Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Reforming Priests and Parishes: Tuscan Dioceses in the First Century of Seminary Education

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Reforming Priests and Parishes: Tuscan Dioceses in the First Century of Seminary Education

Article excerpt

Reforming Priests and Parishes: Tuscan Dioceses in the First Century of Seminary Education. By Kathleen M. Comerford. [Education and Society in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, Volume 27.] (Leiden: Brill. 2006. Pp. xx, 162. $118.00.)

Those of us who have the fortune to teach the basic liberal arts student the broad historical surveys realize that we often make sweeping generalizations. While Kathleen Comerford's book would not be appropriate for such a class, it is this kind of research that allows us to make, or qualify, those sweeping statements with some confidence. Comerford cites Hubert Jedin with one such generalization: "It would not be an exaggeration to say that, if the Council of Trent had done nothing else for the renewal of the Church but initiate the setting up of diocesan seminaries for priests, it would have done a great deal" (H. Jedin, Crisis and Closure of the Council of Trent [London: Sheed & Ward, 1967], p. 120). In a sense this is the generalization that she seeks to verify and ultimately calls into question.

Comerford's thesis is twofold: the first is the overall impact of Tridentine seminary legislation in the specific region of Tuscany; the second is a more specific comparison of the urban and rural areas of that region. The received wisdom, of course, echoing Jedin, is that Tridentine seminaries brought reform to the local level as seminary-trained priests returned to the parishes whence they came (p. xvi). Comerford's conclusions are somewhat more nuanced. After a brief historical overview of Tuscany, what follows is a rather detailed quantitative analysis (in the spirit of the Annales school) of Arezzo, Siena, Volterra, and Lucca. …

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