Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Reforms of the Council of Constance (1414-1418)

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Reforms of the Council of Constance (1414-1418)

Article excerpt

The Reforms of the Council of Constance (1414-1418). By Phillip H. Stump. [Studies in the History of Christian Thought, Volume LIII.] (Leiden: E. J. Brill. 1994. Pp. xv, 463. $151.50.)

Following an eruption of interest in the Council of Constance prompted by Vatican Council II, the flow began to cool, perhaps due to the obstacles presented by the famous Constance decrees, Haec sancta (a council's authority derives directly from Christ) and Frequens (councils must assemble every ten years), and the censure of Hans Kung, who based some of his early work on Constance. Now two scholars who were in for the long haul" have come to the fore: Walter Brandmuller, the first volume of whose history of the council appeared in 1991, and this first-rate work on its reform program by a younger American scholar. Neither the method, nor the price, will attract the novice, but-to his credit-Stump spent much effort mastering canon law texts and the art of editing manuscripts, as well as the usual historical tools, before he brought his work to publication. The result is a substantial work which includes a lengthy critical apparatus and a new edition of a central document, the deliberations of the council's Reform Committee. Earlier works on Constance-especially those by Bernhard Hubler and Johannes Haller-stressed either political history, or-more recently-ecclesiology, but Stump adds a third emphasis, the reform ideology itself, for which purpose he adopts the framework of Gerhart Ladner's pioneering study, The Idea of Reform (1959). Ladner's method combines a close analysis of concrete reform measures with an analysis of the images by which the reformers envisioned them, above all their diverse attitudes toward change, as expressed in key terms and phrases. As to concrete measures, Stump gives a detailed account of proposed reforms in three major areas: papal finances and provisions (e.g., indulgences, annates, reservations, expectancies); reform of the head (alienations, transfers, deposition); and reform of the members (morality, qualifications, and performance of clergy). The results combined heated debate, some enactment, and much compromise, but left a considerable number of areas to the new pope, Martin V, to work out in the form of concordats with the nation-states. …

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