"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Ultramontanism and Vatican I

The relative neglect of Vatican I by modern anglophone scholars has long amazed me--though the fact this council is so overwhelmingly outnumbered by books on Vatican II surprises nobody. Nevertheless, Vatican I remains the most revolutionary council in modern history in many ways. Apart from Margaret O'Gara's 1988 book Triumph in Defeat: Infallibility, Vatican I, and the French Minority Bishops, and more recently Richard Costigan's important The Consensus of the Church and Papal Infallibility: a Study in the Background of Vatican I, one finds very few serious studies (in English at least) on this most problematic of councils.

That gap, however, is soon to be happily filled by two books from very important and respected authors who are no strangers to the topic at all. The first comes from John Quinn, the retired Roman Catholic archbishop of San Francisco who, ten years ago now, authored a very useful and challenging book, The Reform of the Papacy: the Costly Call to Christian Unity.

Quinn returns to the topic in a new book, just released: Revered and Reviled: A Reexamination of Vatican Council I (Crossroad, 2017),128pp. I've just received it in the mail this month and, it being a short book covering much familiar territory, read it in a day. I will have more to say about it on here later.

About this newest book of his, the publisher tells us:
Revered and Reviled explores the ways that Vatican Council I influenced the important issues of papal primacy and the infallible teaching magisterium of the Pope. The book clarifies and corrects many misunderstood concepts and conclusions about the first Council. Although this is, first and foremost, a church history, it is written with the educated lay reader in mind. Vatican Council I laid the groundwork for critical issues relating to the Pope's power, especially the subjects of papal primacy and infallibility. The Council's conclusion remain important today, as Pope Francis looks toward synodality as the way of the Catholic Church. In essence, Revered and Reviled is hugely important because it is the first book to correct long-held misconceptions that have guided the philosophical position of the Catholic church for the last 145 years. With broad distribution, it should impact Catholic scholars, theologians and the faithful around the world.
The second book to treat Vatican I will be appearing from Harvard University Press next May, authored by the well-known and widely respected Jesuit historian John O'Malley:Vatican IThe Council and the Making of the Ultramontane Church.

O'Malley's book is greatly to be welcomed. We brought him to the University of Saint Francis about five years ago, and I had the happy task of picking him up from the airport in Indianapolis. I volunteered to do this so that I could have two uninterrupted hours with him talking about the papacy (about which I have had a few things to say), time which was greatly enjoyable and edifying, not least for our discussion of how 1940s Vatican bureaucrats cleaned up the columns of "anti-popes" in the Annuario Pontificio, which should surprise nobody who has read Francis Oakley's deeply disturbing book The Conciliarist Tradition: Constitutionalism in the Catholic Church 1300-1870.

O'Malley, a widely published and respected historian, has written books on, inter alia, the councils of Trent and Vatican II, both of which are fascinating.

And now, in the midst of heated debates over papal authority under Francis, we have his newest book forthcoming, about which the publisher tells us:

The enduring influence of the Catholic Church has many sources—its spiritual and intellectual appeal, missionary achievements, wealth, diplomatic effectiveness, and stable hierarchy. But in the first half of the nineteenth century, the foundations upon which the church had rested for centuries were shaken. In the eyes of many thoughtful people, liberalism in the guise of liberty, equality, and fraternity was the quintessence of the evils that shook those foundations. At the Vatican Council of 1869–1870, the church made a dramatic effort to set things right by defining the doctrine of papal infallibility.
In Vatican I: The Council and the Making of the Ultramontane Church, John W. O’Malley draws us into the bitter controversies over papal infallibility that at one point seemed destined to rend the church in two. Archbishop Henry Manning was the principal driving force for the definition, and Lord Acton was his brilliant counterpart on the other side. But they shrink in significance alongside Pope Pius IX, whose zeal for the definition was so notable that it raised questions about the very legitimacy of the council. Entering the fray were politicians such as Gladstone and Bismarck. The growing tension in the council played out within the larger drama of the seizure of the Papal States by Italian forces and its seemingly inevitable consequence, the conquest of Rome itself.
Largely as a result of the council and its aftermath, the Catholic Church became more pope-centered than ever before. In the terminology of the period, it became ultramontane.

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