CHAPTER IV. THE COUNTER-REFORMATION
Le Plat, Monumentorum ad historiam concilii Tridentini
spectantium amplissima collectio, 7 vols., 1781-5. Theiner, Acta
genuina S. oecumenici Concilii Tridentini, etc., 1874. Concilium
Tridentinum Diariorum, Actorum, Epistularum, Tractatuum Nova
Collectio Edidit Societas Goerresiana, vols. i., ii., iii.
('Diariorum), iv., v. ('Actorum), 1901-14. Pallavicino, Istoria
del Concilio di Trento, 3 vols., 1664. Maynier, Etude historique
sur le concile de Trent, 1874. Mendham, Memoirs of the Council
of Trent, 1834. Marchese, La riforma del clero secondo il
concilio de Trento, 1883. Deslandres, Le concile de Trente, et
la reforme du clerge, 1906. Canones et decreta sacrosancti
oecumenici concilii Tridentini.
For more than a century and a half reform of the Church "in its head and members" was the watchword both of the friends and the enemies of religion. Earnest men looked forward to this as the sole means of stemming the tide of neo-paganism that threatened to engulf the Christian world, while wicked men hoped to find in the movement for reform an opportunity of wrecking the divine constitution that Christ had given to His Church. Popes and Councils had failed hitherto to accomplish this work. The bishops had met at Constance and Basle, at Florence and at Rome (5th Lateran Council), and had parted leaving the root of the evil untouched. Notwithstanding all these failures the feeling was practically universal that in a General Council lay the only hope of reform, and that for one reason or another the Roman Curia looked with an unfavourable eye on the convocation of such an assembly. Whether the charge was true or false it was highly prejudicial to the authority of the Holy See, and as a consequence of it, when Luther and his followers appealed from the verdict of Leo X. to the verdict of a General Council, they evoked the open or secret sympathy of many, who had nothing but contempt for their religious innovations. Charles V., believing in the sincerity of their offer to submit themselves to the judgment of such a body, supported strongly the idea of a council, as did also the Diets held at Nurnberg in 1523 and 1524.
The hesitation of Adrian VI. (1522-3) and of Clement VII. (1523-34) to yield to these demands was due neither to their inability to appreciate the magnitude of the abuses nor of their desire to oppose any and every proposal of reform. The disturbed condition of the times, when so many individuals had fallen away from the faith and when whole nations formerly noted for their loyalty to the Pope threatened to follow in their footsteps, made it difficult to decide whether the suggested remedy might not prove worse than the disease. The memory, too, of the scenes that took place at Constance and Basle and of the revolutionary proposals put forward in these assemblies, made the Popes less anxious to try a similar experiment with the possibility of even worse results, particularly at a time when the unfriendly relations existing between the Empire, France, and England held out but little hope for the success of a General Council. As events showed the delay was providential. It afforded an opportunity for excitement and passion to die away; it helped to secure moderation in the views both of the radical and conservative elements in the Church; and it allowed the issues in dispute to shape themselves more clearly and to be narrowed down to their true proportions, thereby enabling the Catholic theologians to formulate precisely the doctrines of the Church in opposition to the opinions of the Lutherans.