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During the reign of Pope Gregory VII (1073–1085) and continuing into the middle of the thirteenth century, the Roman Catholic Church undertook a far-reaching program to remake the world. Harold Berman considers it Europe’s first modern revolution (Berman, 1983: 49–84), the model for all those that would eventually follow: the Lutheran, the Cromwellian, the French, Bolshevik, and Nazi. Like the others, the Papal Revolution was spawned from the loftiest ideals, yet ended in blood: in pilgrimages (peregrinationes pro Christi) to extirpate heathen populations and in persecutions of heretics at home (Murphy , 1976). But it also had a softer side. One of these was the introduction of compulsory confession. During the first Christian millennium, Church doctrine remained largely messianic and socially conservative. Believers were admonished to cultivate indifference to worldly concerns , while eagerly anticipating the Second Coming (Troeltsch, 1960: 39–200). The views of Saint Augustine (354–430), bishop of Hippo and the first angelic teacher of the Church, may be taken as typical. Although the terrestrial kingdom may “sparkle . . . in the splendor of the sun,” he writes, and “ has beautiful forests populated by admirable beasts,” it is for all that material, craven, and “predestined to death” (Augustine, 1972). The celestial kingdom, in contrast, being spiritual is free of sin and is therefore immortal. This being the case, the task of the faithful is not to agonize over the “bitter worries, disorders, afflictions, . . . mad joys, trials, . . . debaucheries, . . . in this sad human life,” but to direct their attention to heavenly things. To promote Augustinian eschatology, monasteries were established throughout Christian civilization: “schools of 81 C H A P T E R 8 Confession and Bookkeeping asceticism,” as Lutz Kaelber calls them, modeled after the rigors of the desert fathers of the Middle East (Kaelber, 1998: 62–99). Going by names such as Benedictines, Cistercians, and Cluniacs, each monastic order provided a slightly different path to world renunciation. All of them, however, insisted on poverty, chastity, and obedience. Among the tools used to implement this program of self-mortification were the Celtic penitentials, the handbooks whose contents we examined earlier in chapter 2. Near the end of the first millennium, theologians began refiguring the received salvation doctrine of the Church. They began to see the world as something more than merely a charnel house to be fled, but as a possible stage whereon humanity might play out its destiny under Church direction (Troeltsch,1960: 201–43). Now, monasteries that once had been given wide latitude to regulate their own internal affairs, were brought under closer Vatican supervision. And whereas earlier, kings and emperors had appointed Church bishops, now they themselves began to be named, judged, and (where necessary) deposed by the Church. There was even a belated effort to enforce “truces of God” on warriors, restricting combat to specific days of the week. A primitive form of international law was entertained, proscribing nonChristian weaponry (e.g., crossbows) and prescribing humane treatment of prisoners. Christian soldiers began to be recast into armed agents in the larger Church project of world renewal: “sinful power to quell sin.” Their calling was officially recognized in what the Church honored as an “eighth sacrament.” Nor did medieval Church legislators ignore private affairs. Two mendicant (begging) orders, the Franciscans and the Dominicans, were enlisted to promote the Christian virtues of love and mercy, in place of the ancient tribal customs of honor, vengeance, and heroism (Kaelber, 1998: 80–93). A systematic corpus of legal decreta, “Canon Law,” was devised; an Office of Penitentiary, a so-called External Forum, was set up to try those suspected of “criminal sins” (Berman, 1983: 185–93); inquisitional procedures were formulated to gather 82 Confession and Bookkeeping evidence; and an elaborate theory was concocted to “legalize life after death”: Purgatory (166–72). At the End of Time, so it was taught, all the living and dead would be judged. Prior to the Last Days, however, each soul would be brought before a separate tribunal immediately upon their death; there, to give account of their moral debits and credits and to be sentenced to expiate the negative balance . From a Treasury of Merits, a spiritual capital fund amassed through the sacrifices of virgins, martyrs, and saints, the Church claimed the power to shorten the purgatorial sentences of the faithful, in exchange for exemplary behavior. The first “plenary (universal) indulgence” was issued in 1095 by Pope Urban II on the eve of the first Crusade. It promised release from Purgatory altogether if...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780791482797
Related ISBN
9780791465455
MARC Record
OCLC
63161498
Pages
151
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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