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The Papacy Since 1500: From Italian Prince to Universal Pastor.

THE PAPACY SINCE 1500: FROM ITALIAN PRINCE TO UNIVERSAL PASTOR. Edited by James Corkery and Thomas Worcester. New York: Cambridge University, 2010. Pp. x + 275. $99; $29.99.

The popes have played many roles in history. Some have come about through personal views they held about the papacy. A main purpose of this book, however, is to point out "how, at particular times, popes have acted predominantly in certain roles--those of prince, patron and pastor in particular--more in response to circumstances external to themselves than as a result of [such] personal views" (243).

This collection of studies will interest both the general reader and theologians and historians alike. The editors, Corkery and Worcester, are, respectively, a theologian and a historian. Together they introduce and conclude the book, and each also writes one of its twelve chapters; each chapter is written by a recognized authority in his or her own field.

To give some sense of the range and variety of the essays, I note the main themes associated with each pope chosen for comment. Julius II as "prince" and ruler was both warrior and one of the greatest papal patrons of the arts, but as pastor he left much to be desired. Clement VII as a prince at war could not fulfill all the expectations of him as patron and pastor. Pius V was a saint who had the reputation of a warrior because of the Holy League against the Turks; his implementation of the Council of Trent contributed to centralizing papal power. The often-hostile reception of Urban VIII was exemplified in the Pasquinades and propaganda against him despite his great patronage of the arts and in part because of his nepotism and much-criticized conduct in the Thirty Years War (1618-1648). A chapter on Jansenism treats the movement as a counterweight to papal absolutism and argues that "it can legitimately be viewed, within certain limits, as a thwarted movement for reform" (106). Scholars will surely continue to argue about that.

In an age of revolution and reaction, Pius VII emerges as a voice of moderation and as "a bridge between the papacy prior to the French Revolution and ... as it developed in the nineteenth century" (123). With Pius IX the modern papacy commences. While his princely role contracted with the loss of the Papal States, he emphasized papal teaching and governing authority in a Church increasingly centralized in Rome. Leo XIII, with his encyclical Rerum novarum (1891), not only dealt with the "social question"; he also enhanced the centralizing and teaching role of the bishop of Rome exemplified in his still-current record of 86 encyclicals. In contrast, British Catholics' reaction to Benedict XV's attempt to be an impartial pastor to both sides in World War I highlights the perils in the perception of papal teaching.

"Electronic pastors" is the term used in the chapter on the role of the popes in radio, cinema, and television by the mid-20th century and how that role was received. "Mixed reception" best describes the way members of the Church responded to the teachings of Paul VI and John Paul II on the two topics of sex and war. As is sagely remarked, "Whether reception is an adequate description of a process that requires understanding, appropriation, interpretation, revision, and development has yet to be properly discussed" (221-22).

Appropriately, the book moves from its beginning with Julius II as an Italian prince to John Paul II, here fittingly described as a "universal pastor in a global age." The contrast between how very well John Paul communicated his messages, especially through his own person as present to all through travel and media, and how effectively they were received is frankly and fairly treated in this final chapter.

The collection gives a perspective that a simple chronology of the papacy could not have yielded. At the same time, so much is said of each pope or each theme that the reader can be overwhelmed by the abundance of detail in the short space of a chapter. Also, because each author is an expert in his or her own field, events are sometimes mentioned that only experts will recognize. For example, few readers will recognize the War of Valtellina and appreciate its significance. But such negative crticisms aside, the book's strong contribution is that it presents the papacy's complex interrelationships of persons, policies, practices, and presuppositions, as well as their development and the questions they raise.

One will profit much from knowing about such questions through the interpretive lens of prince, patron, and pastor with which the contributors examine the popes since 1500.


Institute of Jesuit Sources, St. Louis
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Author:Padberg, John W.
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book review
Date:Dec 1, 2011
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