The history of the Roman Catholic Church can be traced back to Jesus and His disciples. It is thus among the oldest religious denominations with a highly developed sophisticated theology structure. The Roman Catholic is believed to be the most populous Christian religion with an approximated representation of 1.1 billion believers worldwide (Lindberg, 2011). The study and analysis of the Roman Catholic Church should, therefore, encompass the history of the church, the structure on which the institutional principles are laid, the beliefs and practices adopted by the Catholic believers and finally the purpose of the Catholic beliefs and how they affect the believers. This is also known as the role or functions of Catholicism. In the middle ages, Catholicism was more than just a Christian religion but a way of life. The beliefs and practices adopted by the ancient Catholic believers had a great deal of effect on their lives because they shaped almost every aspect of the believer's life. This paper analyzes the Catholicism in Medieval Europe looking into the functions and the roles of the church and how the beliefs and practices affected the men and women of Europe.
It is the Medieval Catholicism that saw the foundation of the Roman Catholic church laid. This was during the middle ages. The historic events that can be associated with this period were the establishment of the papal administration in central Italy by Pope Gregory the first. The most remarkable attribute portrayed by Gregory was the emphasis of humility of the papal administration (Swanson, 2004). He positioned himself as a servant who was ready and willing to serve the whole Catholic believers fraternity. He also demonstrated his vigil for Catholic service by writing a bishop's guidebook which in addition to outlining their teaching and service obligations, also expected the bishops to portray exemplary moral behavior to the rest of the Catholic believers. According to Swanson, (2004), it was also during the middle ages in Medieval when Christianity was legalized by emperor Constantine. The conversion of emperor Constantine saw the religion of Christianity promoted to greater heights by taking a personal interest in the roles of developing the institutional doctrine. Through this, the emperor made the Roman Catholic Religion as the official Christian religion and also prohibited the worship of idols and self-made gods during his reign. After Constantine, the Roman Catholic Church became associated with the state, and any ruler had to be a believer who professed the Roman Catholic religion. The Roman Catholic Church, as a result, adopted a number of functions during the middle age Europe. These included the spiritual role to the believers, an administrative role to the people of Europe and an intellectual resource adopted during the middle age and the early centuries.
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The Medieval Catholic Church in Europe, therefore, played a far much greater role to the people of Europe in addition to the spiritual role offered by churches today. This is because, during this period, the church was responsible for every citizen's life because it dominated all the important aspects that affected the people. The influence of the church was further reinforced by the faith of the people of Medieval who believed that God existed and Heaven and Hell were all real. The only path to Heaven was thus through the Roman Catholic Church (Lindberg, 20111), nobody wanted to go to hell after all after being enlightened about some of the sheer horrors and suffering that awaited people in hell. The church, therefore, had complete control over the people. Nobody was able to go against the teachings of the church but instead, abide by all that the doctrines of the church recommended them to do. This included working for the church for free, although it was voluntary, it still consumed much of the time they could have spent on their farms for their daily bread requirements. They were entitled to pay ten percent of their harvest and earnings to the church in the form of tithe failure to do so would entitle one to eternal hell after death. The church, therefore, performed a purpose that was more than just spiritual by totally controlling the lives of the men and women of Europe.
The major role and function of the church to the people of Europe was that of spiritual intervention. The church was the path that assured the Roman Catholic believers of life after death. Therefore it was only through the church that believers were entitled to salvation in order to live eternally with God the Father in heaven. This function gave the Roman Catholic Church its great power and wealth. It also made the church be in control, and as a result, it was to determine how people lived. This gave rise to the second function of the Roman Catholic Church. In addition to the spiritual intervention purpose, the church also became the major political force in the period of the middle age in Medieval. For a person to become a king or a queen or hold any political or administrative power, he or she first needed to be a believer of the Roman Catholic church. The politicians and administrators also needed a papal approval before they could hold office during the Medieval middle age period. This allowed the church to have political power by being in a position to determine who was fit for power and who was not fit. Sooner or later, the church became fully involved in political decision making. The Pope would be consulted before national political decisions were made and passed. This caused tension between secular politicians and the Roman Catholic Church who asserted that political issues should be handled separately from religious issues.
Finally, the Roman Catholic Church also played a very significant part in the people's economic lives. The main source of wealth during the middle age in European was land, and this was under the control of the church because it owned monasteries. This gave the church great economic powers. With the great wealth and economic power at its position, the church became involved in charitable works by sponsoring institutions like schools, hospitals, and orphanages. The church also had authority over family life by recognizing the male as the head of the marriage institution. The females were thus rendered inferior to their male counterparts. In conclusion, the church had a very powerful impact on the lives of the European men and women by controlling entirely every aspect of their lives. This included the spiritual aspect, the religious aspect, political and administrative aspect, their social aspect and lastly their economic lifestyle. Every citizen was thus expected to abide by the principles and doctrines stipulated by the roman catholic church.
Lindberg, C. (2011). The European Reformations . Chichester [u.a.]: Wiley-Blackwell.
Swanson, R. (2004). Religion and devotion in Europe, c. 1215-c. 1515 . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.