Two Catechisms: Dialogue on Christian Doctrine and Christian Instruction for Children.
Nieto has made an important contribution - one Marcel Bataillon himself later accepted - in pointing out Illuminist influences on Valdes, but his insistence on minimizing the significance of Erasmian or Lutheran ideas is more difficult to accept. The currents of spiritual reform in early sixteenth-century Spain are so commingled that the search for monogenesis is an invitation to frustration - a frustration reflected in the contentious tone of Nieto's essay.
Turning to the dialogue itself, we find that the cornerstone of Valdes's spirituality is piety based on faith and charity, which takes precedence over the "accessory" ceremonies of the Church. The Sabbath is truly kept, not by refraining from "digging and sewing" but by striving more fully for Christian perfection (169); true fasting is "abstinence from sin and vice" rather than over-indulgence in expensive fish (200); true prayer is in the "ardent desire of the soul rather than clamor and profusion of words" (207); the Virgin is more honored by imitation of her humility and chastity than by having masses said to her; all Christians, even women and children, are encouraged to study the Epistles. The attitude toward the priesthood is both critical and conciliatory. Antronio, the mouthpiece for the unreformed clergy, is presented as ignorant and venial, but tractable and good intentioned. He vows to follow his interlocutors' recommendation to read Erasmus, but at fifty, admits he is too old to learn Latin. His friends nonetheless come up with an ingenious solution - he will spend half his income hiring an educated assistant! In short, the major elements of Erasmian anti-ceremonialism, interior devotion, scripturalism and the call for clerical reform are undeniable. Valdes does go farther than Erasmus had at that time in his disregard for the sacrament of confession; but whether Valdes's concept of the role of grace is radically different from Erasmus's is still open to debate. In the end, the interest of the text, and the importance of this sprightly translation, lies less in the debate over the authenticity of Valdes's Erasmism than in the way this dialogue captures a moment of intellectual cross-fertilization and poignant hopefulness, a moment when a young converso like Valdes could imagine the spiritual regeneration of an ignorant, fifty-year-old priest.
ALISON WEBER University of Virginia, Charlottesville
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Jun 22, 1996|
|Previous Article:||The Yoke of Christ: Martin Bucer and Christian Discipline.|
|Next Article:||Le Parti conservateur au XVIe siecle: Universite et Parlement de Paris a l'epoque de la Renaissance et de la Reforme.|