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692BOOK REVIEWS Olivi and Franciscan Poverty:The Origins ofthe Usus Pauper Controversy. By David Burr. [Middle Ages Series.] (PhUadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. 1989. Pp. xii,211. $39.95.) When Olivi and Franciscan Poverty was pubUshed six years ago, it was not as widely reviewed as it might have been. The book's full importance has become apparent with the appearance of Burr's next book, Olivi's Peaceable Kingdom. Together they constitute one of the most sophisticated studies of Peter Olivi's thought yet produced, and offer considerable insight into the very complex theological debates Ui which OUvi participated—debates that were to have a critical effect on the fourteenth-century church. Most treatments of the controversy over usus pauper have foUowed Franz Ehrle in working backward from the debate at the CouncU ofVienne (13101312 ) toward the origins of the idea in the late thirteenth century. Burr finds a fresh perspective by working forward from the 1270's and by concentrating on the period Ui which OUvi was involved, 1279-1299- After a very perceptive chapter on the state of the order Ui the 1270's, he argues that ususpauper was not an issue before 1279, but quickly became one when OUvi developed it as a response to Dominican attacks on Franciscan notions of apostoUc poverty. Moreover, Burr contends, the focus of the conflict over ususpauper within the Franciscan order was not the idea of "poor use" itsetf, but OUvi's insistence that the Franciscan vow ofpoverty required members of the order to limit their use ofgoods only to those things absolutely necessary to theU mission. OUvi's Franciscan critics were fearful that this kind of vow would engender constant anxiety Ui the order, impede spUitual progress, and undo some delicate provisions of Pope Nicholas Ill's decree Exiit, which favored the Franciscans. They considered Olivi's idea a dangerous blunder that would play into the hands of the order's enemies. On the one hand, they argued, the absoluteness of OUvi's vow would leave friars constantly on the brink of famine; on the other, its indeterminacy would render friars incapable of deciding the precise point at which the vow was violated, even though violation was a mortal sin. As much as Olivi's opponents worried about the lack of specific objects in his version ofthe vow and the dangers of its widespread violation by the order, Olivi himself delighted Ui the spiritual adventure such a vow offered. In this sense, Burr suggests, OUvi was closer to the spirit of the early Franciscans than his opponents. If Olivi and his critics were dramatically divided on the theory of poor use, they were fairly close when it came to practice. OUvi's opponents were no laxists , but beUeved that friars should sensibly restrict their use of goods. And Olivi had an essentially simUar point of view. This was the reason he was so unsympathetic to the ItaUan zealots who sought to escape the control of theU superiors during the reign of Celestine V The zealots were pressing for immediate changes in the order's observance of poverty; OUvi was basicaUy satisfied with contemporary observance, although he foresaw future decline. Burr is particularly good at delineating the differences among the several rigorist factions loosely joined by aUegiance to ususpauper. These groups had ex- BOOK REVIEWS693 isted before usus pauper became an issue, and tiieir ???efGe?^a??ß varied a good deal. The Sptfituals were hardly a party untU serious persecution forged theU unity after Olivi's death Ui 1298. SimUarly, the Conventuals were created by the resistance of the SpUituals to the leadership's attempts to regularize the order's practice of poverty. They, too, coalesced only in the decade before the CouncU ofVienne. Olivi and Franciscan Poverty ends with a brief treatment of OUvi's apocalyptic views, providing a link with Olivi's Peaceable Kingdom. Both books are essential reading for anyone interested in the history of Franciscan poverty and late medieval reUgious thought. Thomas Turley Santa Clara University The Baltic Crusade. ByWUUam L. Urban. Second edition, revised and enlarged. (Chicago: Lithuanian Research and Studies Center. 1994. Pp. v, 366.) In the two decades since the first edition of The...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-0708
Print ISSN
0008-8080
Pages
pp. 692-693
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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