Joseph McCabe (1867-1955) was one of the most prolific authors of all time. He was brought up as a Roman Catholic, worked on Latin documents, and made himself very well-informed about Christianity, but turned against it. But he was extremely naive about Jews; bear this in mind.

Click for Detailed notes on McCabe - scroll down for selections from A Rationalist Encyclopaedia (1948).

Here's the full A Rationalist Encyclopaedia (about 1.3 MBytes; Word format; includes notes on some of its limits)

Luther, Martin, D.D. (1483-1546)

J. McCabe, Rationalists Encyclopaedia

Trent, The Council of (1562-63). When the Papacy had been degraded for some 200 years [see Renaissance, Popes of the], the Church was compelled, especially as the Papal revenue fell sharply with the growth of Protestantism, to listen to the demand of Reform. For the unreality of what Catholics call the Counter-Reformation see article under that title; and the Council of Trent, which the faithful (especially the German princes) required the Pope to summon for the reform of the Church "in head and members" evaded the question of moral reform as far as possible and devoted itself chiefly to formulating a code of doctrine for the condemnation of heretics. By 1530 practically all northern Europe, including England, was lost to Rome, and the city itself had, in 1527 been thoroughly sacked and ravaged by the armies of the Catholic Emperor yet the Papal Court clung to its corruption and obstinately rejected every plan of reform. The luxurious Clement VII (1523-34), a bastard of the Medici family, was succeeded by a Pope, Paul III (1534-49), who owed has advancement to the fact that his sister had been the favourite mistress of Pope Alexander VI, and who was himself the acknowledged father of four children. Protestantism was making rapid progress even in France, the German Emperor was alarmed, and the small minority of cardinals who were in favour of reform won increasing support. Few realize, from modern historical writing (under Catholic pressure) on these matters, that these few reforming prelates and scholars had for nearly a century drawn up plans of reform which included a quite repulsive account of the condition of the Church everywhere, yet the "Holy See" had turned down every plan and clung to its luxurious debasement. In 1536 the Pope, alarmed at the prospect even in Germany, began to toy with the idea of a Council. What the Germans demanded was a conference in which the leaders of the Reform would meet and discuss with Papal representatives. The Pope retorted that the Council must be held in Italy (where the Inquisition might make short work of the Reformers) and under his own presidency, with the result that, on the date he announced for his Council, only five prelates took the trouble to appear. Three years later the desperate Emperor saw the Pope and insisted that a Council be held outside Italy, and thus Trent, near the frontier, came to be chosen. But the hypocrisy of Rome was still so obvious that when the Papal Legates arrived (1541) they found not a single bishop, and four months later only a dozen were present. The Pope willingly suspended the Council, but the advance of the Turks in Europe added to the troubles of the Church, and the Emperor persisted. That the real design of the Papacy, which was outraged at the idea of discussing with heretics or allowing any but itself to talk of reforming the Church, was to get the Catholic monarchs to unite and suppress Protestantism by force was so clear that when the Council of Trent opened, in December 1545, only twenty-five prelates attended, and the number had risen to only sixty in the following June. The sittings had again to be suspended, and the Emperor, seeing the Pope bent only on "the suppression of heresy," and incidentally on getting further wealth for his own worthless Farnese family, threatened to bring his army to Italy. Paul died at this juncture, but the Papal Court was still so stubborn in its corruption that the cardinals elected a more scandalous Pope than ever. Catholic historians like Pastor dispute only the charge, which was widely believed in Rome, that Julius III was a sodomist during his pontificate. The general grossness of his character is admitted. He was forced to resume the sittings of the Council, but they were again suspended, and did not effectively begin until 1562. There were grisly quarrels, especially as the Spanish and French cardinals wanted to check the Papacy, and the Italians retorted with unpleasant remarks about the new disease (syphilis) which the Spaniards had imported and the French were spreading in Europe. When German prelates described the corrupt condition of the Church, the Papal Legates insisted that the reform of this was the business of the Pope alone. The reform measures which were passed - forbidding the sale of indulgences and the duel, and demanding an improvement of the morals of the bishops, clergy, and monks - had no effect in Catholic countries. The real work of the Council was, while rival schools of theology wrangled bitterly, to draw up a code of definitions of Catholic doctrine which would guide the Inquisitors when the war for which the Papacy still hoped (and which it attempted in the Thirty Years War) should have crushed the political power of the Reformers. The classical authority is the History of the Council of Trent of the contemporary Fra Paolo Sarpi, a learned Venetian priest of high character. Catholic writers generally make gross attacks on the work, but the above facts are almost all admitted by the leading Catholic authority on the period, Dr. L. Pastor. On the other hand, the usual Catholic accounts of the Council, which are too indulgently accepted by some American historians, are grotesque. They represent it as part of the Counter-Reformation [see] by which the Church is supposed to have purged itself, without pressure from outside, of such corruption as existed. There was no reform of the Church in Italy, France, Spain, and Portugal.


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