Monday, December 11

The Womb of Time Part 8

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But if much of what of what has been adduced in evidence against the religion and morals of the time is true, it not the whole truth; for behind the so-called empty forms and rituals, despite the worldliness of most prelates and the debauchery of many priests, side by side with the superstition and the credulity and notwithstanding the widespread enjoyment of fornication and adultery, there was a solid and enduring structure of belief in God, in the redemptive work of Christ, in the divine mission of the Church, however corrupt it might be, and in man’s eternal destiny as a member of the Church, which few people doubted.

It was a faith which might not moderate men’s appetites or make much difference to their ability to control their passions, but it gave purpose and point to their lives, it offered them a way to cope with their sins and guilt’s, and while threatening them with damnation if they did not tread that way in the time available to them in this mortal life, to those who did so it held out the hope of glory beyond death: a hope without which it would have been even more difficult than it already was to live their lives, overshadowed by death as they  where, in anything like a fully human manner.

It was a faith, too, which drove some men and women to lead lives of extraordinary self-sacrifice and heroic sanctity; many more were prepared to fight and, if needs be, to die in its defenses, while others risked their lives in order to inform its abuses. Indeed, many people felt so strongly about the Christian faith that sixteenth century gave rise to the great reformers – the Dutchman Erasmus (born in the previous century), Luther the German monk, Zwingli of Switzerland, and Calvin, who was born in Picardy and studied theology in Paris – whose various teaching split every western European country down the middle, giving rise to endless religious strife.

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