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Early Modern Catholicism: Essays in Honour of John W. O'Malley, S. J. .

Kathleen M. Comerford and Hilmar M. Pabel, eds. Early Modern Catholicism: Essays in Honour of John W O'Malley, S. J. Toronto and Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 2001. xxxiv + 324 pp. index. illus.$70 (cl), $27.50 (pbk). ISBN: 0-8020-3547-2 (cl), 0-8020-8417-6 (pbk).

John W. O'Malley has devoted much of his distinguished career to moving beyond older notions of "Counter-Reformation" and even "Catholic reform" to a more comprehensive view of "early modern Catholicism." Older constructs, often colored by confessional biases and focusing on the Inquisition, the Council of Trent, papal monarchy, and Jesuit "shock troops," tended to underscore the failures of a monolithic and repressive Catholic church fighting to overcome Protestantism. The new approach seeks to balance (and counter) these models by emphasizing the varieties of early modern Catholic devotion and the Catholic church's numerous efforts to meet the needs of the faithful. That vision is honored and developed in this broad and coherent collection of well-written essays by Professor O'Malley's students and colleagues. Most are set in historiographical and methodological frameworks that fulfill the editors' aim to make the volume accessible to students as well as specialists.

After Benjamin W. Westervelt's informative introductory appreciation of John O'Malley as scholar and teacher, Nelson H. Minnich turns to problems of continuity and reform by demonstrating that although the Fifth Lateran Council (1512-17) had little immediate impact, the Council of Trent (1545-63) owed much both to its procedural precedents and to its decrees on church reform, though not doctrine. In one of the volumes more polemical pieces William V. Hudon sets out to refute the "negative stereotype" (50) of the papacy as repressive and absolutist by downplaying the triumph of "intransigents" over "spiritualists" in the refoundation of the Roman Inquisition (1542), emphasizing Trent's investment in episcopal leadership, and underscoring the varieties and even incoherence of much sixteenth-century papal policy. Much indeed was hoped of the bishops, but although Francesco C. Cesareo finds it possible to trace the emergence of a new reformed ideal even before Trent, in Italy itself implementation proved "diffic ult, slow, and certainly not uniform" (72): residency and in some cases preaching improved, visitations became more frequent (if sometimes cursory), but synods remained rare. Raising the educational levels of parochial clergy and laity proved just as difficult, for although Trent mandated the formulation of a catechism for parish priests and the foundation of diocesan seminaries, Catherine M. Comerford reports that in Italy only 201 of 282 dioceses had done so by 1700, they were poorly integrated into other educational structures, and the case of Fiesole indicates that the curriculum, teaching, and attendance remained hit and miss. Reviewing the aearion of congregations of reformed priests in the sixteenth century, Mark A. Lewis, S. J. is able to trace more precisely the filiation of apostolic and charitable ideals from the Oratory of Divine Love and the Company of St. Ursula to the Theatines, Barnabites, and Somaschi, and their influence in turn on the Jesuits, than their impact on the secular clergy per se.

What weakens the case for "Catholic reform" may also weaken arguments for "confessionalization" and "social discipline." Wierse de Boer compares Calvin's Geneva and Borromeo's Milan to test recent theories of a basic convergence between Prorestantism and Catholicism in matters of "social discipline" against Weber's thesis of a distinctive Protestant ethic and finds sufficient similarity in their approaches to public behavior to weigh in on the convergence side, though he acknowledges that theology remains a sticky point. D. Jonathan Grieser, on the other hand, argues that the confessionalization paradigm presupposes too much reform from above, and illustrates his point with the case of Christoph Erhard, a priest who successfully used propaganda in pluralistic Moravia to drive wedges between different groups of Protestants (to save their souls) and to strengthen minority Catholic self-consciousness. Christine Kooi likewise examines the fortunes of Catholic minorities in England, Scandinavia, and the Dutch Rep ublic through the periods of their greatest persecution (1520-1620, especially in England), then of greater toleration and Catholic missionizing (1620-1700, particularly in Holland) to conclude that religious pluralism may be among the most significant legacies of this period.

The Catholic church may have been more effective at appropriating and reshaping lay devotions and cultural innovations than it was at imposing reform and discipline from above. Keith P. Luria argues against dichotomizing elite and popular religion by showing how the Congregation of Rites embraced and supervised the veneration of relics and the cult of the saints (though its success in creating new ones was limited), and Jesuit reformers encouraged the creation of additional confraternities of Penitents, the Blessed Sacrament, and the Rosary. Nicholas Terpstra underscores the influence of late medieval confraternal organization nor only on the Jesuits and other Catholic religious orders, but on the organization of Protestant congregational life, as well as Greek Orthodox refugee communities, the formation of Jewish yeshivot, and even non-European bodies. Turning to gender, Susan E. Dinan argues that by incorporating as a charitable confraternity, the French Daughters of Charity were able to negotiate and subve rt the letter of Trent's mandate for the claustration of women religious while fulfilling the spirit of traditional femininity by caring for the sick.

The Catholic church was equally adept at embracing and reshaping innovations in the sphere of arts and letters. Hilmar M. Pabel analyzes how Erasmus, in his De praeparatione ad mortem (1534), reshaped the medieval ars moriendi tradition by emphasizing the importance of a life well-lived over the last rites (which, Pabel emphasizes, he never rejected), thus adding a vital humanist strain to the tradition of Catholic consolatory literature. Turning to ritual, Corrie E. Norman examines the performative and rhetorical elements of the Capuchin Girolamo Mautini da Narni's (1563-1632) sermons before Pope Paul V in 1608-12 that highlighted the ritual inversions of papal Maudy Thursday ceremonies. T. Frank Kennedy, S. J. illustrates how the Jesuits drew on (and filtered) the fifteenth-century Florentine tradition of singing hymns (laude) to add a reinforcing musical element to the sixteenth-century catechism. Looking beyond Europe, Xiaoping Lin analyzes the woodblock illustrations of Jean de Rocha's Chinese edition of The Method of the Rosary (1619) to show how the Jesuit transposed images of the Virgin from Geronimo Nadal's Evangelicae historiae imagines to conform to those of the Buddhist Guanyin deity and to accommodate the expectations of aristocratic Chinese women. Gauvin Alexander Bailey examines the missions designed by Anton Harls, Giovanni Andrea Bianchi, and other German and Italian architects brought into Argentina, Paraguay, and Chile in the eighteenth century to demonstrate that the Jesuits introduced a new cosmopolitanism into the previously Iberian and mendicant-dominated culture of the region.

While these essays clearly reflect a variety of viewpoints, critics may feel that a "kinder, gentler" view of early modern Catholicism emerges here that downplays the Protestant stimulus to reform, moves inquisitorial intimidation to the background, and marginalizes the Catholic church's crucial machinations with temporal powers. It could be replied that these topics are already amply covered in the available literature, and certainly no approach that fails to give due weight to the devout and humane as well as authoritarian and political dimensions of early modern Catholicism can hope fairly to understand the phenomenon itself or to explain properly how Catholicism survived the Protestant challenge. This scholarly and accessible volume will thus profit all students of early modern religion.
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Author:Peterson, David Spencer
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 22, 2003
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