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  • The Papacy since 1500: From Italian Prince to Universal Pastor
  • A. D. Wright
The Papacy since 1500: From Italian Prince to Universal Pastor. Edited by James Corkery and Thomas Worcester. (New York: Cambridge University Press. 2010. Pp. x, 275. $99.00. ISBN 978-0-521-50987-9.)

The ideal of analyzing the history of an institution—be it a religious order or, in this instance, the postmedieval papacy—by means of a chronological sequence of "case studies" is something associated with an editor of the present volume. Here it can be judged to have proved its value, fully justifying the incisive summary provided by the editors' conclusion, which extends to remarks on the present pontificate of Benedict XVI. More clearly in the conclusion than in the introduction, the editors argue convincingly that an evolving context of Italian, European, global, and media history has most influenced the changes demonstrable in the development of the popes' roles since 1500. Despite a notional centrality of pastoral care constant in the office of the bishops of Rome, there has been a dramatic shift, in the words of the book's subtitle, "from Italian Prince to Universal Pastor." In that process, for example, a painful reordering of papal response to war, however "just," and prioritizing of an imperative for peace have been necessary. Obvious turns in this usually unsought and therefore essentially reactive modification of behavior are identified, as with Revolutionary and Napoleonic captivity, loss of the Papal States, and the perplexities of two world wars. Admittedly the earlier chapters of the book, examining Julius II, Clement VII, Pius V, Sixtus V, Urban VIII, and Clement XI, are accomplished syntheses of existing research, such as one would expect from the scholars of stature who are the chapters' authors, rather than pioneering studies. But Kenneth Gouwens makes a good case that the often-criticized Clement VII rescued from seeming disaster not just Medici power in Tuscany but also some precarious stability in Italian affairs. At about the halfway point, one of [End Page 744] the volume's editors, Thomas Worcester, introduces his chapter on Pius VII with a valuable summary of some of the themes emerging in papal history from 1500 to 1800. The development of Catholicism in the United States, not neglected elsewhere in the later sections of the book, is included in the discussion of Pius VII, who also is treated appropriately to illustrate another role of certain popes: patron of the arts. Comparably, the troubled history of Irish Catholicism is brought within the chapter on the long and dramatic pontificate of Pius IX, alongside even larger considerations for the relationship of popes, the Catholic Church, other Christians, and post-Revolutionary society. Next analyzed is the pastoral sensitivity of Leo XIII as he responded to the conditions initially associated with industrialization and arguably laid the foundations for modern papal insistence on social justice as a human obligation. So, too, the subsequent exposition of the agonized decision of Benedict XV to declare "impartiality," not just "neutrality," in World War I, provides a splendidly instructive prelude to the vexed question of Pius XII in World War II. To John F. Pollard falls the task of assessing the notoriety (for some) of Pius XII and his supposed "silence." A magisterial balance is achieved by placing the pontificate within a survey of papal use of newsprint, radio, cinema, and television from Pius IX to John XXIII. The further advances on those fronts, as on that of global travel in person, are accordingly noted in the final chapter on John Paul II. This comes after a sensitive, penultimate reflection on the questionable "reception" of teaching by Paul VI and John Paul II on sexual behavior and war; although the volume went to press before the recent possibility, identified by some commentators elsewhere, that Benedict XVI intends to adjust a crucial element in the foundations of the former.

A. D. Wright
University of Leeds
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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-0708
Print ISSN
0008-8080
Pages
pp. 744-745
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-27
Open Access
No
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