Printer Friendly

The complex nature of Catholicism in the Renaissance. (Review Essay).

Lu Ann Homza. Religious Authority in the Spanish Renaissance. (The Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science, 118.) Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000. xxiii + 312 pp. $39.95. ISBN: 0-8018-6243-4.

Thomas M. Izbicki and Christopher M. Bellitto, eds. Reform and Renewal in the Mid die Ages and the Renaissance: Studies in Honor of Louis Pascoe, S.J. (Studies in the History of Christian Thought, 96.) Leiden, Boston and Cologne: Brill, 2000. viii + 263 pp. $92 ISBN: 90-04-11399-1.

John W. O'Malley, S.J., Gauvin Alexander Bailey, Steven Harris, and T. Frank Kennedy, S.J., eds. The Jesuits: Cultures, Sciences, and the Arts, 1540-1773. Toronto, Buffalo and London: University of Toronto Press, 1999. xx + 772 pp. $80 ISBN: 0-8020-4287-2.

John W. O'Malley, S.J. Trent and All That: Renaming Catholicism in the Early Modern Era. Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 2000. 219 pp. $24.95. ISBN: 0-674-00087-0.

Erika Rummel. Jimenez de Cisneros: On the Threshold of Spain's Golden Age. (Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 212.) Tempe: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 1999. viii + 151 pp. $22 ISBN: 0-86698-254-X.

Since the publication of Jacob Burckhardt's classic study of the Italian Renaissance in the nineteenth century, Renaissance culture has been perceived as predominantly secular, especially in Italy. This understanding of the Renaissance was based on Burckhardt's belief that the age was characterized by a religious skepticism that resulted from the failure of the contemporary Church to meet the spiritual, intellectual, and moral needs of the people of the day. Consequently, Burckhardt described this period as essentially pagan in spirit, given the rise of individualism and the revival of the literature of ancient Greece and Rome. During the latter part of the twentieth century, historians began to scrutinize Burckhardt's interpretation of religion within the Renaissance, resulting in a revision of this perspective and a better appreciation of religion's impact on Renaissance culture. As Robert Bireley states in his recent work, The Refashioning of Catholicism, 1450-1700, interest "in secular topics did not mean a turn away from religion, as if there were only so much intellectual energy and energy which was devoted to secular matters was necessarily denied to religion. Rather the result of 'the discovery of the world and of man' was the desire and the demand for a style of religion or a spirituality that took more account of individuality and of life in the world around us" (12-13).

Religion continued to be a vital force within Renaissance society, although one different than what it had been during the Middle Ages. As Catholicism asserted its power and influence, it intersected with the multifaceted features of Renaissance culture. As a result, to characterize Catholicism in the Renaissance in a monolithic fashion is difficult, as Catholicism manifested itself in a variety of ways and venues. The works under consideration attest to this and reveal the ways in which Catholicism expressed itself within Renaissance culture and how the Renaissance was made manifest within the orbit of Catholicism.

If the rebirth associated with the Renaissance is understood, as DeLamar Jensen has argued, as a recovery, by which he means a recuperation from an unhappy condition or the regaining of something that has been lost, then Catholicism can be seen as playing an integral part in this process. The Church, since the Middle Ages, concerned itself with renovatio, or renewal, both on an individual and institutional level. The work edited by Thomas M. Izbicki and Christopher M. Bellitto, Reform and Renewal in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, provides the reader with fourteen essays that examine the theme of reform over a period of four hundred years. Many of the essays in this volume focus on the influence of Gerhart Ladner on the study of reform themes and reform movements, while others emphasize the apocalyptic dimensions in writings on reform. The essays examine reform and renewal through such figures as Pope Urban II, Ubertino da Casale, Cola di Rienzo, Jean Gerson, Nicolas de Clamanges, Peter of Candia, and Le onardo Dati.

One of the fundamental features of the Renaissance was the renewed interest in classical antiquity. For Catholicism this meant the revival of the patristic writings as a means of generating a renewal of theology and the spiritual life of the individual. Several essays shed light on this aspect of Catholicism in the Renaissance. In his essay, "The Influence of Gerhart Ladner's The Idea of Reform," Phillip Stump contends that Ladner's work demonstrated "convincingly the existence of an idea of reform among the Church Fathers which was above all an idea of personal renewal grounded in the theology of the Pauline epistles..." (5). He goes on to examine the ways in which this notion of personal renewal was understood by the Greek and Latin Fathers concluding that this was the contribution of Catholicism on the thought of the Italian humanists. Thus, here we see Catholicism participating in the process of recovery of antiquity that defined the very nature of the Renaissance.

The process of renewal advocated by Catholicism in the Renaissance entailed a restoration of the image of God in the human person. This goal was not unique to the Renaissance of the Quattrocento and Cinquecento, but also found expression in the twelfth century. Daniel Marcel La Corte argues in his essay, "Reformation of the Intellect in the Thought of Aelred of Rievaulx," that the restoration of the intellect is "central to the process of the soul's reformation" (37). This process is begun through education, which allows the individual to gain true knowledge of the self and of God. At the heart of this education is contact with the Word of God, which would lead to the perfection of the intellect. A similar goal was advocated by the Christian humanists of the Renaissance. Lawrence Hundersmarck, in his essay, "Reforming Life by Conforming to the Life of Christ: Pseudo-Bonaventure's Meditaciones vite Christi," presents an analogous argument. The author identifies the Meditaciones vite Christi as a book offered a s spiritual direction for a Poor Clare nun (93). The work is seen as a vehicle for the transformation of the nun's life, and highlights the dangers of a lack of intimacy with the gospel story. Similar to Erasmus's "philosophy of Christ" or to Ignatius Loyola's instruction for an imaginative prayer, the Meditaciones vite Christi "seeks to reform its reader through an intensive and elaborate attempt to conform her life to that of the gospels" (107).

The importance of this collection of essays is that it demonstrates a continuity between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance within the realm of Catholicism. Through its emphasis on reform, this work allows the reader to locate the Catholic version of Renaissance ecclesiastical renewal in the late medieval world, thereby allowing for a better understanding of the nature of Catholicism itself in the early modern era.

As the essays in the preceding collection suggest, religious renewal and reform are often determined by the national and cultural context in which they unfold. Two of the books under consideration provide us with a glimpse of religious renewal within the context of the Spanish Renaissance. Reform in Spain emanated from the monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella, both of whom recognized the need for a vital Catholicism in promoting unity within the realm. In addition, the Renaissance in Spain is intimately linked with the Church, where there is a connection between humanism and religious thought. Erika Rummel's book, Jimenez de Cisneros: On the Threshold of Spain's Golden Age, evidences both of these characteristics of Catholicism in Renaissance Spain.

While Cisneros has been the focus of much study among Spanish historians, the opposite is the case among English-speaking scholars. Similarly, there are few English translations of the works of Cisneros. Given this void, Rummel's study is most welcome, as she provides a brief account of Cisneros's life, highlighting "his career as a statesman, reformer, missionary, and patron of learning" (viii). Each of these aspects of Cisneros's career are understood within the context of the Spain of the Catholic monarchs; she characterizes this era as Spain's golden age, due partly to Cisneros's efforts as an agent of the process. As Spain entered the Renaissance, Rummel presents the reader with a Cisneros who combined the old and the new -- a man who embodied the world of medieval Catholicism, with his inclination toward mysticism and monasticism, while embracing the active life of the royal court and becoming a Renaissance prelate (9).

The religious orientation of the Spanish Renaissance has been associated, among historians, with the reform efforts of Cisneros. Rummel's portrait of Cisneros does not deviate from this portrayal. Three specific areas of concern are highlighted as evidence of Cisneros's prominent role in the area of church reform: the reform of religious orders, the reform of the archdiocese of Toledo, and his educational program that culminated in the founding of the University of Alcala. In each of these areas we see the fusion between religious reform and the distinctive features of the Renaissance.

In the area of reform of the religious orders, Cisneros's efforts paralleled the Renaissance notion of a return to antiquity as a basis of renewal. Cisneros ordered the various congregations to return to the constitutions and regulations that had been established by their respective founders as the basis of reform. Rummel focuses on his reform efforts within the Franciscan order, of which Cisneros was a member. Cisneros's attempts were aimed at transforming the Conventuals (who had deviated from the rule of Francis) into Observants (who had preserved the rule of their founder), which, as Rummel demonstrates, met with "considerable resistance." Nevertheless, Rummel contends that Cisneros's "unwavering pursuit of a more austere monastic ideal in the face of considerable resistance from the Spanish Conventuals earned him a conspicuous place in history among Catholic reformers" (20).

The success Cisneros enjoyed among the regular clergy carried over into the secular clergy upon his appointment as archbishop of Toledo. His reform program highlights not only the problems that plagued the Renaissance Church, but also embodies the Renaissance concept of inner renewal that characterized the humanists of the day. Unlike most bishops of his time, Cisneros personally undertook the pastoral care of his diocese. As evidence of this concern, Rummel highlights the proceedings and decrees of the synods of Toledo (1497) and Talavera (1498), which focused on the responsibilities of the clergy to the faithful. What becomes clear from the synodal decrees is Cisneros's concern for the spiritual welfare of the faithful, which would in turn foster a spiritual renewal of the Church.

Cisneros most clearly emerges as a figure of the Renaissance in his third reform goal, the education of the clergy; which led to the establishment of the University of Alcala. Rummel portrays Cisneros as a man who was deeply committed to learning. Since he envisioned Alcala as principally concerned with the training of clerics, instruction in the biblical languages was an integral part of the university's curriculum. Rummel argues that it was Cisneros's "support for language studies that gave Alcala a place in the history of humanism" (53). Despite the fact that the biblical scholarship practiced at A1cala was innovative and controversial at the time, Cisneros welcomed humanists to the university and supported their philological and textual researches. This openness distinguished Alcala from other universities throughout Northern Europe which, as Rummel shows, had rejected the need for language studies as a prerequisite for theological studies. As the author states, "Cisneros was convinced of their merit and gave them a central place in the curriculum" (54). Consequently, the establishment of the university was an integral part of Cisneros's religious reform program, which included the necessity for a better-educated clergy.

One of the results of the curriculum advanced by Cisneros at Alcala was the publication of the Complurensian Polyglot Bible, which is best understood as an extension of Cisneros's program of religious reform, particularly within the realm of theology. Rummel illustrates how this project encountered the problems that faced the application of philology to biblical studies at the time. Since many associated textual criticism of the Bible with hererodoxy; Cisneros justified this project in his dedicatory preface to Pope Leo X. Rummel shows how many of Cisneros's arguments were similar to those made by Erasmus in his prolegomena to his New Testament edition. The efforts of Cisneros in establishing the University of Alcala, along with the publication of the Complurensian Polyglot Bible, clearly reveal that Catholicism during the Renaissance embraced Renaissance humanism, utilizing it for the reform of an institution in need of renewal.

Cisneros also illustrates the complexity of Catholicism during the Renaissance. As a humanist, he endorsed the philological study of the Bible, yet he was adamant in his opposition to vernacular translations of the Bible and to making the Scriptures available for ordinary people. This attitude was at odds with such reformers as Lefevre d' Etaples and Erasmus, as the author clearly shows. Rummel highlights this contradiction in her discussion of Cisneros and the conversion of the Moors. Similarly, his position as Inquisitor General evidences an individual poised paradoxically between two worlds.

Rummel concludes her study by examining the image of Cisneros in biographies that stretch back to the seventeenth century. For the most part, Cisneros emerges as an individual whose life was motivated by religious concerns. In essence, Rummel demonstrates that a saintly aura is accorded Cisneros by many of his biographers, including contemporary scholars. Rummel does a good job of placing Cisneros within the broader political, intellectual, and religious currents of his day, concluding that "his political ideas, zeal for reform, [and] interest in print culture and philology, progressive at the time, became mainstream within a decade of his death" (117). Rounding out this volume is an appendix of two valuable documents translated into English, "The Constitution of San Idelfonso College" and an "Anonymous Life of Cardinal Cisneros."

The dominance of Cisneros in the Spanish Church may lead one to conclude that Catholicism in Spain was monolithic. Such a view also influences one's understanding of the Spanish Renaissance itself. Lu Ann Homza's work, Religious Authority in the Spanish Renaissance, provides the reader with a picture of the complexity and plurality of the Spanish Renaissance, along with the autonomy of many of Spain's clerics. Homza challenges the traditional view of the Spanish Renaissance first advocated by Marcel Bataillon's work, Erasme et l'Espagne, in 1937; Bataillon's has remained the "indispensable point of reference" for the study of the Renaissance in Spain (xix). As a result of this work, the Spanish Renaissance has come to be seen as a conflict among opposites -- humanists against scholastics, Erasmians in discord with conservative Catholics. It is this dichotomy that Homza challenges by examining religious authority and questioning the monolithic understanding of the Spanish Church during the Renaissance. Homza d evelops her thesis by examining what she calls the "expressed and tacit sentiments from higher and lower tiers of the Catholic establishment" (xxiii). Her examination entails a body of clerical writings that ranges from biblical prologues to vernacular moral tracts. Thus, the first three chapters examine Juan de Vergara's Inquisition Trial, the Valladolid conference of 1527, and Pedro Ciruelo's promotion of the literal sense of Scripture, while the last three chapters examine the relationship between the priesthood and the laity, the process of confession, and the detection of witchcraft. In both sections, the author focuses on religious authority and the nuances that are evident in Spanish intellectual and religious history.

In the first half of her book, Homza demonstrates the flexibility that was shown by Spanish clerics. In the case of Juan de Vergara, whom the author characterizes as "one of Iberia's outstanding intellects," we are given evidence of his ability to move smoothly from humanism to scholasticism and back again. Trained at the College of San Idelfonso at the University of Alcala, he practiced the philological approach to Scripture embraced by the humanists, helped in rendering the Old and New Testaments for the Complutensian Polyglot Bible, corresponded with Erasmus, was fond of classical authors such as Cicero and Suetonius, and owned works written by Lorenzo Valla, Pietro Bembo, and Angelo Poliziano. Clearly Vergara was a humanist in the Erasmian mold. Yet, he invoked Aquinas and the Summa Theologica more than any other literature, focused on Aristotle's logical corpus rather than on his Politics and Ethics, and received the dedication of an anti-Erasmian polemic in 1522. In following the proceedings of his tria l before the Inquisition, the author highlights these seemingly contradictory elements, presenting Vergara as an "Erasmian and a humanist who wielded scholastic vocabulary and authorities" (p. 40). This suggests for Homza that the barrier that allegedly existed between humanists and scholastics in sixteenth-century Spain was not as rigid as had been believed.

The Valladolid Conference of 1527 suggests the same conclusion. The conference gathered thirty-three of Spain's leading theologians to assess the orthodoxy of Erasmus's writings. Like Vergara, the theologians at the conference demonstrated the same flexibility between humanism and scholasticism in their approach to Erasmus's writings. For Homza this level of agreement provides further proof that it is impossible to label individuals as either humanists or scholastics, Erasmians or anti-Erasmians, in an exclusive manner in Spain. Through her examination of the conference proceedings, Homza convincingly shows that these theologians could urge the censorship of Erasmus's works while at the same time defending them. The author concludes, "Their preferences reveal that humanism and scholasticism could be practiced to a relative degree, that religious messages did not always correspond to particular interpretative methods, and that Spanish Erasmians did not practice as coherent a humanism as we have been led to bel ieve" (74).

In the second half of the book, Homza demonstrates that the pastoral side of the Spanish Church also reveals the elasticity inherent in the Catholicism of the Spanish Renaissance. Focusing on the relationship between the clergy and the laity, particularly in the administration of the sacraments, the author contends that "these clerics offered different pastoral and devotional emphases in their written works, and their messages suggest that diversity was still possible in Spain between 1540-1570" (120). The same holds true for the treatises against witches examined by the author. Homza demonstrates that these treatises also evidence the autonomy of Spanish clerics, making it difficult to categorize them into one faction or the other.

The case studies presented by Homza in this provocative examination clearly demonstrate that Catholicism in Spain during the Renaissance did not manifest itself in a univocal way. The Church seems to have tolerated a complex intellectual environment that permitted clerics to incorporate differing amounts of tradition, history, and criticism into their arguments. This tolerance in turn gave rise to a plurality of pastoral messages. Homza illustrates that the relationship between Renaissance culture and Catholicism in sixteenth-century Spain is evident in the participation of its clergy in this phenomenon, which evidences the execution of their "critical and historical concerns within a scholastic heritage" (210).

Just as Catholicism in the Spanish Renaissance was not monolithic, neither were the goals of the Society of Jesus during this period. This pluralism is abundantly evident in the collection of essays edited by John O'Malley, S.J. et al., entitled, The Jesuits: Cultures, Sciences, and the Arts, 1450-1773. The essays in this book grew out of an international conference held in 1997 at Boston College. Like the conference, the book seeks to provide readers with a more holistic understanding of the Society prior to its suppression in 1773. Consequently, three specific aspects of the Jesuit enterprise are highlighted: the way in which the Jesuits used the arts in evangelizing and in communicating faith and devotion; the pursuit of the sciences by the Jesuits in their schools and overseas missions and the relationship of the sciences to their faith; and the theory and practice of the Jesuits in making Christianity acceptable to a diversity of peoples and cultures (xiv). The unifying theme of these essays, which seek to present certain aspects of contemporary scholarship on the Society of Jesus, is the attempt to ascertain to what extent there existed a Jesuit style or a Jesuit corporate culture. In assessing the existence of such a culture, the book is divided into six parts addressing sub-themes: re-framing Jesuit history; the Roman scene; overseas missions and the circulation of culture; encounters with the Other; tradition, innovation, accommodation; and conversion and confirmation through devotion and the arts. The volume concludes with three brief reflections on the overall conclusions arrived at by the essays.

The volume begins with a useful essay by John O'Malley, S.J., that assesses the state of the historiography of the Society of Jesus, both past and present. O'Malley's essay raises the possibility of re-examining old frameworks of interpretation with the possibility of refashioning those interpretations. Thus, the standard portrayal of the Society of Jesus as an agent of either the Catholic Reformation, the Counter-Reformation, or both, is called into question. O'Malley argues that any interpretation reducing the Jesuits to a formula must be looked upon with suspicion. His argument resembles Homza's that the clerics of Renaissance Spain cannot be classified as being either humanists or scholastics (24). Reducing the Jesuits to agents of either term fails, O'Malley contends, to capture fully who the Jesuits were. As O'Malley states, "What this means for the Jesuits is that it allows us to look at them less as ecclesiastical persons and agents, [and] more as practitioners and promoters of what John Van Engen has called Christianitas, the practice of traditional practices of the Christian religion" (25). Consequently, rather than perceiving the work of the Jesuits as imposing a monolithic structure upon people, O'Malley reveals a new understanding of the interactive character of their enterprises. For O'Malley this suggests that the "reality of reciprocity between Jesuits and those with whom and for whom they ministered was even more profound" (25). O'Malley concludes his overview by highlighting the fact that methodological shifts have taken place in scholarship that have led to a "multi-perspectival approach" to the Jesuits in the early modern era.

The extent to which the Jesuits were influenced by Renaissance culture, and the extent to which they utilized that culture in their work, find expression in several of the volume's essays. Marc Fumaroli's essay, "The Fertility and Shortcomings of Renaissance Rhetoric: The Jesuit Case," argues that the rhetoric of the humanists, which was embraced by the Jesuits, was the creative driving force for the Society's ethics, spirituality; exegesis, anthropology, and theology (91). Fumaroli contends that it was precisely this rhetorical tradition that provided both the orientation and the unity for the diverse enterprises engaged in by the society, in a way that was similar among the Italian humanists. The author demonstrates how the Jesuits were faithful to what they had inherited from Italian Renaissance humanism in their diverse and multi-faceted endeavors, their tradition of letter-writing, their pedagogical activity, and their missionary approach. It was through this rhetorical tradition that the Society of Jesu s deployed its "unique ability to connect and to refer human diversity to a divine unity" (99). A related theme is developed by Louise Rice in her essay, "Jesuit Thesis Prints and the Festive Academic Defence at the Collegio Romano." Rice demonstrates how the thesis prints reflected the humanistic culture of the Collegio Romano and of other Jesuit colleges throughout Europe. Derived from classical sources, the thesis prints utilized pagan stories to illustrate Christian precepts. Thus, Rice illustrates how these prints reflect the emphasis on humanist learning in the Jesuit curriculum.

This humanistic culture of the Renaissance is portrayed as a bridge between East and West in an interesting essay by Andrew C. Ross, "Alessandro Valignano: The Jesuits and Culture in the East." Ross contends that Valignano's missionary approach in Japan and China exhibited an openness and an acceptance of foreign customs that could be traced to the influence of Italian humanism. The author indicates that Valignano came to see the people of the Far East as "similar to yet perhaps even surpassing the Greek and Roman ancients. . ." (347). Just as Ignatius Loyola had defended the Greek and Roman classics as useful for a devout life, so too did Valignano see the Chinese classics. Furthermore, Valignano saw the formation of personal and civic virtue as a goal shared by Confucian education and philosophy and the Catholic humanism formulated by the Jesuit schools of the day. While many Jesuit missionaries did not view the Japanese and Chinese in the same manner as Valignano, Ross concludes that it was precisely the C atholic humanism of the Collegio Romano that made the difference in his approach to the cultures of the Far East.

This ponderous volume of thirty-five essays is quite useful in bringing to light Jesuit involvement in a diversity of fields, such as music, art, architecture, devotional writing, mathematics, natural history, public performance, astronomy, physics, education, and the interaction of the Jesuits with non-European cultures. These essays illustrate the important role that the Jesuits played in the learned culture of the Renaissance. Lacking in the volume as a whole, however, is an acknowledgment of the centrality of Jesuit spirituality as the source from which the various enterprises engaged in sprang. Luce Giard's reflections support such a conclusion. The theological and spiritual motivations of the individual Jesuits and of the Society as a whole is seemingly absent.

All of the books examined thus far suggest the complexity of Catholicism during the Renaissance. This complexity makes it difficult to define with precision the nature of Catholicism during the early modern era, particularly when placed in relation to the Reformation. Given this context, even labeling Catholicism becomes problematic. This is the central issue raised by John O'Malley, S.J., in his work, Trent and All That: Renaming Catholicism in the Early Modern Era. O'Malley presents the reader with a valuable historiographical analysis of the way in which Catholicism in the early modern period has been interpreted for the last fifty years. In so doing, he scrutinizes the various terms that have been applied to Catholicism -- Counter-Reformation, Catholic Reformation, the Tridentine Age, the Confessional Age, the Baroque Age -- revealing both the usefulness of the terminology as well as the limitations. The author seeks to understand the origins of these various terms and the assumptions inherent with each t erm. However, O'Malley does not simply provide the reader with an overview of the scholarship on Catholicism in the early modern era, but proposes his own term, early modern Catholicism, which he believes is "a more comprehensive designation than the others" (5). In framing this concept, O'Malley sees Catholicism nor merely as the institutional framework of the Church, but more broadly as including "doctrine and devotion, parish and confraternity, prince and pauper, laws and art, clergy and laity" (9). By taking this approach, O'Malley hopes that his study will allow Catholicism to be viewed with new eyes that will take into account the breadth, depth, and complexity that, in his opinion, historians in the past have missed.

O'Malley begins his examination of terminology by providing an overview of the interpretations of Catholicism that prevailed from the seventeenth to the early twentieth centuries in Europe, emphasizing the prominence of German scholarship. He highlights the significance of the historian Leopold von Ranke, who used the term "Counter-Reformation" almost exclusively. For Ranke, the term suggested "a kind of unity in the Catholic reality that he saw springing up after 1555 from three major sources - the Council of Trent, the Jesuits, and the papacy" (23). A fellow German, Wilhelm Maurenbrecher, who saw that there were a variety of late medieval efforts that could be labeled as "reform," bestowed historiographical currency on the term "Catholic Reformation." Thus, O'Malley concludes that by the end of the nineteenth century,

"Counter-Reformation" and "Catholic Reformation" had become "categories inseparable from the larger question of the relationship of the Catholic Church to all the bad things (according to Cath olics) or to all the good things (according to almost everyone else) that had happened in Europe since the fifteenth century" (28). The outcome of this situation was that throughout the nineteenth century the debate revolving around terminology was confined to German-speaking historians, with Lutherans taking the lead and Catholics reacting to their Protestant counterparts.

The most significant historian for an understanding of this issue is Hubert Jedin, whose essay of 1946, "Karholische Reformation oder Gegenreformation?," sought to bring order to the debate over terminology. For Jedin, Catholicism in the sixteenth-century could be properly understood only by utilizing concepts of both "Catholic Reformation" and "Counter-Reformation." Jedin argues that these two aspects were sometimes separable from each other and sometimes not. For Jedin, the Catholic Reformation was not only antecedent to the Counter-Reformation but was also its animating and motivating force (51). O'Malley points out how Jedin saw the Council of Trent as the defining moment for the Catholic Reformation, since it had created, in Jedin's estimation, a pastoral church. As O'Malley states, "For Jedin, the Council of Trent furnished the defining center for the new era of the history of the Catholic Church to be known as 'Catholic Reformation-and-Counter Reformation"' (69). Notwithstanding Jedin's importance, O'M alley is critical of Jedin's approach and solution from a conceptual and methodological perspective, questioning the evidence upon which his judgements were based.

Much of the historiography of the last half of the twentieth century was written in response to Jedin's interpretation of Catholicism. H.O. Evennett, whose work is described by O'Malley as the "first serious attempt at a general understanding of the subject ever made by an English historian" (74), sought to discuss what Jedin abstractly postulated when he defined "Catholic Reform" as the soul of the Catholic side. Evennett argued that "both the Reformation and the Counter Reformation were two different outcomes of the same general aspiration toward religious regeneration that pervaded the late 15th and early 16th centuries" (76). O'Malley goes on to compare and contrast Jedin and Evennett.

Delio Cantimori published in 1946 a review article of Jedin that has continued to fuel the debate over terminology in Italy in a way that is unparalleled anywhere else. Cantimori saw in Jedin's acceptance of the term "Counter-Reformation" the end of apologetic historiography among Catholic scholars. As O'Malley points out, Cantimori not only accepted Jedin's distinction and the "utility of his two-term solution but maintained that it applied far beyond church history to political history, to intellectual and cultural history -- to every aspect of the era" (81). Paolo Simoncelli, on the other hand, was sharply critical of Jedin's definitions of "Catholic Reform" and "Counter-Reformation." Simoncelli virtually rejects the notion as nothing more than a "deceitful euphemism" (83). For Paolo Prodi, whose assessment of the papacy could hardly be further from Jedin's, the terms "Catholic Reform" and "Catholic Reformation" that Jedin formulated were helpful "at a particular historiographical juncture, but today. . . are of only modest utility as instruments of analysis" (87).

The reaction to Jedin in France, England, and Germany was influenced by the rise of new approaches in history, particularly the move toward social history. Thus, Lucien Febvre turned his attention toward the religious sentiments of the people of the day. He argued that the Reformation succeeded because "it was the outward sign and the work of a profound revolution in religious sentiment" (95). According to O'Malley, this approach no longer made the standard categories Catholic Reform and Counter-Reformation applicable. In similar fashion, Gabriel Le Bras focused his study on the communities of ordinary practicing Christians. John Bossy has passed a negative judgement on the Counter Reformation. O'Malley states that what "Bossy finds particularly bad for Catholics is precisely what Jedin found good, that is, the ultimately successful implementation of the decrees of Trent intended to strengthen the parish and its pastors" (104). This success deprived people of the life-giving kinship of medieval Christianity. Thus, Bossy posited two new terms, "traditional Christianity" and "translated Christianity," which O'Malley assesses in light of historiographical trends. In Germany Wolfgang Reinhard and Heinz Schilling substituted "confessionalization" for "confessional formation," reflecting the trend toward understanding the social effects of religion. Consequently, "the Confessional Age" has gained popularity.

O'Malley concludes his work with a synthesis of the previous chapters, reiterating the positive and negative aspects of the various terms that have come to be used to denote Catholicism in the early modern era. He suggests that the problem is not simply the result of historiographical approaches, but also stems from "the diversity and complexity of the subject under investigation" (121). After assessing the terminology in existence, O'Malley argues in favor of his term, "Early Modern Catholicism." In positing yet another term, he is not calling for the elimination of the others. Rather, he sees his term as complementing them. For O'Malley, this term is more flexible and allows for an understanding of Catholicism "from below," which is not the case with the other terms that are more focused on the actions of ecclesiastical and political officialdom. The term also allows for the incorporation of new roles played by Catholic women, lay and religious. While acknowledging the limitations of the term, O'Malley cont ends that it deserves a place among the others. For O'Malley, this term is better suited to understanding that "what happened in Catholicism in the 16th century was an aspect of Early Modern History, which it strongly influenced and by which it was itself in large measure determined" (143). O'Malley's work is important not only because it succinctly brings together the historiography of early modern Catholicism but, more importantly, because it impels scholars of the early modern era to look at Catholicism in a radically new way.

It is clear from the works that have been examined in this essay that Catholicism in the Renaissance was a vastly more multi-faceted, complex, and diverse force within society than has traditionally been assumed. These fine works attest to the symbiotic relationship between Renaissance culture and Catholicism that influenced and informed both the Church and the faithful as they made their way through the daily experiences of life. The picture of a monolithic institution that created clear lines of demarcation is no longer tenable, given the holistic approach to the study of Catholicism that is represented by these works. What we see instead is a Catholicism that adapted itself to circumstances to meet vibrantly the spiritual needs of the age.
COPYRIGHT 2001 Renaissance Society of America
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Jimenez de Cisneros: On the Threshold of Spain's Golden Age; Trent and All That: Renaming Catholicism in the Early Modern Era; The Jesuits: Cultures, Sciences, and the Arts, 1540-1773; Reform and Renewal in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance: Studies in Honor of Louis Pascoe; Religious Authority in the Spanish Renaissance
Author:Cesareo, Francesco C.
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 22, 2001
Words:5716
Previous Article:Marked Angels: Counterfeits, commodities, and The Roaring Girl (*).
Next Article:Cultural links between Portugal and Italy in the Renaissance. (Reviews).
Topics:


Related Articles
Dutch Literature in the Age of Rembrandt: Themes and Ideas.
The Myth of the Renaissance in Nineteenth-Century Writing.
Le corps comme metaphore dans l'Espagne des XVIe et XVIIe siecles.
The Religion of the Poor: Rural Missions in Europe and the Formation of Modern Catholicism, c. 1500-c. 1800.
The Transformation of Europ 1300-1600.
Women in Renaissance and Early Modern Europe. (Reviews).
Bailey, Art on the Jesuit Missions in Asia and Latin America, 1542-1773. (Reviews).
Early Modern Catholicism: Essays in Honour of John W. O'Malley, S. J. .
The World of Catholic Renewal 1540-1770; Kardinal Jean Jouffroy (1473): Leben und Werk; Seventeenth-Century Cultural Discourse: France and the...

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2020 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters