“Seeking the Truth” (Reinsch, ed.)

In March, the Catholic University of America Press released “Seeking the Truth: An Orestes Brownson Anthology,” edited by Richard M. Reinsch II (Liberty Fund). The publisher’s description follows:

Seeking the TruthThis anthology of essays from the great nineteenth-century thinker Orestes A. Brownson will engage the reader with key writings from one of the most compelling American Catholic intellectuals. Brownson was a spiritual seeker who migrated through Presbyterianism, Universalism, skepticism, Unitarianism, and Transcendentalist thought, and finally at age 41 to Catholicism. Politically he found himself anticipating socialism in the 1830s, then, turning into a disciple of John Calhoun’s states rights constitutionalism, and later he incorporated his criticisms of mass democracy into a unique philosophical defense of the Constitution that emerged in full bloom during the Civil War.

Brownson’s life, in its several phases, turns, and allegiances, has remained noteworthy for his rejection of modern pragmatism’s aim to obtain material comfort in service of man’s desires, while deemphasizing deeper concerns for philosophical and spiritual truth. Brownson’s writings, born from his existential wranglings were, therefore, addressed to our authentic human longings to know the truth about ourselves.

If much of late modern thought can be characterized as dualistic, fractured, and subjective, Brownson’s questing was that of a modern intellectual using modern philosophical resources in dialogue with pre-modern and classical sources to recover the dialectical whole of knowledge. Therefore the intellectual quest must contemplate the natural and the supernatural, reason and faith, religion and science, the various levels and forms of political authority, the beginning and end of man, and the relationships that exist among these sets of inquiries. Resulting from Brownson’s study of these universal questions is also a particular application of his learning. Brownson, unlike almost any other American figure, illumined the promises and the limitations of American institutions while also seeking to edify its experiment with republican self-government.

This anthology collection will be of great use for academics, graduate and undergraduate students, seminarians, and educated lay readers. the significance of Seeking the Truth is how it allows the reader to walk with Brownson through his intellectual journey and gain a further understanding of one of the best social, political, and religious thinkers of the nineteenth century.

Comerford, “Jesuit Foundations and Medici Power, 1532-1621”

In October, Brill Publishers will release “Jesuit Foundations and Medici Power, 1532-1621,” by Kathleen M. Comerford, Ph.D. (University of Wisconsin). The publisher’s description follows:

Brill_logoJesuit Foundations and Medici Power, 1532-1621 focuses on the cooperation between two new foundations, the last Medici state and the Society of Jesus, spanning nearly a century, concentrating on the Jesuit foundations in Florence, Siena, and Montepulciano. As the Medici built and centralized their power in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, they sought to control both the civic and religious behavior of their citizens. They found partners in the Jesuits, whose educational program helped establish social order and maintain religious orthodoxy. Via a detailed investigation of both minor and major Italian Jesuit colleges, and of multiple Medici rulers, Kathleen M. Comerford provides insight into church/state cooperation in an age in which both institutions underwent significant changes.

“Pope Innocent II (1130-43)” (Doran & Smith, eds.)

In June, Routledge released “Pope Innocent II (1130-43): The World vs. The City,” edited by John Doran (University of Chester) and Damian J. Smith (St. Louis University).  The publisher’s description follows:

The pontificate of Innocent II (1130-1143) has long been recognized as a watershed in the history of the papacy, marking the transition from the age of reform to the so-9781472421098called papal monarchy, when an earlier generation of idealistic reformers gave way to hard-headed pragmatists intent on securing worldly power for the Church. Whilst such a conception may be a cliché its effect has been to concentrate scholarship more on the schism of 1130 and its effects than on Innocent II himself. This volume puts Innocent at the centre, bringing together the authorities in the field to give an overarching view of his pontificate, which was very important in terms of the internationalization of the papacy, the internal development of the Roman Curia, the integrity of the papal state and the governance of the local church, as well as vital to the development of the Kingdom of Sicily and the Empire.

MacCulloch, “All Things Made New”

In September, Oxford University Press will release All Things Made New: The Reformation and Its Legacy by Diarmaid MacCulloch (Oxford). The publisher’s description follows:

All things made newThe most profound characteristic of Western Europe in the Middle Ages was its cultural and religious unity, a unity secured by a common alignment with the Pope in Rome, and a common language – Latin – for worship and scholarship. The Reformation shattered that unity, and the consequences are still with us today. In All Things Made New, Diarmaid MacCulloch, author of the New York Times bestseller Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years, examines not only the Reformation’s impact across Europe, but also the Catholic Counter-Reformation and the special evolution of religion in England, revealing how one of the most turbulent, bloody, and transformational events in Western history has shaped modern society.

The Reformation may have launched a social revolution, MacCulloch argues, but it was not caused by social and economic forces, or even by a secular idea like nationalism; it sprang from a big idea about death, salvation, and the afterlife. This idea – that salvation was entirely in God’s hands and there was nothing humans could do to alter his decision – ended the Catholic Church’s monopoly in Europe and altered the trajectory of the entire future of the West.

By turns passionate, funny, meditative, and subversive, All Things Made New takes readers onto fascinating new ground, exploring the original conflicts of the Reformation and cutting through prejudices that continue to distort popular conceptions of a religious divide still with us after five centuries. This monumental work, from one of the most distinguished scholars of Christianity writing today, explores the ways in which historians have told the tale of the Reformation, why their interpretations have changed so dramatically over time, and ultimately, how the contested legacy of this revolution continues to impact the world today.

Salonen, “Papal Justice in the Late Middle Ages”

In April, Routledge released “Papal Justice in the Late Middle Ages: The Sacra Romana Rota,” by Kirsi Salonen (University of Turku).  The publisher’s description follows:

This is a study of the history and function of the highest ecclesiastical tribunal, the Sacra Romana Rota, from the twelfth to the sixteenth centuries. Despite its 9781472482266importance for Christendom and in contrast with other important papal offices, the activity of the Rota has never been thoroughly investigated on the basis of archival sources, in large part due to the vast source material and the perceived “difficulty” of the subject. This book fills this significant gap by explaining how the Rota functioned-its organization, the phases of a Rota process, everyday practices at the tribunal-and the kinds of issues it handled, where the processes originated from and how long they lasted. The study demonstrates that the Rota dealt with a range of cases much broader than has previously been acknowledged, whilst also confirming that the tribunal mainly oversaw litigation over benefices. The results of this research reveal the true role of the Rota and its significance for Christians from the middle ages to the dawn of the Reformation.

Pope Francis in Armenia

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Pope Francis and Patriarch Karekin II of the Armenian Church (Crux)

Last weekend, Pope Francis made an apostolic journey to Armenia, a small, landlocked country of three million in the South Caucasus, bordering Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. The official motto of his journey was “Visit to the First Christian Nation,” a reference to Armenia’s being the first state to adopt Christianity as its official religion, in 301 A.D., a matter of great national pride. Only a small percentage of Armenians are Roman Catholics; more than 90% belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church, a member of the Oriental Orthodox communion. Yet Francis received an enthusiastic reception from the Armenian Church hierarchy, the government, and the everyday people who crowded his public events. It’s worth focusing on the reasons for the warm welcome, and on the diplomatic and ecumenical significance of his journey.

Armenia is in a rough neighborhood. To the east, the country is locked in a frozen conflict with Azerbaijan, a majority-Muslim country, over Nagorno Karabakh, a region populated by Christian Armenians that seeks independence from Azerbaijan. A ceasefire has been in effect for about 20 years. In April, Azerbaijan renewed the conflict; Armenians successfully resisted the Azerbaijani attack, and the ceasefire was restored, but nerves remain on edge. To the west, Azerbaijan’s ally, Turkey, another Muslim-majority nation, has closed its border with Armenia, preventing needed economic development. To the north, relations with Georgia are peaceful but mixed; Georgia has its own breakaway regions and leans towards Azerbaijan in the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. The only strategic partner Armenia has in the region is its neighbor to the south, the Islamic Republic of Iran, which, somewhat surprisingly for outsiders, cooperates with Armenia on a number of issues. Armenia also has close relations with Russia. Indeed, the US typically thinks of Armenia as Russia’s proxy in the Caucasus. But the situation is more complicated than that. Russia plays both sides of the conflict in Nagorno Karabakh—it sells weapons to Armenia and Azerbaijan–and Armenians increasingly distrust it. As I say, a rough neighborhood.

The pope’s visit was a welcome sign that the outside world, and especially the West, has not forgotten Armenia. Even more, in Armenia, Francis once again went out of his way to use the word “genocide” to describe the massacre of as many as 1.5 million Armenians in Ottoman Turkey during World War I. Before the visit, the Vatican had suggested Francis Continue reading

Mooney, “Clare of Assisi and the Thirteenth-Century Church”

In August, the University of Pennsylvania Press will release “Clare of Assisi and the Thirteenth-Century Church
Religious Women, Rules, and Resistance,” by Catherine M. Mooney (Boston College).  The publisher’s description follows:

In a work based on a meticulous analysis of sources, many of them previously unexplored, Catherine M. Mooney upends the received account of Clare of Assisi’s PennPressBlueLogofounding of the Order of San Damiano, or Poor Clares. Mooney offers instead a stark counternarrative: Clare, her sisters of San Damiano, and their allies struggled against a papal program bent on regimenting, enriching, and enclosing religious women in the thirteenth century, a program that proved largely successful.

Mooney demonstrates that Clare (1194-1253) established a single community that was soon cajoled, perhaps even coerced, into joining an order previously founded by the papacy. Artfully renaming it after Clare’s San Damiano with Clare as its putative mother, Pope Gregory IX enhanced his order’s cachet by associating it also with Continue reading

Rist, “Popes and Jews, 1095-1291”

In March, the Oxford University Press released “Popes and Jews, 1095-1291,” by Rebecca Rist.  The publisher’s description follows:

In Popes and Jews, 1095-1291, Rebecca Rist explores the nature and scope of the relationship of the medieval papacy to the Jewish communities of western Europe. Rist 9780198717980analyses papal pronouncements in the context of the substantial and on-going social, political, and economic changes of the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries, as well the characters and preoccupations of individual pontiffs and the development of Christian theology. She breaks new ground in exploring the other side of the story – Jewish perceptions of both individual popes and the papacy as an institution – through analysis of a wide range of contemporary Hebrew and Latin documents. The author engages with the works of recent scholars in the field of Christian-Jewish relations to examine the social and legal status of Jewish communities in light of the papacy’s authorisation of crusading, prohibitions against money lending, and condemnation of the Talmud, as well as increasing charges of ritual murder and host desecration, the growth of both Christian and Jewish polemical literature, and the advent of the Mendicant Orders.

Popes and Jews, 1095-1291 is an important addition to recent work on medieval Christian-Jewish relations. Furthermore, its subject matter – religious and cultural exchange between Jews and Christians during a period crucial for our understanding of the growth of the Western world, the rise of nation states, and the development of relations between East and West – makes it extremely relevant to today’s multi-cultural and multi-faith society.

Rafferty, “Violence, Politics and Catholicism in Ireland”

In February, Four Courts Press released “Violence, Politics and Catholicism in Ireland,” by Oliver P. Rafferty (Boston College).  The publisher’s description follows:

This collection of essays looks at the interrelated themes of Catholicism, violence and politics in the Irish context in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. setwidth440-rafferty-violence-politics-catholicismAlthough much effort was expended by institutional Catholicism in trying to curb the violent propensities of the Fenians in the nineteenth century and the IRA in the twentieth, its efforts were largely unsuccessful. Ironically, Catholicism had greater achievements to boast of in its influence in the British Empire as a whole than over its wayward flock in Ireland. But there was a cost in the church’s commitment to British imperial expansion that did not always sit easily with growing nationalist expectations in Ireland.

Although it provided support for the British forces in the First World War, by the time of the Second World War the church’s views of that conflict differed little from those of the government of independent Ireland, although there were sufficient differences that ensured Catholicism was not just nationalism at prayer.

These and other issues such as religious perceptions of the Famine, Cardinal Cullen’s role in shaping the ethos of Irish Catholicism and the role of memory, including religious memory, in Irish violence combine to make this a fascinating study.

Fejérdy, “Pressed By a Double Loyalty”

In June, Central European University Press will release “Pressed By a Double Loyalty: Hungarian Attendance at the Second Vatican Council, 1959-1965” by András Fejérdy (Institute of History of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences). The publisher’s description follows:

The Second Vatican Council is the single most influential event in the twentieth-century history of the Catholic Church. The book analyzes the relationship between the Council and the “Ostpolitik” of the Vatican through the history of the Hungarian presence at Vatican II.

Pope John XXIII, elected in 1958, was a catalyst. He thought that his most urgent task was to renew contacts with the Church behind the iron curtain.

Hungary, too, did not consider Vatican II primarily an ecclesiastical event. It was considered a component of the negotiations between the Holy See and the Kádár regime: Hungarian participation at the Council was made possible by the new pragmatic attitude in Hungarian church politics. After the crushing of the 1956 Revolution, churches in Hungary thought that the regime would last and were willing to compromise. During the Council Hungary became the experimental laboratory of the Vatican’s new eastern policy. Fejérdy tries to establish whether it was it a Vatican decision or a Soviet instruction.

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