The Reformation was not really a surprise to the Catholic church. It had endured many attacks on the faith. It had been steadily battling opposition, resistance, and heresy for over four hundred years prior.
Much of the opposition against the church throughout the fifteenth century involved issues that closely paralleled those splitting the church during the early Reformation. In response to the growth of the Protestant movement, the Catholic Church instituted its a series of reforms that balanced real reform with a strident and conservative reaction to Protestantism. In essence, a Counter-Reformation.
Many aspects of this movement were genuine reforms. Groups formed that included both clergy and lay people and encouraged a return to simple ethical living and piety. Other aspects were conservative reactions to the criticisms leveled against the church.
Pope Paul III in 1545 convened a council in Trent in order to define church doctrine once and for all. The Council of Trent, worked on this problem in three separate sessions from 1545 to 1563.
This council eventually brought reforms in the abuses practiced by the church, such as the selling of indulgences. The Council forced bishops to reside in the region they presided over and also forbad the selling of church offices. All much needed reforms.
they also called for a seminary to be built in every diocese so that church doctrine could be fully and accurately represented. Yet the attack on the faith continued much as it does today.
Just a few years prior, the Society of Jesus or the "Jesuits" was founded by Ignatius of Loyola in the 1530's and recognized officially by the Catholic church a decade later. Ignatius
The basis of the Jesuits was a return to the strictest and most uncompromising obedience to the authority of the church and its ecclesiastical hierarchy. Ignatius wrote in his "Rules for Thinking with the Church": "I will believe that the white that I see is black if the hierarchical Church so defines it."
Ignatius was not blindly following out of ignorance, rather he was a brilliant and intelligent man who led by following. Yet how does one acquire such faith?
In 1521 he was wounded in a battle with the French. While recovering, he read the classics of Christianity and was deeply impressed by the lives of the martyrs and the saints. This instilled in him a deep sense of the value of absolute sacrifice; he underwent a conversion and dedicated his life to the same level of self-sacrifice that he saw in the lives of the saints.
Ignatius believed unless one could perfectly deny one's self and one's feelings, one could never perfectly obey the dictates of the church hierarchy. It's interesting today to see married Pastors with mega churches and million dollar book deals and wonder what Ignatius would have thought about them.
Ignatius by no means had a mega church. After all the concept os self denial is a bit hard to sell. The original Jesuits had only ten members. But by 1630, it had over fifteen thousand members all over the world. Ignatius was dedicated to the extirpation of heretics who refused to obey the church. This included Protestants, and non-Christians as well. The Jesuits became over the next few centuries the most powerfully influential carrier of Western culture and Christianity to the non-Western world.
It would do all Christians good to consider Ignatius Loyola's "Rules for Thinking with the Church"
We must put aside all judgment of our own, and keep the mind ever ready and prompt to obey in all things the true Spouse of Jesus Christ, our holy Mother, the hierarchical Church.
We should praise sacramental confession, the yearly reception of the Most Blessed Sacrament [the Lord's Supper], and praise more highly monthly reception, and still more weekly Communion....
We ought to praise the frequent hearing of Mass, the singing of hymns, psalmody, and long prayers whether in the church or outside....
We must praise highly religious life, virginity, and continency; and matrimony ought not be praised as much as any of these.
We should praise vows of religion, obedience, poverty, chastity, and vows to perform other works of supererogation conducive to perfection....
We should show our esteem for the relics of the saints by venerating them and praying to the saints. We should praise visits to the Station Churches, pilgrimages, indulgences, jubilees, the lighting of candles in churches.
We must praise the regulations of the Church, with regard to fast and abstinence, for example, in Lent, on Ember Days, Vigils, Fridays, and Saturdays.
We ought to praise not only the building and adornment of churches, but also images and veneration of them according to the subject they represent.
Finally, we must praise all the commandments of the Church, and be on the alert to find reasons to defend them, and by no means in order to criticize them.
We should be more ready to approve and praise the orders, recommendations, and way of acting of our superiors than to find fault with them. Though some of the orders, etc., may not have been praiseworthy, yet to speak against them, either when preaching in public or in speaking before the people, would rather be the cause of murmuring and scandal than of profit. As a consequence, the people would become angry with their superiors, whether secular or spiritual. But while it does harm in the absence of our superiors to speak evil of them before the people, it may be profitable to discuss their bad conduct with those who can apply a remedy.
If we wish to proceed securely in all things, we must hold fast to the following principle: What seems to me white, I will believe black if the hierarchical Church so defines. For I must be convinced that in Christ our Lord, the bridegroom, and in His spouse the Church, only one Spirit holds sway, which governs and rules for the salvation of souls.