The Counter-Reformation was a mistake, a turn towards repressive control as a reaction against the Reformation. It began several bad choices on the part of the institutional Church. But you can't blame it on the Reformation, which was a necessary house-cleaning really, and had to happen sooner or later, and would have happened if not exactly as it did then in a similar way soon after. After all, the Reformation was begun out of love for the Church, and a desire to see it re-directed and strengthened and made relevant again. The institutional Church has always needed a bit of that, especially when it gets too political and loses sight of its own spiritual direction.Are we in another Reformation now? No, I doubt it, because culture has become too polyphonic for a single monophonic voice among many to mean all that much. During the Reformation, there was still only the one Church; but now there are many, many others. But it IS true, I think, just as it was 400 years ago, that the institutional Church must now evolve or die. Just as Christianity as a whole must now adapt or die, if there is to be anything relevant about it to people in general in future.
My problem with the Reformation has always been that it reverted to an emphasis on the Old Testament and the most harshly patriarchal tendencies in Christianity. The Counter-Reformation then brought out the same tendencies in Catholicism. A nice Chaucerian Catholicism would have been so much better -- no excessive or reflexive reverence for the Church's officials; they'd get respect for their offices and for themselves if they deserved it. No obsessiveness regarding sex and other sensual pleasures. There is much to be said for Pius II.
I agree about Chaucerian Catholicism, while at the same moment pointing out how harshly critical he was of Church officials in his satires and tales. He was critical of exactly the same habits that the Church establishment had gotten into (for one example, selling indulgences) that Martin Luther was critical of. I don't know if Luther had read Chaucer, but their criticisms have many parallels. Chaucer did have a better sense of humor about it all, though, no argument from me on that point.The whole point of Luther's protest was that the Church had veered so far away from the Bible that the Bible was no longer the core and most relevant guide to action in life, either secular or sacred. Most of those protestors and reformers in Catholic history said many things quite similar to that; and the strain of mysticism within Catholicism is profoundly Biblical, although most of those who went that way were banned and exorciated before being sainted. (One thinks of Teresa of Avila. On the other hand, Meister Eckhart is still on the condemned roles. So was Aquinas for awhile.)Luther did not in fact want to "destroy the Church," or even break away from it. He was pushed away, after seeking to reform the Church from within. He was an activist, and probably not that nice a person to know.But Luther was no Biblical literalist. He strongly stated that he wanted a return to liturgy, to the power of the Word in the Church. But he was not a Biblical literalist, and not a fundamentalist. Dietrich Bonhoffer wrote a pretty good analysis (I can't remember in which book) of Luther's viewpoints and positions; I refer the interested reader to that summation. I think it's an overstatement to portray Luther as a fulminating Old Testament preacher. He wasn't, really.Of course, others certainly did take that route, but a lot of that came actually after the first and second waves of the Reformation. Some people felt empowered as they do now to split off and teach their own take on things—that is a genuine parallel between that time and present times. A lot of those Pentecostal and smaller "foursquare" type sects that risen in the last 100 years are responding to the similarly chaotic times, no doubt.Your viewpoint and mine on this may never be in total alignment—I'm okay with that, I hope you are too—simply because the myths told in Catholic schools about Martin Luther are just that: myths. Whereas the myths told in Lutheran Sunday schools about Catholics at the time of Luther are also just that: myths. The truth lies not in the stories we were each told in our respective Sunday school, though, but in the writings and actions of those involved. (Which was Bonhoeffer's point, too, if I recall correctly.)
P.S. I completely forgot to say earlier that I totally agree with you on this:I too would prefer a Renaissance!
A very edifying exchange, gentlemen. Thanks to each and both of you.