The First Revolution – The Delirium of a Christianity Without a Church

Humanity of the end of the Middle Ages, having turned its sights from eternity, soon embraced a new mentality from which would erupt a real revolt against the divine authority of Christ’s Mystical Bride. The revolutionary process had begun.

Our era has undeniably fallen to incalculable depths of evil. Humanity is scandalized by the atrocities it generates within itself, but it lacks the strength to stop the fall, because these same perversities contain the driving force that leads it into the abyss.

Sometimes we wish we could choose another world to live in! And this possibility, as much as it may be a daydream for today’s humanity, was given to the humanity of yesterday. Yes, many of our ancestors could have “chosen another world” if they had fought the process that, like a silent disease of long duration, began to spread its gangrene through limbs and capillaries until reaching the vital organs of Western society.

The decline of the Middle Ages

The first clear symptom of the revolutionary process, which would lead to what Dr. Plinio called the First Revolution, began with the decadence of the Middle Ages. The luminous times when saints abounded not only in monasteries and cathedrals, but also in the courts – a time of innocence, strength and virtue – were followed by very different ones. In the 14th and 15th centuries, the splendour of sanctity gave way to the frivolity of customs; the love of the Cross and sacrifice was undermined; Chivalry, “previously one of the highest expressions of Christian austerity, became amorous and sentimental.”1

Virtue weakened and love of the Cross was undermined; before long the decadence of medieval society affected the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy
Troubadour – Palacio de la Diputación, Soria (Spain)

The deterioration produced by this state of soul soon manifested itself in various spheres. In the intellectual field, the sincere search for truth characteristic of medieval academics was replaced with a desire for “pompous and emptily disputes, for inconsistent subtleties of argument, and for fatuous exhibitions of learning”2 typical of the old pagan philosophical schools, always flattering to human pride. In the political sphere, the exaltation of absolutism, rescued from the dust of Roman Law, found an eager reception in the unbridled ambition of unscrupulous princes, so far removed from the saintly kings who had populated Christian Europe in previous centuries. Humanism and the Renaissance arose and, especially in the arts, they produced an “exaggerated and often delirious admiration for the ancient world,” tending to “relegate the Church, the supernatural, and the moral values of religion to a secondary plane.”3

This transformation, wrought in both villages and palaces, soon affected the ecclesiastical hierarchy in its own way. Although in many cases it did not immediately ask for a formal apostasy of souls, the germs for a religious explosion of incalculable consequences had been planted.

The antecedents

The splendour of liturgical ceremonies was great and the pageantry that surrounded the Roman Pontiff was spectacular. The princes of the Church endeavoured to enrich the Eternal City as never before, but they showed no reserve in the face of the new artistic schools that diverged so sharply from Catholic temperance and purity. This lack of vigilance led to every kind of immorality, coming all too often from the high clergy and even from the Apostolic Palace.

The case of indulgences has become famous. These spiritual privileges, granted solemnly by the Church to penitents and benefactors, became a source of scandal in the hands of certain clerics who turned them into a source of profit and sowed confusion between almsgiving and a shameless spiritual commerce.

However, this issue was nothing but a fuse to a powder keg. Ecclesiastical reform was urgently needed. At the Council of Constance, held in 1314, a theologian stated: “How fitting and opportune, how useful and necessary would be a reform in the Church Militant is something that the world, the clergy and the entire Christian people are aware of. Heaven cries out for it; the elements demand it.”4

Far from attributing the cause of the Protestant pseudo-reformation primarily to the Popes, it should be noted that the Church suffered great discredit from the bad conduct – sometimes openly scandalous and immoral – of many of its members, exploited on a large scale by those who set out to attack the Mystical Bride of Christ, and crucial to the advent of Lutheranism.

The “pre-Protestants”

As Dr. Plinio pointed out, in the medieval decline, “pride engendered the spirit of doubt, free examination, and the naturalistic interpretation of Scripture. It produced insurrection against ecclesiastical authority.5 In fact, there was no shortage of those presenting false solutions at this time of crisis.

In most cases, the pre-reformers based their theology on an exaggerated biblicism, which in their view was purer and more faithful. Thus, “sola scriptura” dispensed with the authority of the Sacred Magisterium, which they saw as uncertain and arbitrary. This gave rise to all kinds of deviations: everything the Church preached, including the teachings of the Fathers and the Councils, was scorned; free will was a childish deception, since some were predestined to beatitude and others to damnation; the doctrine of transubstantiation was the greatest heresy ever proclaimed; the power of the keys had not been communicated to Peter, but equally to all the Apostles; Scripture was the only law, faith the only justification.

With the infiltration of decadent elements into the ecclesiastical hierarchy and the co-operation of the rebels, everything was in place for the first external eruption of leprosy to appear in the body of Christendom: Martin Luther.

The firstborn of the Revolution

John Luther and Margaret Ziegler – fervent Catholics – would certainly never have imagined the future of the child they held in their arms for the first time on November 11, 1483, the feast of St. Martin, after whom their little son was named.

In his early years, Martin was a withdrawn and suspicious boy. Some scholars, without absolute proof, even say that he suffered from psychiatric problems.6 The fact is that it was not until he was about to turn twenty-two, in 1505, that he really became the rebellious friar who stained history.

On 2 July, when a loud thunderclap shook the road to Erfurt, Martin lay on the ground fearing death from the shock that had thrown him prostrate, and he cried out: “Save me! Save me, dear St. Anne, and I will become a monk!” Thus came about his supposed call to religious life.

In order to explain Luther’s entry into religion, some historians relate a version according to which the young man entered the monastery to escape the police, as he had just murdered a fellow student. Whether for fear of death or prison, Luther became an Augustinian friar.

Once cloistered, Martin was tormented by scruples, hallucinations and nervous disorders. At his first Mass, he had to be held fast to prevent him from fleeing the altar as the moment of the Consecration approached, as he muttered almost aloud: “I’m afraid, I’m afraid!” On another occasion, he almost fell to the ground for fear at being in the presence of God during a Corpus Christi procession. He also had the strange sensation of being fulminated at the mere sight of a crucifix on the wall.

It was this friar who, on October 31, 1517, after a long process of decadence, posted his ninety-five theses on the doors of the chapel in Wittenberg, contesting the “traffic” in indulgences and pontifical authority, and setting out the new Lutheran doctrine: it was the outbreak of the revolt.

Duel to the death with Rome

Luther’s obstinate theories of predestination and his attacks on the Pope quickly found favour with the German people. His doctrine of “sola fides”, according to which faith alone justifies, followed by the denial of free will and the value of good works, gained proportions that alarmed Rome. In vain did the Pope admonish the Augustinian friar through papal legates, for Martin was convinced that the Roman court was ruled by the antichrist himself.

In 1520, Pope Leo X excommunicated the heretic friar and condemned his propositions in the Bull Exsurge Domine. As was to be expected, the obstinate friar’s opinion did not change in the slightest; on the contrary, after a blasphemous sermon on the Mass, he wrote his Appeal to the German Nobility in which, with particular violence, he called on the Germanic princes to revolt against the Holy Father: “With good reason do we hang robbers and cut off the heads of brigands; then why leave at liberty the worst robber and brigand that has ever appeared or ever will appear? […] O Pope, may thy throne at last fall into the bottomless pit!”7

With this libel, the pseudo-reformer, while seeking the support of the aristocracy, wanted to abolish priestly celibacy and proposed the appointment of a national pontiff who would not be bound by obedience to the Roman Pontiff. The Lutheran ideals were widely received by the people, who, as a culmination of their defiance, flocked to see the papal bull and the books of pontifical law burnt in the public square, and by the nobility, who found in the ideas of the rebellious friar a means of quenching their thirst for power.

As this revolution seriously threatened the peace of his states, the Catholic Emperor Charles V took action against Luther, who had to take refuge in the castle tower of a noble friend, where not even solitude could stop his blasphemies against the Church.

As the two driving forces of the Revolution – pride and sensuality – are inseparable, another period began in the life of the first Protestant, who would soon abandon the habit and prove himself to be a truly wicked man, and accompanied his abject doctrine with depraved moral behaviour. He himself confessed that he frequented the worst places and that he lived with three women before his marriage in 1525 to Catherine of Bora, a former Cistercian nun, one of the many whom his errors had uprooted from convents on German soil.

The leader’s degeneration went hand in hand with that of his adherents, who grew in both malice and number. It would not be long before the gangrene that was rotting Germany inexorably infected the neighbouring Catholic nations.

The expansion

The new doctrines crossed German borders and entered French territory, where resistance to Lutheranism was gradually cooling.

Switzerland suffered even more serious consequences. The pseudo-reformation soon gained hegemony there. Having officially banned the Catholic Faith, Geneva became the “Rome” of Protestantism. John Calvin, a lawyer masquerading as a theologian, was in charge, and he set up a veritable religious tyranny. Feasts, splendour and ceremonies were forbidden. Life was to remain sad and austere, citizens’ opinions were monitored, Calvin’s consistory was informed of all activities in the city and men were punished for any offence with religious penalties. It was his “Rome”, it’s true, but it was also his “Moscow”… The Calvinist dictatorship was gaining strength, and it was not long before France succumbed to the new heresy.

Pride engendered the spirit of doubt, free examination, and insurrection against ecclesiastical authority The gangrene that was rotting Germany would not be long in infecting neighbouring Catholic nations
At left, Luther in 1529; at centre, John Calvin – Museum of St. Catherine’s Convent, Utrecht (Netherlands); at right, Henry VIII – Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool (England); in background, “The great wave” – Russian State Museum, St. Petersburg (Russia)

England, for its part, succumbed to Anglicanism. The Pope had warned the king about the illegality of his divorce, but for Henry VIII the pleasure of adultery was worth the schism of an entire country. His Act of Supremacy, with which he usurped the leadership of the Church on the island, dragged the kingdom into enmity with Rome by forcing all his subjects to swear allegiance to him, obey the decrees of Parliament and reject the pontifical primacy. As was only to be expected, an extremely cruel persecution of Catholics was ignited, since Anglicanism could only be imposed at the price of blood. To this day, on July 22, the Catholic Church celebrates the martyrdom of John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, and Thomas More, Lord High Chancellor, who were beheaded for remaining faithful to the Roman Pontiff.

Protestantism, in its various metamorphoses, continued to spread across the continent, causing scandals, deaths and terrible armed conflicts. Indeed, there was no place for two religions in the same Europe.

However, before long, Catholicism would not only have an army defending it in the fields. God had raised up a company against Protestantism, the Pope’s elite soldiers.

The Society of Jesus and the Counter-Reformation

It was dawn on February 18, 1546. The body of the “reformer” lay on his gloomy deathbed, pale, cold and repulsive, while his soul stood before the judgement of God. Luther appeared before the Divine Tribunal bearing the responsibility for turning millions of souls away from the one true religion.

From then on, his heretical legacy would seek to realize the phrase he himself had coined for his gravesite: “In life I was your plague; dead I will be your death, O Pope!” However, a major obstacle would stand in the way. As Dr. Plinio teaches, “after each trial, the Church emerges armed especially against the evil that sought to prostate her. A typical example of this is the Counter Reformation.”8

With the Bull Regimini militantes Ecclesiæ of 1538, therefore before the death of the heresiarch, the Holy Father approved the order founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola, the Society of Jesus. The new congregation’s mission would be to extirpate the Lutheran revolt and reaffirm the sacred authority of the Papacy through perfect obedience to the Vicar of Christ. “If the Revolution is disorder, the Counter-Revolution is the restoration of order.”9

From the fight against Protestantism would also blossom the crystalline treasure of truths that the Council of Trent left us in 1545 as a legacy for all time. Great definitions of the Sacraments and papal authority were made explicit at the magna assembly, as a rebuttal to Protestantism, and brought together the beautiful edifice of Catholic doctrine into a solid and harmonious ensemble.

From then on, anyone who deviated from the golden road of orthodoxy would be struck by canonical sanctions like thunderbolts, bringing down on him the fearsome cry: anathema sit.

The barque of Peter overcame the first tempest, but another worse one would come: the agents of the Revolution would continue to strike against true order
Barque of the Church – Shrine of la Cueva Santa, Manresa (Spain)

The barque of Peter thus overcame one large wave, but the end of the storm was still far from view. Surveying the dark horizon and the raging waters, the ship’s crew had to prepare for the worst.

In fact, that was only the first wave of the ferocious storm. In its hatred of every hierarchy, the First Revolution attacked in the spiritual order, undoubtedly its most important bastion.

Numerous were the peoples in which the enemy found the deposit of faith solid enough to resist apostasy; however, he succeeded in surreptitiously penetrating Western civilization with a mentality light years removed from that which had generated the wonders of medieval Christendom.

The agents of the Revolution would continue to work tirelessly to destroy the edifice of true order. 



1 RCR, P.I, c.3, 5, A.

2 Idem, ibidem.

3 Idem, B.

4 GARCÍA-VILLOSLADA, SJ, Ricardo. Raíces históricas del luteranismo. 2.ed. Madrid: BAC, 1976, p.249.

5 RCR, P.I, c.3, 5, B.

6 Cf. GARCÍA-VILLOSLADA, SJ, Ricardo. Martín Lutero. 2.ed. Madrid: BAC, 1976, v.I, p.265.

7 FUNCK-BRENTANO, Frantz. Luther. London: Jonathan Cape, 1936, p.113; 115.

8 RCR, P.II, c.2, 2.

9 Idem, 1.



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