Problems Inside the Medieval Catholic Church
In 1517, a monk named Martin Luther addressed several problems he saw within the Catholic Church. On Halloween night he nailed a list of these problems to the door of the church in the town where he lived: Wittenberg, Germany. That list contained 95 problems and is known as the 95 Theses.
The 95 Theses pointed out several things wrong with the Catholic Church at the time. One of the biggest things was the sale of indulgences. Indulgences were a piece of paper from the Church that was supposed to lessen a person’s time in purgatory and help them get to heaven faster. Luther disagreed with this, saying that buying indulgences had no impact on whether or not people would go to heaven.
In addition to indulgences, the 95 Theses pointed out other problems as well. These problems included priests not being well educated and some of the higher leaders in the Church being corrupt. In addition, Luther stated that the Pope himself had too much power over the Church and politics.
Luther also wrote down his own ideas about faith. These included that salvation came only from believing in God, and that the Bible was the sole place to get information about one’s faith. Perhaps most radically, Luther believed that all Christians were equal before God and therefore there was no need to have a Pope at all!
The printing press helped spread Luther’s ideas and he became very popular. The movement he started became known as the Protestant Reformation, and the people who followed him away from the Catholic Church became known as Protestants. As a result, the Catholic Church started its own Counter Reformation and made some sweeping changes, such as stopping the sale of indulgences.