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I just started reading Luther's Tabletalk, and the preface, written by Dr. John Aurifaber in 1569, roundly condemns the Roman Catholic Church, presenting an analogy which compares Christians' "servitude" under the ecclesiastical and political authority imposed by the Church of Rome prior to the 16th century with the Israelites' captivity in ancient Egypt. Over the course of several pages, Aurifaber uses striking language to enumerate the specific flaws that many Reformers claimed were evident in the Papal system, and he echoes Luther's oft-heard refrain which equated the Pope with the antichrist described in the First Epistle of the Apostle John, and the "man of lawlessness" described in Paul's prophesies in Second Thessalonians.

We have heard these condemnations of, and accusations against the Church of Rome repeated by countless Protestant leaders and teachers in every intervening century.

Excepting things like Luther's Papal Bull and the Diet of Worms, which were intended to accomplish other ends, has the Roman Catholic Church ever issued an official response to / defense against the accusations of the Reformers, such as those recounted by Dr. Aurifaber in his preface to Luther's Tabletalk?

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3 Answers 3

The only response I know of it the counter-reformation amount the Catholics : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Counter-Reformation.

period of Catholic revival beginning with the Council of Trent (1545–1563) and ending at the close of the Thirty Years' War, 1648 which is sometimes considered a response to the Protestant Reformation. The Counter-Reformation was a comprehensive effort, composed of four major elements:

  1. Ecclesiastical or structural reconfiguration
  2. Religious orders
  3. Spiritual movements
  4. Political dimensions
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The closest thing you'll find is the Council of Trent, the catechism which resulted from it and the structural reforms shortly thereafter. But, for the most part, those addressed what were considered abuses within the Church and not the criticisms of the reformers.

To be honest, it is relatively normal for breakaway groups to indulge in fairly vehement polemic against the Catholic Church (a practice which dates back to the Gnostics in the second century). Often the Church's official response is to simply clarify the points of doctrine which were in dispute and move on.

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Catholic Professor Geoffrey Saint-Clair, from Catholic Dossier Magazine (September/October 2001), writes:

Success or failure often depends on leadership—what leaders do or fail to do. When it comes to the Reformation, the lion’s share of the blame rests squarely with the hierarchy, including the papacy. Or at least so said Pope Adrian VI, who in 1523 sent his legate to confess the following before the German princes gathered in Nuremberg:

“We freely acknowledge that God has allowed this chastisement to come upon His Church because of the sins of men and especially because of the sins of priests and prelates . . . We know well that for many years much that must be regarded with horror has come to pass in this Holy See: abuses in spiritual matters, transgressions against the Commandments; indeed, that everything has been gravely perverted” (quoted in K. Adam, One and Holy, p. 97).

Medieval papal scandals, including the so-called Babylonian Captivity of the Church and the Great Western Schism, in which there were first two, then three, claimants to the papal office, brought derision upon the papacy, as did scandalous living and nepotism. Furthermore, the popes themselves failed to reform the Church, even when they were in a position to do so. And when the Reformation eventually broke out, the papacy failed to understand the challenge to the Church and failed to act quickly to address the problems that gave rise to it. At the same time, when the Church finally did get around to reform, the papacy helped lead the way.

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