- The Popes and European Revolution by Owen Chadwick, and: The Papacy in the Modern World by J. Derek Holmes (review)
- The Thomist: A Speculative Quarterly Review
- The Catholic University of America Press
- Volume 48, Number 4, October 1984
- pp. 702-704
- View Citation
- Additional Information
702 BOOK REVIEWS l'he Popes and European Revolution. By OWEN CHADWICK. Oxford: The Clarendon Press; New York: Oxford University Press, 1981. Pp. 646. $84.00. l'he Papacy in the Modern World. By J. DEREK HOLMES. New York: Crossroad, 1981. Pp. 275. $14.95. In 1769 Clement XIII died, causing Horace Walpole to wonder when the cardinals would elect "the last Pope." More than two centuries later the last Pope is with us still-evidence of the adaptability and durability of the office. Both of these books support G. K. Chesterton's pointed claim that, just when the Church seemed to be going to the dogs, it was the dog that died. Owen Chadwick describes with characteristic mastery the changes which overtook the papacy and the Catholic Church as a result of the French Revolution. His findings, always informative, are occasionally surprising and come by way of a method which is at times unusual. Professor Chadwick's general approach is to describe this upheaval from the point of view of the Catholic countries ultimately affected by the Revolution : Austria, Spain, Italy, and especially the Papal States. He does this by first supplying the pieces of a large and complicated puzzle: the state of the Church before the Revolution. The mass of research here is staggering and, at times, excessive. If there is a weakness in the book it is the barrage of minute details concerning Processions, Bells, Witchcraft, German hymns, and Feast Days-history from the " bottom up"-which is too unwieldy for a book of this sort. On the other hand some details, most notably those concerning the value of money, are left unexplained. Thus the reader is given prices, possessions, and incomes variously in scudi, ducats, florins, livres, and gulden without so much as a hint as to what-these things are worth. Such defects, however, must not cloud our vision of the genius found in the later chapters. Professor Chadwick is at his very best in discussing the Pope, the fall of the Jesuits, and the Revolution itself. These chapters are superbly written and display a necessary blend of criticism about and sympathy with a Church under pressure. Chadwick's treatment of J ansenism is typical. Long stigmatized as a rigid and backward elite, J ansenism receives a fair hearing in this book and is shown to be a widespread reform movement, taking on different forms in different countries. It sought to learn the Fathers; to move toward a vernacular liturgy; to correct abuses in sermons, stipends, and (amazingly) the reception of communion. It suspected new devotions like that of the Sacred BOOK REVIEWS 708 Heart, and attempted to redirect endowments away from cult and masses into pastoral care (p. 394). Chadwick's thesis is that the papacy changed after the French Revolution , but not necessarily because of the French Revolution. The Pope became less political, though some unhappy associations were to remain throughout the nineteenth century; he became more spiritual, and more spiritually powerful; he began to recognize secularization as the only workable way of life. Napoleon was partly responsible for this change because of the use he, tried to make of the Pope: " For private policy he raised the Pope so that men saw how Popes were still needed to make Emperors, and then turned the same Pope into a confessor who survived the image of martyrdom (p. 513) ." Yet much of the change was coming despite the Revolution, despite Napoleon. As many changes came to the Church at Trent because of the urgency of Reformation, so also many changes came to the papacy almost before their time, precipitated by the urgency of Revolution. These changes, it seems, would have come about in their own good time, and were merely hastened by the rush of events. " Revolutions do much. Afterwards they are seen not to have done quite so much as the revolutionaries thought (p. 611) ." Professor Chadwick begins the book with a note of thanks to Lord Acton, who would indeed be proud of the general excellence of Church History studies in this century, and of the particular achievement of this fine book. Derek Holmes brings to a conclusion his '"trilogy" about the...