I believe that on the whole the Catholic Church was in need of a reform in the 16th century; however there were some parts did function well and showed the church to be a strong healthy part in community. There were several key problems with the papacy which amounted over time. Firstly the pope was supposed to be elected, however some powerful wealthy aristocratic families such as the Medici’s were able to use bribery in order to get to power.
This meant that the church was less about sending a message from god and helping the people in their community and more about a vicious power struggle. An example of this kind of abuse is Alexander VI, he was first a Cardinal in the church, then through huge bribery became the Pope. Although he was not completely terrible as the Pope; he managed to restore order in Rome and he challenged the Italian Princes. However it can be shown he had a number of mistresses and illegitimate children which was of course against church rules.
Also most of these children were looked after with clerical titles and income. In total Alexander VI appointed 47 Cardinals in total, some of which were his own children. In 1498 Alexander did oversee the burning of Girolamo Savonarola, who denied the papal authority and preached the heretical doctrine. There were also several complaints about the bishop and clergy. These were; simony, nepotism, plurism, absenteeism, clerical marriage and illiteracy. Simony was the buying and selling of a benefice.
This was not allowed in the church as a benefice was the area which a priest would look after therefore it should not be sold ect. Nepotism was the securing of a benefice for a member of ones family. Plurism was the holding of more than one benefice at anyone time. This was an important reason for why the church was in need having reform as if a priest owned more than one benefice then they couldn’t look after their “flock” properly. Absenteeism, this was often a direct cause of plurism as it was the inability to be present in ones benefice in order to look after ones flock.
If a priest had more than one benefice it would be impossible to always be at each one. Clerical marriage was also a problem in the church. Priests were not allowed to marry, although many did and had illegitimate children which they then provided with positions in the church. Also illiteracy was a problem. This was the ignorance of the New and Old Testament and consequent inability to spiritually administer their flock. Also complaints were made by people such as Luther about the selling of indulgences.
He believed they were just a way of the church getting money and it would not rid a person of their sins. Although this may be true indulgences allowed people to believe that they were saved from hell, and there was no proof that these indulgences did not work, so in some respects this could be shown that the church did not need to reform as it was giving people peace of mind and allowing them to believe that them or a loved one will have a peaceful death.
Also it could be said that the church did not need to reform because they held the community together by throwing festivals and feasts for the people of the community. This helped in creating a happy and strong community which worked together. In conclusion I believe that although the church was in many ways in need of a reform and had got “lost” in the process, turning it into more of a business rather that a religious thing, although it can be seen that it was still an important part in society and was in many ways the backbone.