Know Thine Enemy

As we see evidence that the family Beauchamp had at least some segment of it who were Protestant, it would be good to know something about how they came to be and what they were fighting against.

The term “Huguenot” was first used in Germany as “ieguenot” or confederate. It later came to be used in Geneva to describe the early Protestants and later the Calvinists. In France, it was used as a derogatory term in combination with various accusations of wrong doing.  The term was also connected to Hugh Capet, first king of the Franks who haunted the town of Tours, France at night while the Huguenots prayed in secret, thus earning them the name of “Huguenots” or llittle Hugos. After a time, the name lost some of its negative connotation to just signify the Protestants. (1) Put in simplest terms, the Protestant Reformation was a “protest” against the abuse of power by the Catholic Church. You often hear the term “Roman Church” or the old term “Romanish” but who were the Catholics and how did they come to power?

The Early Church
The beginnings of the early church can be traced to Palestine where according to the Bible, Christ told the apostles to preach the gospel to all peoples. However, the first Christians were the Jews who believed that Jesus was the Messiah or saviour. Although the early church separated from Judaism, it accepted the Jewish scriptures as both a record and a guide  leading to Jesus Christ.

Under the leadership of the apostle Paul, whose mission it was to minister to the Gentiles, many churches were established. By the time of his death in 67 AD, Christianity gradually spread from Jerusalem to Antioch, Syria, Alexandria in Egypt and especially, Rome. The Romans however, believed that loyalty to the Emperor involved honouring Roman gods as well as the Emperor. This led to the persecution of the Christians but did not stop the growth and development of Christianity.

Even at this point, (c. 200 AD), there was trouble within the Church itself as different factions developed their own ideas of what Christianity meant. When this countered basic Christian beliefs, they became known as “heresy”, the most significant one known as “Gnosticism“.

The apostle Peter was chosen to settle questions of doctrine and church government. After the apostles died, the church turned to the New Testament as a guide for doctrine (beliefs held and taught by the Church), then they set up the basic orders for the Ministry (bishops, presbyters (later to become priests) and deacons) . Local councils of bishops strengthened the major issues of the Church.

Under Constantine the Great, the converted Roman emperor, Christianity, along with other religions was allowed freedom of worship. Other than pressure from the Arians, the Church grew and was now able to influence civil law and expand its missionary work. In 335, the first council of Catholic bishops met and condemned the teachings of Arius. This period saw the development of great literature and monasticism. It was also the time of Leo I (440-461), who persuaded the Huns and the Vandals to halt their attacks on Italy. Leo emphasized that popes were successors to Saint Peter and thus had supreme authority in the Church. For various reasons, during the 400’s, the eastern churches separated from the west.

The Middle Ages
In 476 AD the western Roman Empire collapsed under German barbarians who were Arians. In 590 AD, Pope Gregory set out to recover Western Europe, using the papacy and monasticism. The papacy, rather than the emperor became the central authority and the building of  monasteries created centres of Christian society. The Benedictine monasteries were established at this time. When Clovis I, king of the Franks, was converted, it stopped the spread of Arianism and brought Gaul, then including Belguim, France and Western Germany into the church. During attacks by the Muslims on western Europe, the Catholic church was a main force in unifying the West.

During the Middle Ages, Charlemagne, the great king of the Franks, became protector of the popes and was thus made Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire by Pope Leo III. He laid the  foundations for a civilized western Europe using the ideals of 1) orderly government,  2) religious reform and 3) expansion of the Christian world by conquest and missionary work. (You will note the second ideal of religious reform).The Holy Roman empire consisted chiefly of German and Italian states ruled by German emperors. In the 900’s, France started to show itself as a centre for religious reform when the monks of the abbey in Cluny, France, changed the way the monasteries were run and routed out practices such as “simony” , the buying and selling of church offices and artifacts.

The Catholic popes were extremely wealthy men. Innocent III (1198) was feudal lord over much of Europe. When he called the Lateran Council, he established policy for the church that would last for hundreds of years, including what constituted heresy. This led to the creation of the Inquisition, the heresy court.

In 1309, the pope moved to Avignon, France from Rome. Boniface VIII proclaimed that the nation was subject to the emperor and the emperor was subject to the pope. All people must be subject to the pope to reach salvation.

From 1378 to 1417, the Church became deeply divided over the question of rightful claim to the throne by 3 different men. This became known as the Great Schism. A council of bishops elected Martin V. It was a time of great turbulence and the seed was sewn over the question of papal authority.

During this time as well, the Renaissance started. People began to question the order of things. Temporal existence became the focus of attention and the church began a moral decline. Religious mysticism and different schools of thought arose. In 1438, the Council of Florence reunited some of the eastern churches with the west but this did not last. The Muslims captured Constantinople (now Istanbul), in 1438 and ruled over Eastern Christians until the 1800’s. Out of all this rose the Protestant Reformation.

To Be Continued

Main source for this post: Encyclopedia Britannica-Roman Catholic Church

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