We all know about the Protestant Reformation that took place when Martin Luther made the 95 thesis against the Catholic Church. But what was the condition of the Church on the eve of reform?
First of all, there was a decline in mass attendance and religious practice, with a great attraction to more dramatic aspects of religion. Popular preachers would attract thousands, there would be High Masses on important feast days, and people would make pilgrimages such as the Via Dolorosa. There was also much focus on death, astrology, and an exaggerated devotion to the “saints”.
On the other hand, the churchmen had desire for money. Their key concern became getting money out of the laity. Also, their moral conduct was of those that are difficult to say. They were interested in everything except their duties. There was absenteeism and high ignorance.
All of this was a preparation for the reform that was about to become. This also explains why Martin Luther already had a ready audience for criticism of the monasteries.