Whereas attempts by the Catholic Church to clean up its retail operations were transparent, its wholesale actions were much less so. Indeed, attempts to reform the wholesale side of the Church were ineffective. In order to understand this failure at the wholesale level, it is necessary to grasp the central characteristics of the administrative landscape of the medieval Catholic Church.
Two important changes in church organization occurred prior to the Protestant Reformation, and these changes were responsible in large measure for the outward failure of the Counter-Reformation. The first involved the centrality and primacy of the papacy, which shaped the medieval church's political and ecclesiastic policy. The second involved the progressive "Italianization" of the College of Cardinals, the curia, and the papacy itself, which eventually resulted in an Italian monopoly of the Vatican.
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