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The central government of the Church was reorganized. A uniform catechism was prepared at Rome with a view to educate laymen in the principles and obligations of their religion. The Church service books were revised and a new standard edition of the Latin Bible, the Vulgate, was issued.
Towards the end of its deliberations, the Council of Trent decided upon a censorship of books to prevent heretical ideas from corrupting the minds of those who still remained in the faith. A commission was appointed to draw up an index or list of writings that were not to be read. The publication of this list by the pope in 1564 resulted in the formal establishment of the Index of prohibited Books as a part of the machinery of the Church. Later a permanent agency known as the congregation of the Index was set up to revise the list from time to time. By these methods, the Council of Trent attempted to bring about discipline among the Church officials.
1.15d The Inquisition
The Inquisition was mainly a Spanish institution and as such antedated the Counter-Reformation. Inquisition originated in the Middle Ages. The Spanish Kings used it to suppress heretics, including Protestants, and to deal with their political enemies. At different times under the pretext of protecting religious orthodoxy the Crown liquidated genuine or suspected sedition.
The successful working of the Spanish Inquisition so impressed the zealous Cardinal Caraffa, who had been a papal nuncio in Spain, that he suggested to Pope Paul III that he should set up a similar tribunal. The Pope, alarmed by the spread of Protestant ideas in some Italian towns, established the Roman Inquisition by the bull Licet ab initio, dated 21 July 1542. This stern instrument of papal power certainly checked heresy, but it was never as popular in Italy as in Spain.
1.15e The Founding of the Society Of Jesus
A number of new religious orders made their appearance during the phase of the Counter-Reformation. The chief aims of these religious orders were the Catholic revival, checking the popularity of Protestantism in the North, preserving the Southern Europe for the Church and to deepen the spiritual life of the people. The most important of these orders is the Society of Jesus whose members are known commonly as Jesuits. Ignatius Loyola founded the Society of Jesus in 1534 and Pope Paul III approved it in 1540.
The organization of the Society showed the military instincts of its founder. To the three usual monastic vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience was added a fourth vow of special allegiance to the Pope. It was in this way that the Counter Reformation received its greatest impetus. The activities of the Jesuits were numerous and varied. In the first place they considered themselves as the defenders of true religion. For this object they obtained authority from the Pope to hear confessions and grant absolution. Many of them became priests to expound the truth of the faith.
Still others served as agents of the Inquisition in the relentless war against heresy. In all their activities, the Jesuits followed the leadership of the Mother Church as their infallible guide.
The Jesuits were thus the leading craftsmen of the Counter Reformation. Their real contribution to the Catholic Church and its revival came from their teaching, their preaching, writing and scholarship, from their missionary work and from the dynamic vitality of their faith.