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DBQ: The Protestant Reformation

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Prior to the Protestant Reformation, Catholic doctrine was to help the poor through gifts of alms and charity. Around the time of the Protestant Reformation, this idea of alms and charity was lost. The Catholic Church was becoming corrupt, instituting indulgences, which took the very little money poor citizens had, promising them a one-way ticket to Heaven, and focusing their money on ornate cathedrals. In search of its original values regarding the poor, Catholics were finding their own way to treat the impoverished, often times distinguishing the “deserving poor” from the “undeserving poor” based on how hard they worked, hoping to save money. The Catholic Reformation helped Catholics rediscover the idea that alms and charity to all poor were…show more content…
Emperor Charles VI, of the Holy Roman Empire, in his royal decree for the Netherlands stated how “those who are poor and sick … unable to earn a living, should receive food and sustenance”, but not those who are idle (Document 2). He understood that idleness led to a wicked life, but only if they are truly unable to earn a living honestly could someone obtain help. As the Holy Roman Emperor, the Catholic ruler at this time, Charles V understood that some poor need help, especially wanting to uphold Catholic doctrine. However, Charles had a country to run and finances to handle, so he wanted to ensure that not all of his money was given to the poor. This was after the Protestant Reformation, when Catholics wanted to continue giving alms to the poor, as it was as God intended it to be, but were unsure who they should give alms to, characterizing the “idle poor” as enemies to God. Charles decided to distinguish who to give alms to in order to save money, but still give to those “deserving”. Similarly, Juan Luis Vives a Spanish humanist wrote how poor people “are driven to robbery” and other fiendish acts, and “that [Europeans] have a duty to charity” to help these impoverished people out (Document 1). Vives continues by saying how people are uncertain if they should give “because their good intention is embarrassed by the great number” or “where first or most effectively” to give their money to.…show more content…
Rembrandt van Rijn’s “Beggars Receiving Alms at the Door of a House” truly shows the poor are able and gladly getting money from more than willing house-owners (Document 6). The Netherlands during this time period was flourishing economically and was extremely rich. Its citizens were more than willing to share their money with those less fortunate as their government was very economically based, with a group of merchants running the government. Rijn, and other Netherlandish people, were Protestant and already came to a conclusion of how the poor should be treated and given alms, while Catholics were trying to come to some conclusion. Now that the Catholics had finally come to some conclusion, Vincent de Paul, similarly, as a Catholic priest, wrote how “we must assist the poor and see that they are helped in every possible way” (Document 7). Paul understands that Catholics must give what they can to those in need as a gift of charity. Paul was a Catholic priest, so truly understood God’s idea of charity towards the poor, especially after the Catholic Reformation when the idea of all poor deserved help was established. Without the Catholic Reformation taking place, there would be no distinct opinion of how the poor should be treated. Eventually, Catholics would come to some conclusion as to how the impoverished should be treated. Past 1700, the
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