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Pope Innocent III and His World.

Pope Innocent III and His World. Edited by John C. Moore. Brookfield, Vt.: Ashgate, 1999. xx + 389 pp. $86.95 cloth.

More than any Roman pontiff apart perhaps from Gregory VII, Innocent III had an immediate, profound, and lasting impact on the church and society of his time. Often seen as a great innovator, theologian, and canon lawyer, Innocent, however, was a contentious figure in his own time and remains so today. The tremendous pastoral leader who convened one of the church's most important councils (the Fourth Lateran in 1215), the sponsor of the Franciscan Order, the pontiff who sought to find a place within the church for marginally deviant religious groups lest they fall into irrevocable heresy, Innocent was also the pope who claimed temporal leadership over Christendom with Per venerabilem and who effectively institutionalized the persecution of heretics with the Albigensian Crusade. In recent times, his theology has been deemed derivative and his ability as a canonist severely called into question. The occasion of the 800th anniversary of his elevation as pope in 1198 provides an opportunity to reassess this complex individual and the state of current scholarship.

This volume contains twenty-three papers originating from a conference held at Hofstra University in May 1997, divided here into four thematic sections. The first, "Innocent III and his Milieu," addresses the factors that molded the pope's vision and the role of the curia in shaping the policies of his pontificate. Focusing on his time in the schools and the curia, Edward Peters explores the early influences that formed the pope's outlook, concluding that Innocent was as much a product of the changing world of monasticism as that of the schools. With careful reading of some of his theological treatises, Christoph Egger shows that far from lacking in originality, Innocent's theological positions fall far more in the realm of what Leonard Boyle termed "applied theology" and reveal the pope's preoccupation with pastoral care in practice. Richard Kay, turning to the much disputed question of Innocent's canonistic abilities, concludes with new evidence that Innocent was principally a theologian and not a trained canon lawyer. The much debated issue of Innocent's government is explored by James Powell, who, in ascribing the Gesta Innocentii tertii to Petrus Beneventanus, reveals not only the growing but also the shifting business before the curia. This subject is also addressed by E. C. Ronquist, whose focus on Gregorius of Monte Sacro points to the fostering of distinctive cultural and intellectual interests among the curia. Alberto Melloni's article on Vineam domini, the encyclical convening Lateran IV, explores the ways that Innocent and the curia built upon past tradition but also conceived of the council in a new light.

The second section, "Shepherding the Flock," focuses chiefly on Innocent's pastoral activities and the methods with which he sought to safeguard and improve the spirituality of his flock. Articles by Constance Rousseau and Brenda Bolton, respectively, address the nurturing imagery Innocent employed to implement his policies and his active efforts in the material renewal of the church through gifts and building programs. Gillian Murphy discusses Innocent's promotion of centralized organization akin to that of the Cistercians for Irish monks as a means of ensuring the caliber of their spirituality. Michael Goodich explores Innocent's promotion of the saints as moral examples for Christian society, arguing that the pope was rigorous about verification out of fear that the people would be misled by heretical visionaries. Jessalynn Bird looks at the preaching of reform and the crusade, revealing the extent to which Innocent's preachers of voluntary poverty, perhaps inadvertently, set precedents for the later practices of spiritual benefits for money. In articles that seem somewhat out of place here, Robert Chazan suggests that Innocent's much noted anti-Semitic position derived from his studies in Paris, while Claire Taylor explores King John's middle-of-the-road policy towards Innocent and the Albigensian crusade. In an article on Innocent's conciliatory approach to marginal religious groups, Frances Andrews argues that such policies were not merely his own work but involved papal agents and other prelates.

The third section focuses on Innocent's definition and use of papal power. Here, while accepting that the pope had genuine pastoral concern for the Christian people, Joseph Canning argues that "pastoral" is neither the way he conceived of nor exercised his office. Brian Pavlac, however, rejects any such pastoral motivation, and, exploring the relations between the Emperor Henry VI and the papacy, suggests that Innocent III pursued an imperial domination of the Christian world at the expense of moral and spiritual renewal. Peter Clarke addresses Innocent's less than edifying policy of punishing the innocent in an effort to coerce the guilty, revealing that despite his disquiet, it was this position that became entrenched in canon law. Deirdre Courtney-Batson explores the contentious decretal, Per venerabilem, suggesting that Innocent's understanding of the papacy as a supreme court with limited jurisdiction is not as paradoxical as it seems. Hans-Joachim Schmidt discusses the appropriation of the concepts of plenitudo potestatis and pars sollictudinis by Emperor Frederick II and other western rulers.

The final section concerns Innocent's perceptions of the Muslim world. Here, Joseph O'Callaghan discusses Innocent's role in the internal politics of the Iberian peninsula in support of the efforts against the Almohad Muslims. Antonio Garcia y Garcia more broadly discusses the many issues in Spain that captured Innocent's attention. Christoph Maier explores Innocent's efforts to make crusade an integral part of the spirituality of all Christians. Giulio Cipollone, looking at the Trinitarian Order, shows that despite his commitment to ending Muslim occupation of the Holy Land, Innocent was prepared to seek the cooperation of Muslim rulers.

Readers looking for a comprehensive picture of Innocent III and a discussion of all the major events and issues of his complicated pontificate will inevitably be disappointed. It should, however, be underlined that the volume in no way makes any pretense at doing so. Occasionally, there is a sense that the thematic sections (which were not part of the original conference) are somewhat stretched. That said, John Moore's editorial efforts at providing a coherent framework that allows the articles to be seen in relation to each other and wider issues is to be commended. This is an important volume, whose articles lucidly and effectively illuminate key aspects of Innocent's personal formation and his relation to the complicated and shifting society of his time.

Kathleen G. Cushing Keele University
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Author:Cushing, Kathleen G.
Publication:Church History
Date:Mar 1, 2001
Words:1065
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