The Protestant Critique of Consecrations: Catholicism as Superstition
This chapter argues that the differences that separated the reformers from medieval Catholicism on the ‘superstition’ issue were profound and critical. The reformers argued that Catholic ceremonies, which claimed to protect the faithful from demonic malice and misfortune, essentially suffered from the same error as the popular superstitions that they criticized. In particular, a chorus of Protestant thinkers denounced the notion that rituals of consecration could modify or transform physical objects — water, salt, oil, candles, parchment, and so forth — by giving these things spiritual potency to resist evil. This was, for Protestant thought, magical thinking pure and simple. So, by a bizarre switch of rhetoric, Protestant writers denounced the things that medieval Catholicism had called into being as preservatives against evil, deploying against these consecrated objects exactly the same arguments that medieval Catholics had in their turn used against the rituals and objects of popular magic.
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