Anti-Catholicism is a generic term for discrimination, hostility or prejudice directed at the Roman Catholic Church or its members. The term also applies to the religious persecution of Catholics or to a "religious orientation opposed to Catholicism." In the Early Modern period, the Catholic Church struggled to maintain its traditional religious and political role in the face of rising secular powers in Europe. As a result of these struggles, there arose a hostile attitude towards the considerable political, social, spiritual and religious power of the pope and the Catholic clergy in the form of "anti-clericalism". To this was added the epochal crisis over its spiritual authority represented by the Protestant Reformation giving rise to sectarian conflict. In contemporary times anti-Catholicism has assumed various forms, including the persecution of Catholics as members of a religious minority in some localities, assaults by governments upon Catholic faithful, discrimination, and virulent attacks on clergy and laity.