When the Christian rulers of Europe became more powerful, they began to envy the Pope’s authority and to intrude on it. Although the Crusades had had good effects, too much interest in material preparations caused a relaxation in spiritual life; heresy often attacked the Church. Berengarius denied the Real Presence. The Greek schism, the Albigensian heresy and the heresies of Wycliff and Huss (who denied the authority of the Church) all followed. Finally, in the 16th century, the general laxness and spirit of revolt came to a head in open defiance against Church authority and the Protestant Revolt swept across Europe.
An Augustinian monk, Martin Luther, made an open attack on the doctrine of Indulgences in the year 1517. When he was defeated by Doctor John Eck in a public argument, Luther became angry and more active in spreading his errors. Because his doctrines appealed to human vanity and weakness, he attracted many followers. The princes, who envied the authority of the Pope, joined up with Luther. The Bible was declared the only rule of faith, so that no one would any longer be dependent on Church authority, but could interpret the word of God as he wanted to. Immoral people were easily won over by Luther’s insane teaching that, because of natural corruption and the absence of free will, sin can’t be avoided .
Revolt spread from Germany to other countries. In Switzerland, John Calvin followed in Luther’s footsteps and began rigid Calvinism. In Scotland, John Knox spread Protestantism. In England, Henry VIII’s desire to change wives was the immediate cause for the establishment of the Anglican sect. Denmark, Holland, Norway and Sweden were all swept into heresy by their rulers.
But, the Church only came out of the Protestant revolt stronger and purified. In the meantime, newly discovered countries were converted. The Portuguese and Spaniards were the pioneers in this missionary enterprise. The discoveries of new lands, to which Catholic missionaries went, resulted in the gain of more millions for the Church than had been lost in Protestantism.