Catholic and Protestant views of the sacraments at the time of the Council of Trent

Martin Luther’s challenging of the Catholic Theology of the time and the behaviors of the Bishops led to the reform within the Catholic Church, but the schism was permanent. Protestants had reformed much of Germany, Great Britain, Holland and Switzerland. They were unwilling to answer to the foreign Pope only to give up what they had secured. Many of the sacramental practices were abolished or simplified. Luther’s self-revelation regarding salvation drove him to challenge the Catholic Church on the indulgences being sold. This led to other challenges, especially with the sacraments.

Martos explains, “reform theologians took the ineffectiveness of the sacraments as a sign that the traditional teaching had become corrupted. Arguing along the lines of scholastic theology, the Catholics defend the view that the sacraments were always effective because they understood the effect of the sacraments to be metaphysical, not experiential…” (DTTS, Martos, p90).

Luther argued that “the sacrament was a sign, but it was the faith of the believer in God’s power and goodness that made it an effective sign and enabled the person to receive God’s grace through it” (DTTS, Martos, p91).
Calvin felt that the sacraments were symbols of God’s grace. Zwingli had a similar stance, suggesting that the sacraments were merely a way to identify those who belong to Christianity.

Many Protestants argued that the New Testament did not mention any sacramental ceremony for the Roman Catholic sacraments, leading most reformers to eliminate five of the seven sacraments as divinely ordained rites (DTTS, Martos, p93).
The Council of Trent ultimately established that the sacraments had always been a necessary part of Christian life, and so the council resisted any attempt to do away with them. The Council of Trent further supported the Catholic belief in the sacraments and the traditions associated with the sacramental ceremonies as dating back to Christ.


Works Cited
Martos, Joseph, Doors To the Sacred, Liguori Missouri, Liguori Publications ©2014 Print

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