The Cambridge Modern History - Vol. 2

By John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton; A. W. Ward et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XII.
THE CATHOLIC SOUTH.

THE great wave of revolution and reconstruction which was passing over northern Europe in the earlier half of the sixteenth century did not leave the south untouched. Though the first actual outbreak occurred beyond the Alps, the feeling to which it gave expression was not merely Teutonic. Many of the causes which led up to it were common to all Western Christendom; some, as for instance the demand for liberty of opinion and free enquiry, were even more characteristic of Italy than of Germany. Accordingly, vigorous attempts arose in many parts of southern Europe to bring about a reformation in the Church--attempts which were by no means a mere echo of the changes in the north. But they never obtained a really strong hold upon the affections of the common people, and never secured the friendship, or even the neutrality, of the civil power; and so, both in Italy and in the Iberian peninsula, their suppression was only a question of time. By the year 1576, when the charges against Bartolomé Carranza were finally adjudicated upon, they were practically at an end. Isolated cases of heresy still occurred, but there was no longer anything like an organised revolt against the doctrinal or disciplinary system of the Papacy.

In tracing the course of the Reform movements of southern Europe we are dealing with forces which became more widely divergent as time went on. Men at first acted together who ultimately found themselves violently opposed to one another; principles were adduced on the same side which proved in time to be sharply contrasted. The old-standing desire to curb the power of the Curia and to vindicate the authority of General Councils over the whole Church joined hands in the earlier stages of the movement with the wider, yet more individualistic, aspirations of the Renaissance. Men who had come under the influence of the new spirit in any of its manifestations were able to work together at first, whether they strove to reconstruct a worn-out theology, or to abolish corrupt practices, or to restore the standard of personal devotion and moral conduct. It was only by degrees that the ascetic, the humanist, and the doctrinal Reformer drifted into relations of antagonism; but this was the position ultimately reached. And a stronger line of division appeared as time went on. There were some who refused to take any step which

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