The success of the Reformation movement created a great awe and fear in the Roman Catholic Church. Before things went out of control, it took drastic measures to check the spread of the Protestant religion and also to carry out reforms within itself. This process was known as Counter-Reformation.
Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556) was a Spanish soldier and lost his legs in a war. Thereafter, he decided to contribute his might to the cause of the Roman Catholic Church. Loyola founded the Society of Jesus in 1534 and it was recognized by the Pope. The aim of this Society was to reform and restore the glory of the Catholic Church. Members of the society were known as Jesuits. They worked hard to earn good name for the Catholic Church through their dedicated service.
They established schools and colleges in several parts of the world. They achieved a remarkable success in their missionary activities. They remained faithful to the Pope and the Catholic religion.
The Council of Trent (1545-1563) introduced several reforms in the Catholic Church. The most glaring abuses of the clergy were removed. Celibacy was strictly enforced for them. The sale of offices was stopped. The practice of the sale of indulgences was abolished. It also stressed that clergy adhere more strictly to their duties. The Pope was recognized as the supreme authority in the matters of religion.
An Index consisting of the list of dangerous and heretical books was issued by the Church. The Catholics were prohibited from reading these books.
Similarly the medieval practice of Ecclesiastical Court of Inquisition was revived. Torture was used to extract confession. Severe punishments such as burning to death were employed against the enemies of the Church.
The success of the Counter Reformation can be understood from the fact that the rapid spread of Protestantism was halted. Southern Germany, France, Poland, some of the Swiss cantons, and Savoy were brought back to the Catholic faith. At the same time Protestantism was driven out of Italy and Spain. The Roman Catholic Church is still one of the greatest religious organizations in the world.