Jacopo Sadoleto, 1477-1547: Humanist and Reformer

Jacopo Sadoleto, 1477-1547: Humanist and Reformer

Jacopo Sadoleto, 1477-1547: Humanist and Reformer

Jacopo Sadoleto, 1477-1547: Humanist and Reformer

Excerpt

Studies of early Catholic Reform were once so heavily charged with anticipation that every zealous Bishop, like each new Theatine monk and every founding Jesuit, was said to belong to a single movement which led to the Council of Trent. What this perspective obscures is not only the great variety of reform projects locally preached and applied all over Europe, but also the range of disagreement among the reformers themselves. It likewise neglects the important difference between the activities of individuals, writing or working by themselves without recognition or support from Rome, and the corporate action of the whole Church, working later through the deliberative procedures of a council which was called on the Pope's initiative and conducted under his direction. If individual reformers prepared a way for the Council of Trent, they did so as much by their failures and feckless improvising as by their scattered achievements. If support for conciliar doctrine gained force among them during the early years of the religious schism, there were ancient fears still to be overcome in the hierarchy and the function of the council to be rediscovered in the Curia before it could materialize. The opening of the Council of Trent in 1545 became inevitable only after lesser remedies were found to be inadequate.

In the same way, the image of Sadoleto's career can be distorted by anticipating his later activity as a theorist and agent of reform too early. He went to Rome from Ferrara shortly before 1500 hungry for recognition as a man of letters, and it was poetry rather than piety which won him his first living in the Church. He died in Rome a Cardinal, still celebrated for the elegance of his Latin style and known only in late life as a public partisan of Catholic reform. Indeed it was not until the last fifteen of his seventy years that Sadoleto was closely associated . . .

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