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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



Catholic reaction, an ecclesiastical and political movement in Europe in the mid-16th to 17th century that was led by the papacy and that was directed against the Reformation, with the aim of restoring the position lost by Catholicism in several countries during the first half of the 16th century. In essence the Counter-Reformation was one of the manifestations of feudal reaction (embracing not only the economic and political spheres but the ideological as well), the religious form of the “counterattack” of feudal forces attempting to strengthen the feudal system at a time when it had already begun to disintegrate.

The Inquisition, monastic orders, and the Roman curia were the chief instruments of the Counter-Reformation. The Inquisition, reorganized in 1542 into one of the congregations of the Roman curia and placed under the direct authority of the pope, unleashed in the Catholic countries a struggle against progressive ideas, freethinking, science, and all manifestations of Reformation thought (popular movements in the Reformation were persecuted with particular force). G. Bruno and G. Vanini were burned at the stake, and T. Campanella, Galileo, and many other progressive thinkers were subjected to persecution.

The Jesuit Order, created in 1534—40, took the most active part in the Counter-Reformation. With the help of the Jesuits and other forces of Catholic reaction the papacy succeeded at the Council of Trent (1545–63) in obtaining, in particular, recognition of the unconditional authority of the pope in matters of faith, introduction of a strict ecclesiastical censorship, publication of the Index of Forbidden Books, and other measures. The resolutions of the council became something of a program for the Counter-Reformation. The Trent Profession of Faith was adopted, which all ecclesiastics had to sign; any deviation from it was considered heresy and was persecuted.

During the Counter-Reformation there were created in Rome a number of educational establishments for the special training of Catholic clergymen, who were sent, above all, to the countries that were the arena for the most intense struggle between the forces of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation (such as Germany, the Netherlands). During the Counter-Reformation the Jesuits seized control of many universities, which in turn became instruments of Catholic reaction. Among the church figures who most zealously waged the Counter-Reformation were Popes Paul III, Paul IV (Cardinal Carafa prior to his election as pope), and Pius IV, as well as Cardinal Carlo Borromeo and the Jesuit P. Canisius.

The Counter-Reformation was not only the work of institutions of the Catholic Church. It was also energetically waged by the secular powers of several countries, including the Hapsburgs in Spain and the so-called Holy Roman Empire, Maximillian of Bavaria, and Sigismund III Vasa in Poland. Supporters of the Reformation were subjected to state persecution; special government edicts were issued that demanded the return of Protestants to the “bosom of the Catholic Church” under the threat of high fines, expulsion from the country, or even execution. One of the manifestations of the Counter-Reformation was the struggle for the return of lands lost by Catholics during the carrying out of the Reformation (publication of the Edict of Restitution of 1629 by Ferdinand II, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire). Under the banner of the Counter-Reformation, Spain waged its struggle against the Dutch bourgeois revolution of the 16th century, and the Hapsburgs suppressed the liberation movement of their subjugated peoples and struggled for the realization of the idea of the creation of a “universal Christian empire” (as during the Thirty Years' War of 1618–48).

Having brought together the forces of feudal reaction, the Counter-Reformation to a certain extent strengthened the position of the papacy and the Catholic Church (having restored Catholicism and suppressed Reformation movements in several countries) and temporarily retarded the onset of the forces of the new, bourgeois society.


Mikhnevich, D. E. Ocherki po istorii katolicheskoi reaktsii (lezuity). Moscow, 1953.
Lozinskii, S. G. Istoriia papstva. Moscow, 1961.
Brandi, K. Deutsche Reformation und Gegenreformation. Vol. 2:
”Gegenreformation und Religionskriege.” Leipzig, 1930.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Consequently, if we accept that the Orthodox Christopher was the bishop of the Romanians belonging to two distinct denominations we run into nearly insurmountable problems, even if the international context was somewhat "unionist," seeing some Orthodox placed under Catholic jurisdiction, in the framework of the Counterreformation and of the Catholic Reformation.
Yet he largely abandons the history of humanitarian practices and institutions altogether in favour of what he terms "a moral history of the present": a reading of Barnett's counterreformation as epochal epiphenomena, perhaps.
The second vision, the vision of the counterreformation, displays before us a dystopic scenario with the following features.
Supreme Court's recent decisions have resulted in a "counterreformation" in which "class actions have been reformed to death." (158) The Supreme Court's anti-class action jurisprudence (159) makes it unlikely that courts will certify many of the diverse environmental harm collective actions arising out of the BP oil spill.
Catholicism's counterreformation, or as Catholics prefer to call it, the Catholic Reformation, was a frank acknowledgment that the Church had strayed from the direction set for it by Christ.
O'Malley maintains that both Jesuits and Protestant Reformers drew their inspiration from the Mendicant Orders (i.e., the Dominicans and Franciscans), founded in the thirteenth century, and that accounts that see Jesuits responding to Protestants as the pope's counterreformation assault troops are wrong.
(56) For Tamora, who had announced that she was "incorporate in Rome" (1.1.467), intentionally places herself outside Rome, where she initiates the gruesome "reformation" of Rome's religious terrain to which Titus cannot help but respond in an even more ghastly act of "counterreformation."
In the long run, American efforts led to the creation of an Egyptian Evangelical church (Kanisa injiliyya misriyya) even while stimulating a kind of "counterreformation" within Coptic Orthodoxy along with new forms of social outreach among Muslim activists and nationalists.
Another Balance-of-Terror/Assured-Destruction Counterreformation: Two Steps Back