Gerson and the Great Schism

Gerson and the Great Schism

Gerson and the Great Schism

Gerson and the Great Schism

Excerpt

It would generally be conceded that Jean Gerson is one of the writers of the era of the Schism who most influenced the formulation of later doctrines on the nature of the Church and its government. In the century after his death he is constantly quoted by the Conciliar rebels of the period of the Council of Basel and by the later remnants of the same tradition, such as John Major and Jacques Almain, at Paris in the early sixteenth century. Luther knew and approved of some of his writings, while he was appealed to by the seventeenth-century protagonists of 'Gallican Liberties', such as Edmond Richer, who wrote an Apologia on behalf of the dead Chancellor of Paris.

The majority of Gerson's posthumous admirers belonged to schools of thought linked to the traditions of Gallican particularism and opposition to the Papacy; this fact accounts for the suspicious attitude shown by more orthodox theologians and historians towards this upholder of Conciliar supremacy. In such circumstances the polemics of both sides tended to submerge an objective examination of Gerson's doctrines and to make of him a symbol, praised or denounced, in controversies of centuries later than his own. Neglect of any attempt at appreciation of the topical circumstances in which Gerson was driven to discuss the problems of Church government led to a failure to grasp the essential fact that his ecclesiological works are not primarily systematic and abstract treatises, but livres de circonstance.

Much valuable work on Gerson has been done in the past century, since Schwab's classic biography set the standard for a dispassionate and historical approach to the great doctor and preacher. Despite this efflorescence of Gersoniana it is remarkable that no specific study of Gerson's ecclesiology appears to have been made. It would be presumptuous to say that the present study proposes to fill the gap; rather does it attempt to indicate the lines on which further detailed investigation might be pursued.

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