Confession and Society
Confession and Society

Confession and Society : Tridentine Catholicism

Church and State . . Catholicism prevailed where the prince/city administration resented and suppressed the reformation and later implemented what is called the CATHOLIC REFORMATION, i.e. the decisions of the COUNCIL OF TRENT. In addition, in many territories the COUNTERREFORMATION was conducted, forcing the population to return to the Catholic fold. This was facilitated by the JESUITS, who were responsible for the INQUISITION, for COLLEGES.

Clergy and Laymen . . Tridentine Catholicism stresses the distinction between clergy and laymen; priesthood is regarded a vocation which requires personal sacrifice, in the form of CELIBACY and poverty. In HOLY MASS, only the bread is handed out to the lay community; the priest alone drinks the wine. The participation of laymen in the church organization is limited to the local level; as the Catholic church has a strong hierarchy, the Catholic church is heavily dominated by the clergy. This is expressed in the vocabulary used by the church; pastor means shepherd, the community of (lay) christians is compared with a flock of sheep needing the guidance of the priest.

Tridentine Catholicism and Literacy . . The Catholic church did not regard elementary education for everybody a necessity. As a consequence, in Catholic areas, especially in the countryside, a considerable segment of the population remained illiterate. On the other hand, the Tridentine Reformation boosted secondary education. Numerous high schools and universities were founded by the Jesuits; in order to ensure that these were not 'infected' by heretical thought, the Council of Trent had decided on the publication of an INDEX OF FORBIDDEN BOOKS.
Due to the lack of mandatory elementary education, SUPERSTITION was more widespread among Catholics then among Protestants. While the Catholic church professed to combatting superstition, certain of her practices (EXORCISM) were themselves based on superstition.

Women in Catholic Society . . In accordance with tradition, women were barred from entering the priesthood. They could, however, enter a nunnery, a decision which required celibacy on their side. Saint Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) was beatified in 1614 and canonized in 1622.
The Catholic church promoted the role of women as humble, churchgoing mothers and housewives; women were barred access to higher education. The Catholic church believed in the existence of witchcraft; the vast majority of suspects, oft victims of the witchhunt, were women, most often women who did not fit into the role model promoted by the church.

Festivals .. In contrast to the various protestant churches, the Catholic church emphasized FASTS, PILGRIMAGES and festivals such as the various Saints days and CARNIVAL. While there were so many saints to celebrate that if a community would celebrate all of them there would be no time to work, in practice local communities, in addition to a list of major festivals, made a choiice of their own, celebrating the local patron saint, and often the patron saints of strong local trades. Carnival, celebrated throughout the Catholic world, stands out in the length and in the way it is celebrated. Preceding a six week fast, it is the last opportunity for Catholics to celebrate, to drink and dance, before Easter (for details see RITES).
Fasts, Pilgrimages and Festivals permit practicing Catholics to live their confession, to actively participate in community life, in a rather emotional way.

Article Saint Teresa of Avila, from Catholic Encyclopedia

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on January 23rd 2003, last revised on November 15th 2004

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