Called to Communion on the Roots of the Reformation. His response is found here. In return, I offer the following:
I realize there are inherent difficulties with writing short blog posts on complicated subjects. You say that I misunderstood certain aspects of what you wrote (which indeed may be the case). Couldn't it be that perhaps you weren't clear enough to begin with? Or, to complicate matters, both could be true- there could be a lack of clarity on your part and a lack of understanding on my part. Regardless of which it is, I appreciate that you took the time to read what I put together. After going through your response, I have three points of concern.
First, based on the fact that you've written your entry for the CTC website I'm assuming that on a basic level, your entry on the Reformation was, in some sense, a defense for the Roman church. You end your entry by stating your gratitude for your "corrupt Church," and that you "would never think of leaving it because of corruption." That leads me to the conclusion that, in your opinion, whatever it was the Reformers did, their protest was not ultimately done in the best interest of the Roman Catholic Church, and that the Reformers are not be heralded today as those who fought for the true Spirit of the church universal. In your post you ask, "So why does this matter today?" What the Reformers did, according to you, appears to matter- and should be responded to by the defenders of Rome, in order to.... defend Rome, not to herald the Reformers as those who championed the Gospel and Scriptures against a corrupt institution.
I mention this basic point because as I worked through your entry, one question that concerned me was exactly what you thought of the Protestant Reformers. And here, my basic criticism (in response to your concerns that I didn't treat your thesis accurately) was that you provide very little to work with. I note the following:
So why does this matter today? It matters because we need to be alert to how we frame our discussions about the Church and how we respond to propaganda. The Reformation era was not the worst in Church history, but people at the time became convinced that it was. People with a personal or a political agenda exploited the popular mentality and disseminated propaganda that caused centuries of bloodshed and suffering.
Reflecting on this, it is good to know that the Church has always had corruption, has always fought corruption, and has never made “absence of corruption” a mark of the true Church. Jesus told us to expect corruption in the Church until the end of time. (Matthew 13:24-30) And every attempt to create a perfect Church in this life has always ended in disaster. The Donatists tried it in North Africa. The Puritans tried it in New England. We could list other examples, but the result is always hypocrisy or tyranny.
The first statement appears to characterize the Reformers as "people with a personal or a political agenda" who "exploited the popular mentality and disseminated propaganda that caused centuries of bloodshed." The second statement (which I noted in my blog entry) may infer you think the Reformers sought to create the perfect church, and that anyone who has this goal will achieve the results of "hypocrisy or tyranny" (as I noted originally, I was not sure you were making this point). This is all you left to be worked with. In your response you cite Farel and characterize him as using the language of inflammatory propaganda. You then go on to say that I was in error in my synopsis of who you thought the Reformers ultimately were ("I certainly did not say the Reformers were “simply disseminating propaganda.” They were propagandists, to be sure, but with real grievances that had been the subject of discussion among Catholics for decades if not centuries").
I think this criticism is unfair based on what you originally wrote. The overall tenor of your post is that church corruption did not cause the Reformation. You say that explicitly. You clarify this with "The real cause of the Reformation was not Church corruption (moral, doctrinal, or otherwise) but how people felt about it. " Well, how the Reformers felt about it, according to what you've written, is that they responded "with a personal or a political agenda" and "exploited the popular mentality and disseminated propaganda that caused centuries of bloodshed." I stand by my original summary statement of your words and my use of the word "simply."
Second, you went on in your response to clarify that "The Reformers were clearly motivated by the perception of corruption" as opposed to my synopsis of your position that "Whatever their motivations were, the Reformers weren’t motivated to reform due to church corruption." Here may again be a lack of clarity in your original post. Your opening two paragraphs argue "corruption" proper was not the ultimate cause of the Reformation. In your second to last paragraph you state, "'Corruption,' as such, was not the cause of the Reformation." Even in your response, it isn't "corruption" proper that caused the Reformation, but the perception of the Reformers. I stand by my synopsis of your position, that ultimately, according to you, corruption was not the ultimate factor for the Reformers, but rather, the Reformers used corruption to advance a "personal or a political agenda" and "exploited the popular mentality and disseminated propaganda that caused centuries of bloodshed." So, again, according to you,whatever their motivations were, the Reformers weren’t ultimately looking to reform the church due to corruption. They used corruption as a means to an end, a different end (a personal or political agenda).
Third, in regard to my statement that puzzled you ("factual data")- this also ties in to your characterization of the Reformers as those "with a personal or a political agenda" who "exploited the popular mentality and disseminated propaganda that caused centuries of bloodshed." As I read through your entry, I observed that you compared the Reformers to others whom you appear to think actually worked toward responding to corruption without a personal or a political agenda and without exploiting the popular mentality and without disseminating propaganda causing centuries of bloodshed:
One man who gets a lot of the credit for this is Pope Gregory VII (1020-1085). In his day, the Church was absolutely rife with corruption and he wanted to do something about it. He fought hard to eliminate simony (buying Church offices) and clerical incontinence. He strove to free the Church from the control of secular rulers. But he did something very radical, too. He called on laypeople to oppose corrupt clergy, absolving them of their obligations to obey.
In the aftermath of Pope Gregory’s reform, we saw centuries of religious movements and lay reforms both inside and outside of the Church. The most famous examples are St. Francis and St. Dominic, who rose up in answer to the Church’s call for Reformation."
" What all of this means is that the Church created the expectation that things should be better. Religious carried out centuries of catechesis and preaching. Books like The Imitation of Christ flooded the popular market once Guttenberg invented printing. The Church created such a demand for good religion that she couldn’t keep up with the demand.
Here I think your argument is not a factual argument per se, but rather an argument of the heart, or rather, you're starting with a basic unproven presupposition: certain people are real reformers of the church, certain people are not real reformers of the church. Who decides which are which? Well, if one is a defender of Rome, certain historical personages will be seen as reforming the church, others will not.
In conclusion, you mentioned to my friend Ken Temple that "the Protestant Reformation took the form of a Protest against doctrinal corruption in the Church." You also said that "whether or not that protest was justifiable" was not the point of your entry. I think it's very easy to read between the lines of what you've written to conclude the Reformation was not a justifiable protest with long lasting positive results. You then state:
The thesis of the article is that corruption alone, whether doctrinal, moral, institutional, or what-have-you, is not a sufficient explanation of the Reformation. But, rather, a change in religious mentality (along with other social, political, and technological developments) was required before claims of corruption could have the force necessary to move an entire culture the way they did.
This is an adequate thesis, as far it goes. But it appears to me your entry says a bit more. It particularly downplays the element of corruption within the Roman church and places a negative value on the protest of the Reformers. If I had to summarize your entry in a few words, I'd say your entry was an apologetic effort to defend the Roman church against the Protestant Reformation.