The Counter-Reformation was more concerned with structural and administrative reforms than the Protestant Reformation. It also largely ignored the highly contentious theological issues that lay at the heart of the Reformers’ concerns. As such, it has been seen primarily as a reactionary movement, one devoted to fortifying the spiritual and temporal power of the Catholic Church against a growing Protestant threat.
At the Council of Trent, which gave definitive shape to the Counter-Reformation, not only was Protestant ‘heresy’ roundly condemned, but the traditional Catholic orthodoxy was reaffirmed with renewed vigor. The Church made no concessions regarding divisive theological issues such as the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist or the interpretation of scripture. In avoiding anything that smacked of compromise, it widened further the growing schism within European Christendom.
But the Catholic Church did learn some lessons from the Protestant Reformers, even if it didn’t...
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