Another matter is the spirit of the Reformation itself, which was only to a very limited extent in keeping with the spirit of humanism and the Renaissance. On the whole, as we have said before, it was a reaction against the spirit of the times; it was a rigoristic movement, and thus ” medieval” in the popular sense. Intelligent Catholics have always understood that the Reformation was a movement towards and for more religion rather than the opposite.
At the Diet of Nuremberg (1523) Pope Hadrian VI, through his Legate, made a moving declaration which squarely blamed the Church for the Reformation. Many Catholics – as, for instance, the late Mgr. Seipel, Chancellor of Austria, and Giovanni Papini – see not in the Middle Ages but in the Renaissance and the Baroque the great Catholic age. D. H. Lawrence was at least symbolically right when he wrote that the Pilgrim Fathers ran away from the new European liberty of the Renaissance. Of all early Reformers probably only Zwingli was a humanist, a humanitarian and a liberal; while Luther, no less than Calvin, preached a holy war against the “paganized” Catholic Church. Nothing could be more erroneous than to follow in the footsteps of nineteenth century liberal opinion and to see in Luther a herald of the Chromium Age, with “democracy,” civil liberties, bath tubs, refrigerators and the U.N. just around the corner.
There was something decidedly Islamic in original Protestantism, with its idea of an all-controlling hidden God and His infallible Prophet, its secularization of marriage, its puritanism and messianism. Even today some of the survivals of original (i.e., pre-liberal) Protestantism in remote parts of Scandinavia, Holland, Scotland and the United States have, at least culturally, more affinity with the Wahhãbïs than with the Catholics from which they stem. It must be borne in mind that not so much the authoritarian organization but the liberal theology of Catholicism was the target of the reformers.
Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Liberty or Equality: The Challenge of Our Time (1940)