The Catholic Counter-Reformation
Not to be outdone, the Catholic Church entered into a Reformation of its own with what came to be called the Counter-Reformation. The free lunch was over for wealthy priests and fat bishops. The wanton worldliness of many of the Renaissance clergy was giving Holy Mother Church a bad name. It was time to bite the bullet and return to a more Spartan and ascetic lifestyle, or at the very least cultivate that image via good public relations and an Inquisition or two. Like the Internal Affairs Division of a law enforcement agency, the Catholic Church began to police itself from within.
In 1534, Pope Paul III encouraged the development of new religious orders, most notable being the Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits. Founded by St. Ignatius Loyola, they were an elite corps of clerics dedicated to the propagation of the faith, most famously through education. Many Jesuit universities were established in Europe and eventually the New World.
The Catholic Church initiated a Counter-Reformation in response to the Protestant Reformation. As slow to action as any bloated bureaucracy, the Church took years to finally set a meeting to discuss their reforms. And the eventual meeting, called the Council of Trent, was eighteen years long.
The Counter-Reformation had its dark side. The nefarious Spanish Inquisition came into existence. The Inquisitors had a unique way of fostering faith among the flock. A hot poker makes a stronger statement than a stern sermon. Censorship was also institutionalized in the form of the Index of Forbidden Books. Volumes of literature were now deemed inappropriate for public consumption, and the penalties for having one of the forbidden volumes in your possession was severe.
Another element of the Counter-Reformation was evangelical. The Good News was spread to the New World. The Church came on a little strong and did not really know how to take “no” for an answer. Like the Borg Collective, resistance proved futile for the indigenous peoples of the Americas.
The Counter-Reformation was also not especially forward thinking in the area of the sciences. Having already burned Giordano Bruno at the stake, they went after other inquiring minds in an attempt to thwart what would prove to be a major milestone in mankind's brief tenure on the planet.