The main abuses within the Roman Catholic Church in the 15th and 16th centuries are:
  • Simony - the buying and selling of church positions.
  • Ignorance - Most of the clergy was poorly educated. They didn't know scripture and could not preach well at all.
  • Absenteeism - Many senior churchmen did not live in their parish or diocese.
  • Pluralism - It was not uncommon for members of the church to hold more than one post, illegal by cannon law. This even extended to some members of the Regular Clergy (Religious orders) also holding posts confined to members of the Secular Clergy (regular priests and bishops).
  • Worldliness - Members of the church did everything from lead armies to father illegitimate children. There was gambling, drunkenness and numerous other behaviours and practices which did not adhere with the ideology of being above worldly things.
  • Indulgences - This was a massive industry in the church of the middle ages and first century of the early modern period. These indulgences were issued with the Pope's blessing and entitled the purchaser to forgiveness. They were used to finance church activities which during this period were not necessarily holy. N.B. The indulgences themselves are not an abuse, merely the selling of them.
  • Nepotism - Many church positions were handed out by senior churchmen to their relatives.

These abuses are a major factor in the Lutheran reformation and force the church to instigate its own Catholic Reformation.

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