Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Reforming the Church before Modernity: Patterns, Problems, and Approaches

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Reforming the Church before Modernity: Patterns, Problems, and Approaches

Article excerpt

General and Miscellaneous Reforming the Church before Modernity: Patterns, Problems, and Approaches. Edited by Christopher M. Bellitto and Louis I. Hamilton. General and Miscellaneous [Church, Faith and Culture in the Medieval West.] (Aldershot, England and Burlington, Vermont: Ashgate Publishing Company. 2006. Pp. xxiv, 224. $94.96.)

This book, the product of a conference, Ecclesia semper reformanda, held in 2002 at Fordham University in commemoration of the fortieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, is devoted to ecclesial reform from the late ancient to early modern worlds. Some of its authors are concerned with institutional reform, others with cultural approaches to their subject, and some are interested in the characterization of reform. Louis Hamilton introduces the book with a poorly written and not-always-precise essay, which nevertheless makes a number of shrewd historiographical observations.

The book is divided into four parts, the first on"Social Change and Religious Reform." In the first of two articles in this part, Robert A. Markus explains the implication for all subsequent history of the late antique Church's understanding of itself as primarily mystical rather than institutional, and of reform as primarily personal. Markus' is an essay in ambiguity, holding that, on the one hand, the Church should be judged by a standard external to itself, and on the other hand, that it should always be critical of whatever society it finds itself in. In the second article John Howe thoughtfully concentrates on recent scholarship on the eleventh century, which tends to demote such turning points as "the year 1000" in favor of centuries-long shifts and a society of great variation. Howe gives monasticism a central role in change and reform.

Part II, on "The Idea of Reform and the Intellectuals," begins with a wellinformed and substantial, if modish, article by Wayne J. Hankey on "Self and Cosmos in Becoming Deiform," studying "Reform by Self-Knowledge from Augustine to Aquinas." Here the argument is that the Neoplatonisms of Augustine and Aquinas have often been opposed to each other and to a modern "turn to the subject" in a way which in the case of the two medieval thinkers obscures a shared "conversion to deity" and in the case of the medieval thinkers contrasted to "the modern," obscures commonalities. …

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