Thanks for your questions.
In some ways the Reformation became a rebellion however even the Church readily admits that individuals on both sides were guilty of sin in the way things were handled and how the Church hierarchy had become corrupt.
Doctrines such as the Treasury of Merit and Indulgences were abused and used as a means to collect money. This amounts to the sin of simony: the sin of buying or selling spiritual or sacred goods or offices. For decades and even centuries, the papacy and bishoprics were bought and sold by the most powerful and rich families. Our Popes were some of the greatest sinners in the world.
It was against this background that Martin Luther, who was honestly struggling to live a chaste life, struggled with lust and began in a scholarly way to read the Scriptures. In doing so, he came across certain texts in Romans and he misunderstood them. Simultaneously he had a genuine encounter with Christ and understood what the Church had always officially taught — that we are justified by faith — to mean by faith alone. He then had an entirely emotional response to this conversion.
Luther suffered from being overly scrupulous. He sought to feel forgiven, as opposed to knowing that he would been objectively forgiven at Baptism and every time he went to Confession. When he finally got this feeling he allowed all the rest of his theology to be ruled by it.
Now as for the Bible. You're on the right track but not entirely accurate. First of all, we didn't get the Bible in it's present form until 382 A.D. All we had in 33 A.D. was the Old Testament and even then there were different canons.
- The Palestinian Canon written almost entirely in Aramaic had 39 books. It's same Canon the Jews use today, and it is the Old Testament that Protestants accept.
- There was also a couple of Alexandrian Canons known as the Septuagint. Depending on manuscript it contains 46 books or more. This was Greek Translation that was translated and put together 250 B.C. and 150 B.C.
The Septuagint was actually the most widespread and accepted canon for the Old Testament but it also remained in flux until the Church started to actually deal with it for the first time at the Council of Rome in 382 A.D. then later again at the Councils of Hippo and Carthage in the following two decades but was not universally accepted by a full blown (Church-wide) Council until the Second Council of Nicaea in 787 A.D. This was the last Ecumenical council that took place before the schism of 1054 A.D. when the Orthodox East and Catholic West parted company.
As for the New Testament it wasn't written for a few decades after the Christ's death.
- The first books written were Paul's letters to the Thessalonians.
- Then came some of Paul's other letters and later the Gospels.
Most scholars today would agree that Revelation was written last circa 90 A.D. although there is a school of thought that says it was written prior to 70 A.D. Nevertheless, like the Old Testament, it was not settled until the Church first settled the matter in 382 A.D.
To make things murkier, the Jews got together in 90 A.D. and made up their own canon at the Rabbinic Council of Jamnia. At that time, they rejected the Alexandrian Canon, because it was written in Greek but really the didn't like certain books like Maccabees because they painted the Romans as allies of Israel against the Greeks.
What they didn't reject were the two major doctrines found explicitly in those books.
- One being prayer for dead. Jews still pray for their dead to this day.
- Second the notion that dead or faithful departed pray for us. To this day they accept this as well.
So this was purely political. Moreover, the same Jewish Council that rejected the Septuagint Canon, also rejected all of New Testament, which certain Jews were reading as Scripture. Finally the Jews no longer had the authority to canonize Scripture. Jesus had given the authority to bind and loose to the Church. Read Matthew 16 and Matthew 18.
Now let's fast forward to Luther. Luther wanted to reject First and Second Maccabees because he rejected:
- Purgatory or our personal purification after death, and
- the Communion of Saints
as taught by the Church but he needed justification so, because there was early controversy over the Septuagint — the fact that the Jews had rejected it, and the fact that St. Jerome (influenced by Palestinian Christians) didn't consider them canon — Luther then accepted the decision of Jewish Council and tossed out the entire Alexandrian in favor of the Palestinian Canon.
Luther also wanted to reject James and Revelation, but could not find a reason to justify it.
So once again the Church dealt the Canon at the Council of Trent, because it was being challenged and all Trent did was to affirm what previous Catholic Councils had declared as the Scriptures.
Interestingly enough the Orthodox Church met in Council at a place called Jassy in 1642 and, not be out down by Rome, they accepted the Alexandrian Canon, including some Old Testament books the Church had never accepted such as Third and Fourth Maccabees. Their manuscript also has some longer versions of books that both Catholics and Protestants accept. This last point should prove interesting, if and, when the Orthodox and Catholics are reunited under one roof as we generally accept their Traditions as valid. It's not really a problem because their Canon doesn't teach anything that ours doesn't. Moreover, unlike Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox, rely on:
- Tradition, and
- the Magisterium — not just Scripture Alone.
This brings us to where Luther completely went off the deep end. He based Protestantism on Faith Alone and Scripture Alone. While we can resolve the former, the latter is far more problematic.
It really depends on how you use the word Faith. If by faith you simply mean, a mental agreement to a proposition — say 2 + 2 = 4, well, then Faith Alone doesn't work but if by Faith, you mean Fidelity that brings about obedience, then the formula can work.
Scripture Alone is a theological impossibility. Quite simply, Scripture itself does not teach it. Scripture doesn't tell you what Scripture is, therefore to know what the Scriptures are, you must accept the authority of the Church to tell you what it is.
Finally with respect to ordination of Protestant Ministers, the Church recognizes that these folks are spiritual heads of the communities but they don't have Holy Order as a Sacrament (for the most part — there is a question about one or two groups of Swedish Lutherans.)
So they are ministers of the Gospel. We believe that to some degree the Holy Spirit works in them. After all, they are baptized believers and therefore part of the universal priesthood we all share but they aren't ordained priests, able to:
- convect the Eucharist
- forgive sins, or
- administer Confirmation or the Anointing of the Sick.
Their bishops, can't ordain priests. They can't trace their Apostolic Succession back to the Apostles.
All that said, we have move forward in a charitable dialogue, recognizing that the Church did need a reform. That's why the Church met at the Council of Trent and had the Reformers possibly attended, we might not be separated today.
What the Reformers had to say had nothing to do with heresy. For the most part, their motives were to serve God. The corrupt hierarchy of the Church had put many reformers to death over the previous century so I can understand why they stayed away. As I said, the Church recognizes that sin, on both sides, played a very big part in the split.
We also can't hold anyone living today responsible for those sins rather it's time to move forward in Truth and Charity.
Many, if not most, Evangelical Protestants, really reject the term Protestant. They call themselves Christians. They don't believe they are protesting anything. They simply believe they are following Christ and the Scriptures.
- The average Evangelical is only concerned with leading people to Christ and living a Godly life. They don't really get into doctrine beyond that so unless they study the Reformation, they don't have clue what the Reformers taught and of course they certainly don't have a clue what the Catholic Church teaches.
- Even sadder, too many Catholics don't have a clue what the Church teaches and far to many Catholics need to be evangelized themselves.
I hope this helps,