During the Middle Ages the Roman Catholic Church had succeeded in becoming a major political power throughout most of Europe. The Church had been successful in quieting several protests, such as that of Jan Hus and John Wyclif, against its abuses and some of its questionable practices like that of simony and illiterate priests. However, in the early sixteenth century the Church would experience a loss of power and fragmentation because of its own indiscretions, greed, and the efforts of one man, Martin Luther, who was later referred to as the "wild boar in the vineyard in Pope Leo X's bull Exsurge Domine. (Bainton 114).
In 1513, Giovanni de' Medici was elected pope and became known as Leo X. At the age of thirty-eight, the new pope had and insatiable love for pleasure and the arts, and a complete lack of seriousness. Leo is said to have remarked after his election, "Let us enjoy the papacy since God has given it to us. (Pope Leo X), and enjoy it he did. Leo's love of art, theater, music, and expensive entertaining quickly led to his financial ruin. By 1515, after only two years in the papacy, Leo was broke. He quickly turned to the church to raise money to try to recover from his financial embarrassment and to continue the completion of the extravagant St. Peter's Church in Rome. To bring money into the church acts of simony were encouraged, new political offices were sold, and the sale of indulgences was renewed. Indulgences were then peddled by the church clergy.
It is the belief of the Church that so Christ's sacrifice was not in vain, God set up a superabundant treasure of merits in heaven to be bestowed upon men, so that they, too, could enjoy the treasures in heaven. These merits were to be given out by the Church clergy to those who had already confessed and were penitent of their sins. These merits were to be for the total or partial remission of the temporal punishment for their sins