Wednesday, August 24, 2005

a post-script and end of chapter


I meant to comment about the attacks on Jewish people during the Old Church period. MacCulloch says that the increased medieval emphasis on Christ's sufferings encouraged some to inflame hatred against the Jews, blaming them for Christ's death -- he particularly points out Franciscans in the 11th Century, and then briefly mentions the blood libel, false, horrible stories about Jews that further gave permission for this hatred to be acted out.

When we were in York this summer, there was a plaque at the bottom of the large, free-standing tower, a remnant of the York castle. The inscription referred to the murder of Jewish families (500 or so?) by a mob.

What a piece of work we are, capable of such evil.

Last night, I finished the first chapter on the Old Church -- (if you just dropped in, we're discussing MacCulloch's The Reformation). I think we like to read history as a nice, neatly organized set of facts, set out in a flat two-dimensional map. Instead, it is topographical, isn't it? (more climbing) A little here, something else contradictory over there, and before you know it, boom, things happen.

He tells us that the line between established government and church got all tangled, and in a situation similar to China today, rulers in some places demanded the right to pick bishops, and to withhold certain privileges from the Pope and Rome over Church business in their countries.

He also gives a very quick and understandable outline of Catholic orders. I had never made a distinction between monks (stationed at a monastery, often overseeing income producing properties) and friars, itinerant, more dependent on local charity, more inclined to preach and connect to the public, as well as regular (members of communal orders) priests and secular (parish) priests, and how cardinals developed, and he provides a quick overview of the tension between consolidating papal authority and those who wanted more power invested in councilor groups of bishops to serve as a break for the possibility that the Devil or anti-Christ could become Pope -- a point that Martin Luther would later raise.

But it was the politics, local, and messy. Much later in the 19th Century, the Oxford Movement started in part, because Parliament wanted to reduce the number of Anglican dioceses in Ireland, a mostly Catholic country. This action by secular Establishment was an affront to Newman, Keble, et. al., and they ranted against giving up Church authority to secular whim and rationalization. They wrote tracts, and eventually a couple of people lost teaching positions, and one fellow lost his degree from Oxford. Nobody went to jail. They would have been particularly upset by various degrees of secular rulers control and involvement in pre-Reformation period (although as anointed rulers, kings had some type of God anointed but a-symmetrical relationship with the Church).

Jan Hus' group, the Utraquists, supported Czech language worship in Bohemia, with bread and wine for the laity at mass -- hey, they were Anglicans before Anglicans existed. MacCulloch says that John Wyclif (is that the spelling we usually use?) and his teaching at Oxford had made its way to Prague to influence Hus, so I guess there is an English spark to Hus' group. Hus was burned at the stake for leading this movement.

No nation states yet, but lots of rulers consolidating kingdoms and power. Which reminds me of Newman (sorry for bringing him and the 19th Century up again), but after he returned from Italy at the conclusion of the first Vatican Council, he pointed out to a friend the irony that just as the Council codified the Pope's infallibility in teaching and dogma, he lost his temporal power over Rome and what was left of the Papal States with the unification of Italy.

Your flitting around co-reader,


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