’s election of Martin V in 1417 affirming the Roman Line.  Pope Gregory XII resigned to allow the election of Pope Martin V, while Pope Benedict XIII refused to step down and continued as antipope until 1422.  Antipope John XXIII initially fled from Constance in March 1415 and was eventually arrested.  Ultimately, he accepted Martin’s election, but remained a prisoner until he was released in 1418. 

Throughout the 15th Century, wealthy Italian families often secured positions of Bishops or Cardinals including the papacy for their own members.  Immorality was also found among these religious figures.  The call for Reforming the Catholic Church began by priests, like Martin Luther who opposed what was viewed as false doctrines and clerical wrongdoing.  Key objections include the selling of indulgences, buying and selling clerical offices and overall corruption of the Church’s Hierarchy.  (More on Martin Luther in next week’s Reformation Topic.)


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March 24th & 25th

As the New World was being discovered (1492), the Western European Catholic Church was becoming more involved in the political life resulting in the church’s increase in power and wealth, bankrupting the spirituality in the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church.  While other reformers from the past were looking to address the corruption of the Catholic Church, Martin Luther was looking to the theological root of the problem – corruption of the church’s doctrine regarding redemption and grace.

Martin Luther was ordained a Catholic priest in 1507 and became a doctor of theology in 1512 and Bible professor at the University of Wittenberg.  His theology began to contradict that of the Catholic Church as he believed that salvation was not achieved by human work, but by absolute faith in God’s promise of forgiveness through Jesus Christ.  After posting his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517, the start of the Protestant Reformation was born.  At this time, the Catholic Church was selling indulgences to raise funds to rebuild St. Peter’s in Rome.  However, little was it known that half of the proceeds from indulgences sold in Germany were applied to the huge debt owed by the Archbishop, Albert of Mainz, who owed money to the Pope for appointing him to his high offices.  Luther, through the initiation of Archbishop Mainz, was excommunicated in 1521. 

The Reformation movement diversified quickly.  Other Reformers arose independently of Martin Luther.  Zwingli’s movement in Switzerland combined church and state in service of God; accepting the supreme authority of the Scriptures.  Calvinism spread into England, Scotland, France and the Netherlands emphasizing predestination and salvation through God’s grace versus our own merits.  Another Group of Reformers were the “Anabaptists,” modern day Baptists, Mennonites and Quakers who believe that proper baptism was through public confession of sin and faith and sealed by adult baptism. 

Key contrast of Protestant Reformers from Catholic Church doctrine includes Sin, Grace & Atonement.  Catholic doctrine teaches that through Jesus Christ, our good works and atonement for our sins, God’s grace and salvation are achieved.  Reformers believe Christ won our salvation through His self-sacrifice on the cross and are completely free of having to actively achieve or participate in their own salvation.  As a follower of the Roman Catholic Church, Henry VIII’s Church of England has characteristics of both Catholic and Protestant Traditions after his split from the Pope.  (More on Henry VIII and the Church of England to follow the weekend of April 7/8th.)


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