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Gradually, however, and largely owing to the variously hostile spirit of the civil powers, fostered and heightened by several elements of the new order, there grew up in many parts of Europe political and social conditions which hampered the free reformatory activities of the Church, and favoured the bold and unscrupulous, who seized a unique opportunity to let loose all the forces of heresy and schism so long held in check by the harmonious action of the ecclesiastical and civil authorities.A Since the barbarian invasions the Church had effected a complete transformation and revival of the races of Western Europe, and a glorious development of religious and intellectual life.Such efforts, however, were too often confined to limited circles.From the fourteenth century the demand for "reform of head and members" ( reformatio in capite et in membris ) had been voiced with ever-increasing energy by serious and discerning men, but the same cry was taken up also by many who had no real desire for a religious renewal, wishing merely to reform others but not themselves, and seeking only their own interests.The papacy had become the powerful centre of the family of Christian nations, and as such had for centuries, in union with the episcopate and the clergy, displayed a most beneficent activity.With the ecclesiastical organization fully developed, it came to pass that the activities of the governing ecclesiastical bodies were no longer confined to the ecclesiastical domain, but affected almost every sphere of popular life.

Pastoral solicitude, the specifically religious and ecclesiastical aim, fell largely into the background, notwithstanding various spirited and successful attempts to rectify the existing evils.B Closely connected with the above were various abuses in the lives of the clergy and the people.In the Papal Curia political interests and a worldly life were often prominent.Not less serious was the condition of many monasteries of men, and even of women (which were often homes for the unmarried daughters of the nobility).The former prestige of the clergy had thus suffered greatly, and its members were in many places regarded with scorn.

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