The Influence of the Church

The Church had helped create the Renaissance by commissioning artists. An unintended consequence was that it also made people question old beliefs:

  • As more people learned to read, they were able to read the Bible for themselves instead of having to accept everything told to them by priests and bishops. Their interpretations of the Bible often differed from those of the Church.
  • The invention of the printing press meant that the ideas of the reforms could spread around Europe quickly and this encouraged people to support them and challenge the Church.

The Wealth of the Church

  • Bishops and cardinals were huge land owners. An estimated one-third of all the land in Germany belonged to the Church. This wealth was resented by kings and nobles.
  • Everyone had to pay their annual tithe to their local bishop. This was greatly resented by ordinary people, especially whenever they saw these bishops and cardinals living extravagant lives.

Abuses within the Church

There were many abuses of power within the Catholic Church which made people believe that the popes, bishops and priests were more interested in their own wealth and power than serving God. Some of these abuses were:

  • Simony: the buying or selling of positions within the Church.
  • Nepotism: the appointing of relatives to Church jobs regardless of merit.
  • Pluralism: having more than one Church job at the same time.
  • Absenteeism: a priest or bishop being absent from their parish or diocese for long periods of time.
  • The sale of indulgences: The Church began to sell special prayers which were said to reduce the time a person spent in purgatory.