The New Learning

Just as reform movements predated Luther's protests, so too did the growth of new learning and new thinking. Fifteenth-century Florence, universities across Europe, religious orders, and individuals such as Johannes Gutenberg (d. 1468) fostered a literacy and learning that changed the world in which Catholics lived and thought. In the second century AD printing had begun in China, but geographical separation and, later, the opposition of Islam prevented the invention from reaching Europe. In 1450 Gutenberg, a Mainz blacksmith, created a movable typeface of identical letters and invented what we know as the printing press. His masterpiece was the Forty-Two-Line Bible of 1455. Presses spread across Europe. Before the start of the sixteenth century over 28,000 editions of books had been printed. A vast new reading public grew up. As there was no copyright, pirated editions boosted sales.

BoswellsLife of Johnson , Everyman paperback (London: Dent, 1960), ii. 519. 55 See J. W. O'Malley, The First Jesuits (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1993).

Translations into modern languages spread the classical texts from ancient Greece and Rome. With its annual book fairs around Easter and in the early autumn, Frankfurt encouraged a booming publishing trade. Mass literacy was on the way. In the year 2000 many recalled Gutenberg's invention of the moveable typeface and dubbed him 'the man of the second millennium'. To celebrate his contribution to the spread of learning, some preachers used to invoke the memory of Gutenberg by opening their sermons with the words of John 1: 6—7: 'There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light.' A still-popular Christmas carol, 'Hark the Herald Angels Sing', uses a tune Felix Mendelssohn (1809—47) wrote for the 1840 Leipzig celebrations of Gutenberg.

Gutenberg made possible the new humanism of such figures as Erasmus and his witty and courageous friend, St Thomas More (1477—1535). Benedictines, Dominicans, and other older religious orders played an active role in the spread of literacy and learning. But from the sixteenth century, Jesuits became the schoolmasters of Europe and the New World, delivering a classical education to generations of students. In 1551 the Roman College had opened, to be eventually renamed the Gregorian University, the mother of Jesuit colleges and universities around the world.56 Other new religious institutes came on the scene to spread education. Mary Ward (1585—1645), a pioneer of an active, missionary ministry for religious women, founded the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In three branches it continues its educational work today. In 1680 St Jean Baptiste de La Salle founded the Brothers of the Christian Schools, also known as the De La Salle Christian Brothers. Other male and female religious congregations founded in the nineteenth century, such as the Faithful Companions of Jesus, the Society of the Sacred Heart, the Irish Christian Brothers, the Marist Brothers of the Schools, the Society of St Francis de Sales (commonly known as the Salesians) and various Franciscan Sisters continue to dedicate themselves to the ministry of education.

In the post-Gutenberg world, Catholics and others had many things to learn and to question. The new learning, no less than the discovery of other continents and the Reformation, challenged old certainties. Was monarchy God's chosen form of government, so that it would always be

56 See J. W. O'Malley et al . (eds.), The Jesuits: Culture, Science and the Arts 1540—1773 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999).

sinful to rebel against a monarch?57 Or could one agree with Juan Mariana (1536—1624) in justifying in certain circumstances the killing of tyrants? Was St Robert Bellarmine (1542—1621) correct in opposing the views of James I of England (1566—1625) on the Divine Rights of Kings, and in holding that popes enjoyed only indirect, not direct, power in temporal matters? Should or could the state be used to enforce church requirements? When Mary Tudor succeeded to the throne of England in 1553, she attempted to reverse the Reformation and restore the Catholic religion. Heresy trials claimed around 400 victims in the five years of her reign. When this Catholic revival ended in 1558 and Elizabeth I came to the throne, it took a hundred years to reach another total of 400 men and women executed, this time for their Catholic faith.

Around Europe, particularly in Northern Europe but not in Spain (where the Spanish Inquisition rejected the persecution of witches), trials of witches increased from the late fourteenth century and peaked in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Ordinary Catholics, Protestants, and Anglicans denounced their female neighbours whom they suspected of indulging in diabolic magic, especially by harming or even killing children. Widespread infant mortality fostered such suspicions. In pre-industrial Europe 20—30 per cent of all children died in the first year of life; only half of all children survived to 5 years of age. Over the centuries around 50,000 were executed for alleged witchcraft. Friedrich von Spee (1591—1635), a composer of hymns and pastoral poetry, was appointed confessor to women accused of witchcraft and quickly realized the insanity of the popular hysteria over witches. This Jesuit had, nevertheless, to accompany around 200 innocent victims to the stake. His attack on witchcraft trials, Cautio criminalism helped to bring their suppression in some places. Spee himself died in Trier when ministering to plague-stricken soldiers during the Thirty Years War.58

More than a century later, over in North America Charles Carroll (1737—1832) became the only Catholic among the fifty-five signatories of the American Declaration of Independence (1776). During the colonial era Catholics had been almost everywhere a despised and victimized minority. Along with his cousin, Archbishop John Carroll (1736—1815),

57 See P. K. Monod, The Power of Kings: Monarchy and Religion in Europe 1589—1715 (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1999).

58 See R. Briggs, Witches and Neighbours (London: Penguin, 1998); and Witchcraft', Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church , 1757—8.

the first Catholic bishop in the United States and the founder of Georgetown University, Charles Carroll came to symbolize American religious freedom and a sense that the Catholic faith could and should be reconciled with the best features of the new, democratic political order.

Across the Atlantic the European union of altar and throne, which reached back to Emperor Constantine and was widely considered the happy norm for Catholic life, came to a grinding halt when the furies raged in the French Revolution. A well-educated parish clergy had led the people in the practice of the Catholic faith. Inspired by the work of St Vincent de Paul (1581-1660) and St Louise de Marillac (1591-1660), religious men and women dedicated themselves to the care of the sick and the poor. The Reign of Terror (1793-4) targeted clergy and religious along with aristocrats, while the revolutionary government slaughtered devout peasant masses in the Vendée. When Napoleon had Pius VI (pope 1775-99) carried off as a prisoner to France, he took the Catholic Church to the edge. The troubles of the French Revolution unhinged papal power and prestige, and reduced the Catholic Church in France to its weakest state in over a thousand years. But the ministry of the Curé of Ars, St Jean-Baptiste Marie Vianney (1786-1859), Lourdes as a place of pilgrimage for millions since the 1858 visions of St Bernadette Soubirous (1844-79), and the remarkable flowering of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus symbolize the dramatic resurgence of Catholicism in post-Napoleonic France and beyond.

The nineteenth-century Pius IX, despite some attractive features of his reign, epitomizes the resistance to better insights of modern reason. Opposed to freedom of speech and religion, he used public executions in an attempt to maintain public order right up to 1870, when the papal states fell and the forces of united Italy entered Rome. Although the nineteenth century saw the emancipation of Jews in most countries, in 1850 Pio Nono had reinstated in the city the closed ghetto for Jews and introduced anti-Jewish legislation. At a time when slavery was being abolished, he argued that it could be reconciled with divine revelation and the natural law. Pio Nono died in 1878, exactly one century before the election of John Paul II, a pope who rejected the death penalty, repeatedly asked pardon for the wrongs Catholics have committed against Jews, and worked hard to further dialogue between the Catholic Church and other Christian communities. During the pontificate of Pio Nono, John Paul II would have been gaoled in Castel San Angelo for saying, writing, and doing such things. At the end of the twentieth century his international impact depended in part on something Pio Nono could not imagine: namely, being freed in 1870 from the burden and limitation of governing a sovereign country, the papal states.

Both before and after Pio Nono, Catholics and other Christians faced a serious challenge from the Enlightenment, the first major intellectual movement in the Western world to develop outside the control of the Catholic Church (and of Christianity in general) for well over a thousand years. It started in seventeenth-century Europe (and spread to North America), resisted authority and tradition, championed human rights, encouraged empirical methods in scientific research, and aimed at deciding issues through the use of reason alone.59 Many figures of the Enlightenment rejected miracles and special divine revelation, and could be strongly opposed to traditional Christianity. The First Vatican Council (1869/70) defended a proper collaboration between faith (the response to divine revelation) and reason (DH 3015—19; ND 131—5). The theological and philosophical debate with those who upheld the autonomy of human reason eventually led to the Second Vatican Council's Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes) and John Paul II's 1998 encyclical on faith and reason, Fides et Ratio. But, quite apart from these and earlier official responses, the frightful tragedies of modern times have robbed of much of its appeal the brave new world of the secular Enlightenment. In any case desanitized versions of the Enlightenment have made it clear that such heroes as David Hume (1711—76) and even Immanuel Kant (1724—1804) excluded blacks from the equality and freedoms they championed. The rights of 'man' did not always include even the rights of (white) women.60

The second half of this chapter, from the discoveries initiated by Christopher Columbus in 1492 until the twentieth century, has describe various overlapping movements that have deeply configured contemporary Catholicism (and indeed Christianity at large): the expansion of Europe into the Americas, Asia, Africa, and Oceania; the changes associated with the Protestant Reformation and the Council of Trent; the new

59 See J. I. Israel, Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650—1750 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).

60 See J. Shaw, 'The Late Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries', in R. Harries and H. Mayr-Harting (eds.), Christianity: Two Thousand Years (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 162-91, at 178-86.

learning facilitated by Johannes Gutenberg's invention of the printing press (1450); the American Declaration of Independence (1776), the shock of the French Revolution (1789), and the challenge of the Enlightenment.

0 0

Post a comment