What are the influences of Renaissance humanism on Catholic reform?  

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The effect of Renaissance humanism on Church reform was largely indirect. Humanist thinkers such as Erasmus had long criticized the Church for its rampant corruption and superstitious practices. Yet successive popes resisted any serious calls for change, reluctant to countenance any measures that would undermine their power.

Humanist ideals had...

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The effect of Renaissance humanism on Church reform was largely indirect. Humanist thinkers such as Erasmus had long criticized the Church for its rampant corruption and superstitious practices. Yet successive popes resisted any serious calls for change, reluctant to countenance any measures that would undermine their power.

Humanist ideals had much greater effect on Protestant reformers such as Martin Luther. Renaissance humanism had been sparked into life by the rediscovery of ancient learning. This principle of going back to the sources to get to the truth of things was taken up by the likes of Luther in relation to the Bible. Luther used Scripture as the sole standard of Christian belief; what wasn't in the Bible wasn't Christian. Luther compared the corrupt practices of the Church with the ideal of the Christian life set out in the Bible and found them wanting. The Catholic Church was slow to respond to Luther's criticisms, and it was only at the Council of Trent, long after the Reformation had begun, that it finally developed a coherent response. In that sense, Renaissance humanism did have an effect on the Tridentine reforms, albeit in a limited, indirect form.

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Humanists mounted a number of critiques against the Church, and it is difficult to measure precisely the extent to which their writings influenced Church reformers. Generally, humanists like Erasmus and Thomas More argued that the Church should adhere more closely to Scripture, and move away from aspects of worship and ecclesiastical structure that were not supported by Biblical text. True to the humanist emphasis on learning, they also criticized the Church for the ignorance and avarice of many priests, the influence of monastic orders, and the rampant corruption that had helped spark the Protestant Reformation. Other humanists, like Marsiglio of Padua, argued that the Church should be governed more by the edicts of councils composed of Church leaders than by papal decree. While the works of many humanist writers were banned by the Council of Trent and other Church institutions, some were taken seriously, and the Church moved to clarify, modernize, and in particular re-evangelize its approach to religious leadership.

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