In the sixteenth century the Western church finally came under direct and sustained attack from its internal critics.  The church had long dealt with criticism, but in earlier times most of the critics, such as Jan Hus, had ended up being silenced, usually permanently and in rather unpleasant circumstances (burning, beheading, burial, etc.).  There had been repeated efforts to rejuvenate the church and refocus its work--away from power and wealth--dating all the way back to the sixth century and the emergence of monasticism, but most reform movements had either failed or been absorbed by the church.  In the early sixteenth century, however, for a combination of reasons noted in the textbook, the reform movement finally succeeded; and it eventually succeeded outside of the church.  New Christian "churches" arose that were independent of papal control.  Thus, for the first time there appeared religious disunity in the Western Christian world.

As in the case of Jan Hus, early attempts at church reform had usually ended disastrously for those willing to put their lives on the line and engage the church in discussion.  For example, John Wycliffe (1320?-1384), the English churchman, for decades raised controversial issues such as the translation of the Holy Bible into the vernacular language so that the people could actually read it.  Gradually, Wycliffe's condemnation of the church escalated.  He criticized the folly of the local clergy, and then during the Great Schism of the papacy--when there were two popes in existence--Wycliffe even dared to brand the pope, and all the pope's predecessors, as an antichrist.  Though he managed to elude his enemies in his last years and though he died peaceably enough as the result of a stroke, the church did not forget about Wycliffe.  In 1415, a church council ordered that his body be dug up and burned--the proper punishment for a heretic--and the deed was actually done thirteen years later in 1428.
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