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The World of Catholic Renewal 1540-1770; Kardinal Jean Jouffroy (1473): Leben und Werk; Seventeenth-Century Cultural Discourse: France and the Preaching of Bishop Camus.

Ronnie Po-Chia Hsia. The World of Catholic Renewal 1540-1770. (New Approaches to European History.) Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998. xi + 240 Pp. index. bibi. $54.95. ISBN: 0-521-44596-5.

Claudia Martl. Kardinal Jean Jouffroy (1473): Leben und Werk. (Beitrage zur Geschichte und Quellenkunde des Mittelalters, 18.) Sigmaringen: Jan Thorbecke Verlag, 1996. 397 pp. index. bibl. 108 DM. ISBN: 3-7995-5718-0.

Thomas Worcester. Seventeenth-Century Cultural Discourse: France and the Preaching of Bishop Camus.

(Religion and Society, 38.) Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 1997. ix + 306 pp. index. bibl. 288 DM. ISBN: 3-11-015220-7.

These three books contribute in very different ways to understanding the late medieval and early modern church and the evolution of Catholic reform. Martl provides an engaging and learned biography of a fifteenth-century Burgundian prelate whose career embodies the high political intrigue and entrenched benefice politics of the late medieval curia and its conflicts with secular princes. To assess how the post-Tridentine ideal of a pastoral episcopate was met, Worcester offers a thematic study of the sermons of one of France's most prolific early seventeenth-century bishops. Hsia's social and institutional analysis examines the national, gender, and global dynamics of the post-Tridenrine church primarily from the perspective of relations of power.

Considered together the works underscore the effectiveness of clerical elites in reinforcing dominant social and political hierarchies. This material also whets the appetite for learning much more about lay religious experience.

Jouffroy and Camus were Christian humanists who lived in very different eras of institutional reform and at chronologically and spiritually opposing poles of the Renaissance. Their contrasting values and temperaments thus provide an interesting perspective for evaluating Hsia's underlying thesis that Catholic renewal was largely the work of the "institution builders of the Catholic church" (123).

Martl's subject, the Burgundian Jean Jouffroy (elevated to cardinal in December 1461 by Pius II), personifies the intensely political engagement of late medieval prelates who honed humanist rhetorical skills in diplomatic missions serving many masters. Jouffroy began his career in the era of conciliar controversy as a representative of the Duke of Burgundy to the Council of Ferrara (1438). He skillfully rose in the curia, despite his early patron's conciliarist stance. At the height of his career, Jouffroy drew the well-known wrath of Pius II because he shifted his loyalties to defend the interests of a new patron, King Louis XI, during France's renegotiation of the Pragmatic Sanction. For this the French king rewarded Joufftoy in 1464 with the abbacy of Saint Denis.

Martl's biography offers a fascinating study of careerism in the late medieval church and is richly and intelligently documented with an impressive range of archival sources, memoirs, and analysis of the speeches of Jouffroy himself. Jouffroy was a chief actor in many of the great debates and events in the late medieval church and in Europe as a whole. Through the life of Jouffroy we experience the interplay of northern and southern humanism, especially in its diplomatic context. Jouffroy's life connects so many diverse threads of the late fifteenth century that are often today not followed together: conciliarism, Burgundian expansion, growth of the curia, the fall of Constantinople, the dream of a crusade, and the development of competing national churches that overwhelmed the leadership of the papacy. Especially intriguing in the context of the problem of structural church reform is Jouffroy's conviction that accumulation of wealth was not a moral problem for the church (191). These views emerge not only in the benefice politics Jouffroy served but also in tracts Jouffroy wrote against the Fraricelli and the Hussites (190-91). Jouffroy seems to have acted with a self-certitude that gives no inkling of the impending crises of the sixteenth century.

Jean Pierre Camus, on the other hand, serves after the crisis has been weathered and the post-Tridentine structure is in place. Camus, a native of Paris, whom King Henry IV appointed as bishop of the tiny rural see of Belley (near Besancon) in 1609 published more than 400 sermons, delivered in his diocese and particularly in Paris. Henri-Jean Martin, the historian of the early modern book, considered Camus "one of the three most important spiritual writers of the early seventeenth century" (31). Camus, however, lacked the rhetorical brilliance of a Bossuet. This, for Worcester, makes Camus a more realistic example of everyday, early seventeenth-century preaching.

The work is organized in chapters that focus on the themes in Camus' preaching--gender, images of sainthood, recommended devotional practices for holy days, the relation of politics and piety in the concept of the model bishop. The material is informative but never culminates in a cohesive response to the questions raised at the outset by the author. In focusing almost exclusively on the settings, themes, and language of Camus' sermons surprisingly little sense of Camus the man emerges.

Worcester intends his case study of sermon literature to cause us to rethink many generalizations about the role of bishops and the content of preaching in French Catholic reform. For example, Camus seems to have focused as much on the need for penitence among the rich as on encouraging virtue among the poor (82-83). This, Worcester argues, is enormously different from the period eighty years later when Daniel Roche finds homilies mostly devoted to improving the morals of the poor. Camus emerges as an important figure in the "formation of a spiritual elite" (95) and as such fits nicely in the cohort of spiritual writers of the early seventeenth century who shaped "devot" consciousness.

Worcester's desire to analyze seventeenth-century cultural discourse is not fulfilled in this limited case study. Worcester does, however, ask some important questions that deserve further study: To what extent does Camus in Paris in the early years of the reign of Louis XIII "preach a collective piety such as that of [Barbara] Diefendorf's late sixteenth-century preachers? To what extent did he offer a communal piety adapted to post-1598 circumstances?" (25) Had Worcester developed a more sustained conceptual framework for analyzing "cultural discourse" or provided a more forceful conclusion, this study would have been more compelling.

Hsia's much anticipated overview of post-Tridentine Catholicism provides one of the best available frameworks for studying early modern Catholicism. This book will work extremely well pedagogically because of its clear themes and organization, its exceptionally good evocation of regional and national differences, and its balance of analysis, interpretive generalization, basic quantification, and vivid example. Hsia emphasizes that the era of Catholic renewal was one of the first ages of "global history." A richly varied European social and political geography and chronology of reform are paired with treatments of Asia, South America, and Africa and a particular comparison of Catholicism in three Asian societies: the Philippines, Japan, and China.

Despite this sweep, a clear and consistent argument emerges throughout. Catholic renewal is treated largely as an extension of Tridentine reforms. An introduction discussing competing ideas of reform at the Council of Trent alerts the reader not to look for facile or uniform definitions of reforms itself. But ultimately, according to Hsia, relations of power, social privilege, gender inequalities, and racism determined the institutional character of post-Tridentine Catholicism. Precisely because Tridentine Catholicism was so "[w]ell adjusted to the hierarchy of power, early modern Catholicism reinforced divisions in society" (204-05). The bywords of Hsia's study are centralization, discipline, and education. In discussions of the papacy, curia, benefice system, priesthood, and episcopacy the author emphasizes how family strategies for social advancement and revenue and prevailing gender inequalities shaped and limited the extent of reform.

The clear emphasis upon religion's relation to the prevailing modes of political power and social structure does not, however, drive out Hsia's sense of complexity, contradiction, and paradox. In his discussion of new religious orders Hsia shows how missions, art, and teaching facilitated complex cultural, cognitive, and emotional adjustments that shaped a new, early modern Catholic culture. The personal asceticism of the most influential new orders represented "a counter-example to the laxity and worldliness of established orders" (28). New religious orders thus "had success... in transforming the emotions of a Catholic society of orders while essentially leaving intact its structures of power" (30).

There is also allusion to the possibilities of Catholicism as a language of resistance (176). The suggestion that the canonization of Loyola entailed a veritable "theatre" promoted through publicity and financing (128-29) and Hsia's interpretation of "the paradoxes" of submission and resistance embodied by Saint Theresa all invite the attentive reader and student to look at the complexity of historical experience.

Hsia's conclusion is all the more important for its decisive emphasis: the "twin impulses of Catholic renewal--control and innovation" (38) made the looser medieval social hierarchies more rigid and intensified gender distinctions to the detriment of forms of late medieval religious experience where female religious had more freedom and where the public character of devotion was less uniform and regimented.

There may be an inclination to read Hsia as the now standard introduction to the subject of Catholic reform. Precisely, however, because Hsia makes deliberate and skilled choices in presenting the content and dynamic of Catholic renewal this book deserves debate, not mere praise. Although far from indifferent to questions of spirituality and individual religious experience, this remains an institutional and social history most carefully attuned to social and political outcomes that result from the interplay of religion, politics, and social privilege. Hsia reaches frequently for perspectives "from below" on Catholic renewal. But all three books underscore how much more work is needed to analyze the emotional and psychological experience of Catholic reform from the lay perspective.
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Author:Ramsey, Ann W.
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 22, 2003
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