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Rida Sohaib Year 12 Tudor England A1

Mock Exam Pre reformation Church


Question: Do you agree with the view that the Pre Reformation Church in England and
was in serious need of reform?
For a long time, it has been thought that the Pre Reformation Church was unpopular and
corrupt, and that the Reformation was long awaited and liberating. Recently, however, it has
been suggested that this traditionalistic view may be wrong because historians at the time were
biased due to their knowledge of the Reformation, and were seeking its causes within the English
Church. Instead, it has been proposed that the Church was in reality popular and influential, and
the Reformation was forced on England due to its political situation. While Source 4 suggests
anger and hatred towards the Church from the people, Sources 5 and 6 show the peoples
devotion and love of their religion, not suggesting much cause for a large scale revolution.
Source 6, however, does suggest corruption of the clergy, which is corroborated by Source 4. Of
course, the nature of the sources also influences their accuracy and reliability.
The corruption of the clergy is implied by both Sources 4 and 6, though in different ways.
Source 4 strongly states that the clergy forcibly take money from the people, not sparing even the
poor, and then use it for their own benefit. This was a main point for the Protestants and
reformists, as well as the traditionalist historians, who emphasized that a Church with such a
corrupt clergy could not possibly sustain itself for too long and was bound to collapse sooner or
later. It is true that the Church was very wealthy, influential, and rather arrogant. In this aspect, it
did not follow the example of Christ who was humble and poor. John Colet, a pious priest in the
sixteenth century, also reprimanded the priests for their worldliness and greed. However, it must
be noted that Source 4 was written by Simon Fish, who hated the Catholic Church and was likely
to be biased. In addition, his writing was exaggerated because he wanted to sell it, and because
he wanted to convince the King to his point of view, which caused him to overemphasize some
aspects of the corruption of the clergy that may not necessarily be true. He wrote, [the
priests] suck all rule, power, authority and obedience from you [Henry VIII] to themselves!
which may or may not be correct but would alarm the King. On the other hand, Source 6 presents
the case of the priests fraud, when they presented duck blood as the blood of Jesus Christ to
convince people to come on pilgrimage and make offerings. This shows plenty of faults in the
clergy of the time, most importantly worldliness, irreverence (respect for Jesus Christ should
have stopped them from trying to fake his blood) and dishonesty. The leaders of spirituality
and epitomes of Christianity displayed serious need for change and reform if the Church had
so far lost sight of its original mission, which is to be role models for the laymen and to help the
needy. However, there is no evidence for mass riots or protests after the revelation of the fraud,
leading historians to believe that, despite its corruption, the people still loved it and were not
pressing for reform.
Rida Sohaib Year 12 Tudor England A1
The devotion of the people to the Church is expressed in both Sources 5 and 6. Source 5
states that people go to Church every Sunday and donate generously to the Church. This portrays
the popularity of the Church. In addition, the fact that most people donated willingly, with many
people leaving huge amounts in their wills in return for the Church praying for their souls,
proves that they were not being forced to give up their wealth, and genuinely wished to do so.
However, it can be argued that people were too brainwashed to think critically of the Church,
and that the Church was using their faith to further its own interests by increasing its wealth and
power. This is supported by Source 4, which sees the Church firmly in an evil light; a greedy and
gluttonous institution that forcibly takes away the wealth from the people, especially those too
weak to protest. However, it should also be noted that the clergy had great influence in peoples
lives. They were crucial for births (baptism), deaths (funerals), and weddings, which ensured that
people both respected and feared them.
The peoples devotion to the Church can also be seen in the lack of opposition to the Pre
Reformation Church. Certainly, there were some cases, which the traditionalist historians
emphasized to support their claims of the unpopularity of the Catholic Church. A famous
example is the Richard Hunne case, which highlighted the clergys corruption as well as the
enormous influence they wielded. However, there were no mass protests or riots at his murder,
again proving that either the people were too used to these types of things and excused them, or
they were too afraid to stand up. Similarly, another example used is the Lollards, who were a
famous group with different ideas about the interpretation of the Bible than the Church. The
Protestants later believed that these were influential people who reflected the thoughts of the
society. Quite contrarily, people did not really agree with them, and they were disliked by the
general population. They were forced to go underground because of the Churchs prosecution,
and gradually dwindled away. Additionally, Source 6 states that a lot of people went on
pilgrimages to visit statues and relics and to make offerings. This provides evidence that the
people liked the tangibility and reality of Catholicism. Although it makes their faith seem rather
shallow, it provided the people with security and comfort that they were following the teachings
of God. When Protestants later reduced and in some places abolished the concept of statues and
images, there was much dissatisfaction and discontent from the people who thought
Protestantism too philosophical a religion and missed the easy ritualism of Catholicism.
In conclusion, although the Catholic Church was corrupt, much evidence points to the
fact that people were still devoted to it. It was a main part of their lives and most people
genuinely tried to obey God so that they could please their Creator and avoid purgatory and Hell.
While Source 4 focuses mainly on the corruption and greed of the Church, Sources 5 and 6
demonstrate how popular the Church was in sixteenth century England. Personally, I believe that
while the English Church was in serious need of change and improvement, it was not ready for
reform. It was too tangled up within itself, and too stuck in its ways to adapt to reform, and was
too well-loved by the people to be thought of as unpopular and in need of replacement. Instead,
the Reformation was forced upon it to a certain extent, shaping England as we know it today.