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Rivka Feldhay Authority, Political Theology, and the Politics of Knowledge in the Transition from Medieval to Early Modern Catholicism INTRODUCTION ON THE TWENTY-FIFTH AND LAST SESSION OF THE COUNCIL OF TRENT in 1563, the council ordered discussion of the reform of the Catholic prayer book, the Breviary and Missal. The discussion naturally drew attention to the sour problem of the calendar th at had led, in the afterm ath of Trent to the printing of a num ber of works on this issue. Luther’s reactions to these Catholic scientific concerns were typical enough. According to historian J. North, Luther thought that calendars have nothing to do w ith faith (North, 1983:101). But for Catholics, the problem of the calendar had not disappeared after Trent. In fact, in 1582 Pope Gregory XIII (1502-1585) published a papal bull, prom ulgat­ ing the reform of the calendar nam ed after him, the Gregorian calendar (Ziggelaar, 1983: 201-239). The bull followed the recom m endation of a congregation nom inated by the pope, whose work lasted for ten years, betw een 1572 and 1582. The congregation included three prom inent prelates, a specialist of the Arabic language and culture from Maltha social research Vol 73 : No 4 : W inter 200 6 1065 nam ed Leonardo Abel, experts on canon law and church history, and three m athem aticians (Baldini, 1983: 137-138). The com m ittee was presided by the Jesuit m athem atician Christoph Clavius (Clavius, 1603), the m an who was responsible more than anyone else for instituting a m athem atical program of studies as part of the curriculum in all Jesuit universities. These became the m ost respected centers of m athem atical teaching in Europe. The historical episode of the calendar catches som ething of the spirit in w hich knowledge was bonded to faith in the Catholic tradi­ tion. Despite the tensions th at pervaded Christianity around this issue, the High Middle Ages bequeathed to th eir early m odern successors an im pressive synthesis o f the sacred message and natural know l­ edge th at was especially associated w ith the w ork of the Dominican theologian Thomas Aquinas (1225/6-1274). In his work, Thomas built ontological and epistem ological bridges th at brought together the transcendental, hum an, and physical realm s of the universe. In his m onum ental Summa Theologica he also touched upon—though w ith­ out elaboration—the authority o f the church in worldly affairs as well as in the realm of knowledge (Feldhay, 2007). Modern historiography, however, tended to interpret the bond of knowledge and faith in term s of the subordination of science to the needs of religion, which eventu­ ally led to inevitably tragic conflicts in early m odernity (Draper, 1875; W hite, 1960). The cases of Giordano Bruno’s burning at the stake, of Cam panella’s long im prisonm ent, of the ban on Copernicanism, the condem nation o f Galileo’s Dialogue and o f m any o f Descartes’ theses, have been understood to dem onstrate this view. More recently, the decrees of the Council of Trent, intended to deepen and broaden church authority as a defense against the Protestant heresy, have been construed by historians as a radicalization of its claims, particularly over scientific knowledge (Shea, 1986: 114-135; Blackwell, 1998: 348366 ). Concomitantly, Luther’s challenge to the ancient bond between knowledge and faith has been seen as em ancipating and leading to the ideal of the autonom y of knowledge in W estern culture (Merton, 1970; Hooykaas, 1972). Last, the emergence of early m odern absolutist states 1066 social research has mainly rem ained irrelevant for interpreting the complex relation­ ship of knowledge to faith. This paper has been conceived as a contribution to an alterna­ tive narrative, emerging in the historical literature of the last decades and aiming to revise the too simple story of the repression of science by the Catholic church of the Counter-Reformation (Jedin, 1999: 1945 ; Evennet, 1968; Zeeden, 1965; Reinhard, 1977: 226-229; 1981; 1989; Schilling, 1983: 261-327; Prodi, 1982; Prodi and Reinhard, 1996; O’Malley, 2000). The...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-768X
Print ISSN
0037-783X
Pages
pp. 1065-1092
Launched on MUSE
2014-04-30
Open Access
No
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