"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).

Friday, February 28, 2020

Shaun Blanchard on Jansenism, Pistoia, and Catholic Historiography

It's always a delight to talk to new authors about their works, but in the hands of Shaun Blanchard we have a new book (some fuller thoughts on which are here) that contains multiple delights for those interested, inter alia, in the papacy, Catholic reform, early-modern Italian history, Vatican II, synodality, the synod of Pistoia, historiography, and of course the various beliefs we group under the heading of "Jansenism." As is my custom, I e-mailed him some questions about The Synod of Pistoia and Vatican II: Jansenism and Catholic Reform. Here are his thoughts.

AD: Tell us about your background

AB: I was born in a smallish town outside of Chapel Hill, NC. My parents are very devout Christians and always encouraged me to pursue my love of history. I had a great experience as an undergrad at UNC and spent a good bit of time in Ireland and England. That led me to pursue a masters in theology at Oxford, where the Sorting Hat fortuitously placed me at Blackfriars (the Dominican House). This was the most important time of my life – I really delved into Catholic history and theology (especially Vatican II and its reception), learned how to do a bit of research, and met my wife, a beautiful Australian literary scholar and creative writer.

After getting married, Ann-Marie and I both did PhDs in Milwaukee, where I worked under Ulrich Lehner and Fr. Joe Mueller SJ. After graduation, we were fortunate enough to both find faculty positions at Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady University in Baton Rouge, LA (“FranU”, formerly Our Lady of the Lake College). So I’ve spent most of my life in the South and Midwest, with about three years overseas. I’m a rugby fan (former player) but my real love is college football – I’m a diehard UNC football fan, which has led to a deepened sensitivity to the problem of Theodicy. Since getting married I’ve become a weird cat person too.

AD: What led to the writing of The Synod of Pistoia and Vatican II: Jansenism and the Struggle for Catholic Reform?

SB: I was initially going to write a dissertation on post-conciliar reception and debates about Vatican II. But after taking a couple of historical theology seminars – American Catholicism with Pat Carey and Enlightenment and Catholicism with Ulrich Lehner – I started reading as much as I could about the “roots” of Vatican II.

Lehner, an authority on the Catholic Enlightenment, was thrilled that I had heard of and cared about stuff like late Jansenism and Auctorem fidei. He really encouraged me and showed me such a project was not only possible but needed. Since I had virtually daily access to one of the leading scholars of early modern Catholicism and Catholic Enlightenment, I really felt I could do such a project and do it well.

Fr. Joe Mueller was always someone I looked up to, so I then approached him about an independent study on Vatican II and asked him if he would co-direct my dissertation, especially to guide me in reading Congar and Vatican II scholarship, with the aim of framing my discussion of “true and false reform.” It was in Fr. Joe’s independent study that I wrote an essay on “the Ghost of Pistoia” at Vatican II that Theological Studies published, so that gave me a sense I was onto something.

Thankfully, Lehner and Fr. Mueller were enthused about a bigger project along these lines. The basic starting point was that the common narratives of the roots of Vatican II are too simplistic, and they need to be pushed back beyond Newman or even the Tübingen School to include these internecine and sometimes unsavory eighteenth century debates. Once I realized how much I could do just on the Pistoians, I cut out some other planned material (more on Muratori circles, English “Cisalpinism”, John Carroll). Getting the Smith Family Fellowship allowed me to go to England, Trier, Florence, and the Vatican Archives. In Italy, I zeroed in so much on Ricci and his circle that the result is 135,000 words, but could easily have been 200,000 (that is, I am told, how a lot of these projects go).

AD: Am I right in thinking that “Jansenism” is one of those contemporary ciphers or bogeymen often invoked but rarely historically contextualized and understood? Do you despair that it now only ever functions as a “bizarrely resilient term of abuse in Catholic discourse” (p.304)? Is it more helpful, as you do (p.197), for us to speak of “Jansenisms” instead? 

To the first two questions: yes, absolutely. No early modernists speak this way about “Jansenism” – it’s always systematic theologians or clergy or historians whose expertise is in other periods. Probably the most persistent myth is this crazy idea that “Jansenism” ruined the Church in Ireland, or Quebec, or America, even though no historians of Irish or American Catholicism claim this (because there no facts that support this idea!). We Catholics seem to have the particular inclination to need to identify some sort of “ism” to blame for our problems (Jansenism, clericalism, modernism, etc.) rather than our own repeated personal and institutional sins and failures. It allows us to externalize our shame and our problems – kind of a “no true Scotsman” type reflex. We see this happening in the far more serious territory of the abuse crisis – “it’s really about progressives and their tolerance of homosexuality,” or “it’s really about conservatives and their clericalism.”

I have had so many amusing and frustrating conversations with people who just know what Jansenism is and really don’t want to hear anything to the contrary. One elderly progressive priest insisted to me that French and Irish “Jansenist” priests had imported maximalist Marian devotion (!) and a preoccupation with clerical authority and divine judgment to America. This “Jansenism” flourished in the 1950s, but thankfully Vatican II swept it away! Sometimes the more conservative Catholics will say – repeating some very poor online articles – that Cardinal Kasper or Pope Francis are bringing back “Jansenism” because they don’t think God “really grants grace to overcome sin” or some nonsense like that. Tom O’Connor at Maynooth – foremost expert on Irish Jansenism (as in, actual Jansenism of the seventeenth century) – warned me that the struggle was futile, so I really shouldn’t get bent out of shape about it.

While some people are open to hearing that the history is much more complicated, those who invoke the term polemically usually are not really interested in historical fact, just in slamming their opponents with a purportedly heretical “ism.” It allows them to bash some contemporary phenomena or explain it in a way that doesn’t challenge their preconceived notions. It’s lazy and also reveals a certain insecurity, even childishness. I guess if I’m being more understanding, the longevity of the term owes a lot to functioning as a stand-in for “rigorist” (kind of like the inexact use of “Puritan” in Protestant circles) and to some extent that is understandable.

So yes, we should speak of “Jansenisms” and we should distinguish between different stages of a pluriform / multivalent “movement” – if we can even call it that. Sometimes what the term is really describing, even in the early modern period, is just a tendency or a set of sympathies (Italian scholars are often careful to note a lot of “Jansenists” were really filogiansenisti who opposed the Jesuits and were Augustinians or moral rigorists). But more often than not people should just say “joylessness” or “rigorism” since that is almost always what they want to denounce, and no one group has ever had a monopoly on those things.

AD: Among certain French historians, of course, it is not uncommon to speak of the longue durée surrounding pivotal events, but you open your preface by really stretching that out, arguing that a work of Lodovico Muratori from 1747 is key to understanding the ressourcement movement and the Second Vatican Council. Give us a sense of Muratori and the significance of his work. 

Reading Muratori’s brilliant Della regolata devozione dei cristiani (1747) was a huge turning point for me. Here you have an eighteenth-century Italian priest – a massively influential intellectual who was close to the reigning pope – arguing for a liturgical and devotional reform that looks awfully close to what the twentieth century ressourcement circles wanted. Muratori’s works were translated into every major European language and were sometimes mandatory reading for parish priests in the eighteenth century. He was hugely influential especially in Vienna and in other Habsburg lands like Tuscany. English speakers knew him and appreciated him too. And Muratori was not the only one who thought like this. Cardinal Tomasi (1649–1713), liturgical scholar and Theatine, was recognized as a forerunner of Vatican II in the press release for his canonization by John Paul II.

But I need to be clear – when I say Muratori was a forerunner of Vatican II I am not saying that his work was used explicitly in the drafting of Sacrosanctum Concilium or anything like that. Muratori’s influence on Vatican II, I would argue, was very real, but it is also much more subtle and very different from saying Newman’s fingerprints are all over Dei verbum 8 (a fact that my friend Andrew Meszaros proved). While some of the council fathers, especially those interested in the Liturgical Movement, were certainly aware of Muratori’s groundbreaking liturgical scholarship, I point to Muratori first and foremost as someone doing liturgical, biblical, and patristic ressourcement over 200 years before Vatican II. When I say he is a forerunner of the Council I mean that his methodology and his conclusions anticipated Vatican II. However, it is additionally true that his liturgical scholarship was still in use and being cited in the twentieth century, so perhaps that fact is more direct.

AD: You note that your initial explorations into the Synod of Pistoia revealed how much it anticipated reforms at Vatican II. At the same time you note the fathers of Vatican II were haunted by a “ghost” connected to the condemnations of Pistoia. How in the end did the council negotiate this uncomfortable tension? 

Yes, this was really fascinating and I went through the Vatican II Acta very carefully trying to figure this out, because it was (by necessity) a very subtle undertaking, because no bishop in the 1960s wanted to point to these renegade Jansenists as a positive source for anything. I wrote an article about this (the “Ghost of Pistoia”) that was then expanded upon in chapter six of the book. I think in summation I would say that the “majority” council fathers negotiated this tension very deftly regarding ecclesiology. Certain members of the conciliar minority, especially Bishop Luigi Carli of Segni, evoked Auctorem fidei, the papal condemnation of Pistoia, a number of times to try to block ideas like episcopal collegiality, or weaken any notions they saw subtracting from or obscuring a strictly monarchical view of the papacy.

There were a couple interventions where council fathers pushed back against this that are worth looking at. One is by Bishop Enrico Nicodemo (whom I discuss on pages 276–80) and the other, which goes into great detail on Pistoia, is by the Chilean Cardinal Silva Henriquez (288–94). In every case, majority-position council fathers sought to uphold Vatican I while also trying to re-situate the pope-episcopate relationship as something collegial and, frankly, more biblical and patristic. Some did use quite charged language that could be seen as anti-ultramontane, like the Archbishop of Freiburg, Hermann Schäufele, who spoke of restoring “original rights” to the bishops. I find it profoundly unlikely that this learned German was unaware that this echoed language consistently used by Febronians, Jansenists, and Gallicans. I am confident his opponents noticed this as well.

Indeed, the conservative “minority” might have had the last laugh, since Congar reports that certain fathers privately raising “the spectre of Pistoia” to Pope Paul VI is what finally convinced him to approve the appendix to Lumen gentium, the Nota praevia explicativa, which frustrated so many in the majority, including young Josef Ratzinger.

AD: Is not the use made of Pistoia at Vatican II all the more remarkable given, as you document, that its ecclesiology in particular was so roundly condemned in 1870 at Vatican I? Given that condemnation, but also and equally given that Vatican II nonetheless makes use of Pistoia, are not the fathers of the council themselves offering us a proleptic model for interpretation? In drawing on Pistoia are they themselves illustrating for us, as you say, that “the council is neither in complete continuity with preconciliar Catholic thought and practice nor in essential discontinuity with it” (p.4)? If that is so, have we perhaps spent too much time arguing about continuity and discontinuity, when it is manifestly both? 

I think the council fathers do indeed offer a proleptic model for interpretation (a great phrase, by the way), especially the ones I cited in the answer to question #5. I hope the thesis of my book pushes such an interpretation further.

Of course, the council fathers were very careful to never explicitly “draw on Pistoia” as a positive source, but unmistakably the parallels were there and many of them knew it. John O’Malley rightly called the development of doctrine one of the most important “issues-under-the-issues” at the Council. With the guidance of periti like Congar and Ratzinger, the bishops were clearly starting to more confidently assert that development in arenas such as the liturgy, ecclesiology, and religious liberty was not only possible but desirable and even necessary.

To set up continuity and discontinuity as some kind of binary is, I agree, unhelpful and manifestly wrong. Sophisticated interpreters of Vatican II have always known this, but unfortunately I think certain progressive interpreters pushed a revolutionary narrative, while certain conservatives twisted Ratzinger’s words about continuity and rupture. The result of the latter was a kind of minimizing or even erasure of Vatican II in which nothing really happened. I think O’Malley and David Schultenover, among other people, were right to point this out and bemoan it.

Something did happen and some things did change. Much of the progressive revolutionary narrative seems to have died out (or rather attached itself to new hopes and new standards), but this erasure narrative is alive and well, at the highest levels, and we see it in certain clergy and theologians who pay lip service to “ambiguous” documents like Nostra Aetate and Dignitatis Humanae but in practice teach against them. To use a rather absurd example at the diocesan level (not my current diocese, by the way), a priest who told some young students that Muslims worship a demon and they could be possessed if they read portions of the Koran for their high school world religions class was confronted with Nostra Aetate. He replied simply that it was a pastoral document and thus not binding in any way, but only “advice.” So one needn’t wander into schismatic communities to get these “erasure” perspectives. The latent anti-Semitism exposed by recent discussion of the Mortara incident reveals many people have either rejected or not really received Nostra Aetate (or decades of postconciliar magisterial teaching and Catholic social thought, for that matter).

Soon after Ratzinger was elected pope, in Christmas 2005, he gave a fantastic address to the College of Cardinals in which he clarified and deepened his perspective on Vatican II, continuity, discontinuity, and the nature of reform. I talk about this at length in my book. Ratzinger does not insist on a rigid and static “hermeneutic of continuity” in which, for example, we should try to verbally square discrete theses in Dignitatis Humanae with the numerous relevant encyclicals of the past. This is to do what biblical fundamentalists do with scripture, and Ratzinger clearly doesn’t believe this is a valid way to think about Vatican II or reform.

What he proposes is a “hermeneutic of reform” which encompasses “continuity and discontinuity” but “on different levels.” Dignitatis humanae (and the last 55 years of magisterial teaching) is clearly, manifestly, and obviously discontinuous with some past teaching documents on some questions. And yet, Ratzinger argues, our new understanding of religious liberty is continuous with a deeper tradition of the early church and – although the “J” word is often conspicuously absent from such discussions – with the example and witness of Jesus Christ. The people who just can’t accept religious liberty and claim, ludicrously, that the true teaching of the Church still allows for violent coercion up to and including death for “heretics” (including, one presumes, Protestants!) really need to re-read this address.

AD: The Pistoian synod of 1786 is, you quote Luciano Tempestini as saying, one of the “most stimulating theological events between Trent and Vatican II.” At the same time, you note that the acts of the synod were “unmistakably Jansenistic in outlook.” Was it the perceived taint of Jansenism that led to their papal condemnation, or was the papal reaction made more neuralgic because some proposed reforms (“pseudo-democratic Richerist elements” [p.137]) touched on how the papacy and episcopacy were conceived and to be exercised? 

The funny thing about this is that the ultramontane movement, which was really born in this era (1780s and 90s) can, like the more radical Jansenists, look really unhinged and paranoid in their polemic. They perceived a vast conspiracy of forces allied against the Church and the papacy. While they were wrong about some major points (connection to Protestantism, connection to atheism) they were absolutely not wrong that there were multiple forces converging against the papacy (as it understood itself), the Jesuits, and many other things that ultramontane Catholics held dear. So when the opponents of the Pistoians saw a Gallican-Febronian-Jansenist-Richerist-Erastian hydra, they were actually right that all of these intellectual tendencies had found a home in Tuscany and in Ricci’s network of friends and collaborators, and that the Pistoian Synod was the most clear and dangerous institutional expression of this coalition of sorts.

Dale Van Kley’s most recent book calls this “Reform Catholicism” and it was a fairly cogent phenomenon in the final third of the eighteenth century. It had triumphed, resoundingly, in forcing the pope to suppress the Jesuits in 1773. Had the events set in motion by the French Revolution not paradoxically strengthened the papacy and destroyed “Reform Catholicism” by rewriting the map of Europe and the balance of power in the Church, Catholicism would probably be very, very different today.

That being said, reading through the committee reports in the Vatican archives made it clear that the drafters of Auctorem fidei were mostly concerned with Jansenism, which they saw as by definition infected with Richerism and Protestantism. The political component also loomed large – this was seen as pseudo-democratic, as levelling, as republicanism, and as part of why things had gone so wrong in France. So you are right to suggest a kind of panicked, neuralgic response was the result (the vibe of the committee meetings was “hey, we condemned this already in Huss, Luther, Jansen, Quesne, etc. etc. and one need only look to France to see what an emergency this is!”).

AD: I still insist to my students every semester that we break out the atlases and look at maps for understanding all sorts of religious movements and changes and conflicts as driven in part by “location, location, location.” You allude p.16 to the role of geography, and so I’m wondering: is there a link, in your mind, between the strength of the papal denunciation of Pistoia and the fact this synod was just up the road, as it were, from the Papal States—and not more safely distant in, say, German lands, or across the English Channel, or even the Atlantic? 

You are right to do so with your students, and I really need to incorporate more maps into my church history class. Yes, location as well as personnel made the Pistoia situation particularly dicey. Pius VI and his team of authors make this clear in the preface to Auctorem fidei. The enemy was at the gates. In fact, a lot of the intellectual and theological groundwork for Ricci had been laid at the Archetto meetings in Rome, which was an anti-Jesuit, Augustinian, and philo-Jansenist circle that included some really big names.

Now, popes would certainly have wanted to condemn these tendencies wherever they could find them, but it was one thing to have “French fanatics” spouting off about Gallican liberties (to quote an irritated Cardinal investigating Pistoia) or cold-hearted Anglo-Saxons and Teutons citing the Council of Constance – these things were commonplace. Even though there was a tradition of anti-curialism and “jurisdictionalism” indigenous to Italy that acted as a check on papal power, it was mostly pragmatic. The pope and his friends knew that what was happening in Tuscany was different. Home-grown Italian ideas were being combined with imported Jansenism, Gallicanism, and Febronianism, and to make matters worse, the sovereign protecting and encouraging all this was a bright and energetic young Habsburg. So they were really limited in what they could do. Peter Leopold, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, had already made sweeping changes to religious life, expelled the Inquisition, and totally ignored the Index. He kept Jansenist books by his bedside and backed and promoted the Pistoian circle.

As to personnel, Scipione de’Ricci was not some eccentric intellectual in Utrecht; he was scion of an aristocratic Florentine family (the same family as the Dominican counter-reformation saint, Caterina de’Ricci), educated partly in Rome, and the great-nephew of the last Jesuit Superior General, Lorenzo de’Ricci. So this was really embarrassing for the papacy, but condemning the Synod right away in 1786 would have potentially backfired politically. Once Peter Leopold left Tuscany to become Holy Roman Emperor there was a bit more breathing room, and when the French Revolution really began to spread, the papacy decided the risk was worth it and published a condemnation, at least partly to try to stem the spread of Pistoian ideas to Spain. Even then, almost every Catholic government blocked publication of Auctorem fidei initially. So while the papacy was especially threatened locally, they were still thinking transnationally about the problem, because it really was a transnational (and, later, transcontinental) problem.

AD: You note various strands of Jansenism and diverse movements for reform often grouped together and condemned under one heading even though they differed very considerably. To my mind there seems to be at work here the same dynamic one encounters with the Council of Constance and subsequent condemnations of “conciliarism” (treated so fascinatingly by Francis Oakley’s haunting The Conciliarist Tradition, which you cite). Is that a fair historical analogy? Do condemnations of diverse movements—whether conciliarism, ultramontanism, or Jansenism—ultimately prove unhelpfully over-broad? 

Yes absolutely. I started to think of Jansenism, conciliarism, and Gallicanism as similar umbrella terms. The rehabilitation of conciliarism and Gallicanism began many decades ago, and I think one has to be a very narrow and triumphalistic ultramontane to not see what is good and sound in many conciliarist-Gallican ideas and tendencies, and not just ecclesiologically.

Congar spoke of the neo-Gallican bishops at Vatican I as “the vanguard of Vatican II” and I think, historically, that is indisputable. This is not to say they were right about everything, but it is to recognize they brought a lot of good to the table (healing the Great Western Schism, for one!). I roll my eyes when systematicians talk about “the Gallican heresy” and “the conciliarist heresy.” It’s just way too simplistic. I’m sorry, but Bossuet was not a heretic. The fathers at the ecumenical Council of Constance, which asserted strongly conciliarist theses, were not heretics. They were saving the Church during one of our deepest crises, and to speak anachronistically like that is at best misinformed.

I try to follow the same process with Jansenism, putting out the many good and true things they defended, often very courageously and at great personal loss. But I also acknowledge there were crazy Jansenists (maybe literally – some of them seemed sick in the head!). They spiraled into polemic and burned out in bitterness, writing books about the truth being crucified and Jesus Christ under anathema and excommunication to describe their own plight. It is important to recognize that Jansenists had debilitating problems and the Church was right to condemn some of their ideas. Most of all I think they are just a cautionary tale about what happens when one gets isolated, sectarian, and bitter. That tale has some obvious importance for our current ecclesial situation.

Oakley’s book was extremely influential, by the way. It is a masterful narrative. I disagree on a couple details, but I am really indebted to him for having a treatment like that available in English. I considered using his image of an “ideological relay station” but when my project changed it didn’t really fit anymore. But I love that image for conciliarism.

AD: Following on from that, as you examined the papal condemnation, and then the many sources and personages at Pistoia and involved in Jansenism, were there difficulties for you in reconciling the former with the latter? Were the papal condemnations precise, fair-minded, and accurate, or did they tend towards the vague, the abstract, or even the grotesque? 

It’s definitely a challenge. The authors of Auctorem fidei attempted, and succeeded in, presenting a highly authoritarian and papalist view of the Church. Their attitude towards the laity – made clear in the proceedings minutes I read in the Vatican Archives – was often paternalistic and sexist. Of course women will misinterpret scripture and the liturgy, said one cardinal, so the Synod’s plan to encourage Bible reading and translate the Mass was crazy. Women and most lay men should just read prayer books and listen to sermons. On these matters, there’s wiggle room in the condemnations themselves, but it’s hard to square this attitude with our current teaching and practice, which seems much more edifying and evangelical, and much closer to scriptural and patristic attitudes.

That being said, the more enlightened ultramontanes like Cardinal Gerdil made sure Auctorem fidei didn’t suffer from the genuine confusion resulting from the in globo approach of Unigenitus (in which all the condemnations were listed at once and not attached to specific propositions). The most serious condemnations are qualified, thanks to Gerdil, with quatenus innuit (insofar as it intimates) and sic intellecta (thus understood), and this allowed people to subscribe who otherwise wouldn’t have (like Ricci himself), but also genuinely allowed a range of interpretations. I’ll subscribe to almost anything sic intellecta. So a bishop as reform-minded as John Carroll in Baltimore appeared to not have a problem with Auctorem fidei – he uses it a number of times in ecclesiastical controversies – and he clearly believed in de iure religious liberty and the wisdom of a vernacular liturgy. Was he being disingenuous? Maybe. But he was also being a good Jesuit and reading the condemnations with a great deal of elasticity (which, ironically, Ricci the Jansenist was forced ultimately to also do).

At Vatican II, the council fathers were forced to confront the ecclesiological condemnations since they touched on the episcopate, and they were the only censures of “heresy” in Auctorem fidei (8 out of 85 condemnations). They didn’t really go there with liturgy or religious liberty, because with the latter they really had bigger (and more recent) fish to fry.

AD: Tell us a bit more about Pistoia’s bishop, Scipione de’Ricci. It seems his vision and hope for the synod extended beyond Tuscany to cover most of the Italian peninsula and much of the wider church. Was he the Cardinal Marx of his day, if you would—leader of a synodal movement loved and loathed by others around the world? 

Oh my! I could go on and on about Ricci, but I will try to restrain myself. I read thousands of his letters and virtually all of his pamphlets and surviving homilies. My wife, who revels in Baroque piety, was getting worried because she thought he sounded really lame. I hope to write a biography someday. To be really provocative I could call it Scipione de’Ricci, Bishop of Pistoia: A Catholic Luther (a title Ricci would’ve hated but his enemies would’ve loved). Or perhaps subtitle it Portrait of a Fanatic. That would make more sense. Ricci admired Savonarola so much, because both men were, above all, fanatics.

I think the first thing to say is that when we look into the past honestly we see that all of these people are a mixed bag, because we are all a battleground of sin and grace. I greatly admire John Carroll, our first American bishop. He was right on religious liberty and had great liturgical sensibilities. And yet he owned slaves. I admire and read St. Thomas Aquinas, yet it was this gentle man’s lines in the Summa on executing heretics that were so often cited to support such a horrific practice. If we can contextualize their faults (and I think we can and should) we should also contextualize and seek to understand both the good and the bad in a figure like Ricci.

Ricci was a serious, devout Christian who deeply loved his people and really wanted them to experience Jesus in the scriptures and sacraments and go to heaven. His tenderness and his genuine pastoral heart comes across in many letters and homilies. Unfortunately, he was extremely arrogant and totally ruined by polemic. He could be harsh and polarizing man. His fundamental flaw, highlighted by S. J. Miller, was “an utter unwillingness to see any good in those who opposed him.”

Ricci’s story is so tragic. There was a window there were he could have collaborated with good, holy prelates who were open to reform like Cardinal Gioanetti in Bologna and Archbishop Martini in Florence, but he alienated them with his intransigence. He still could have capitalized on a lot of goodwill amongst the priests in his twin diocese, but he confused and angered most of the laity with his abrupt changes and met those who protested him with aloof haughtiness. His pattern of behavior when he was opposed was not one of listening or dialoguing – he tried to silence, bully, or marginalize anyone who disagreed with him. Ricci’s story alone, as a kind of photo negative of the Congarian “true reformer” makes the history of the Synod of Pistoia applicable to our own day in the Church. Congar gets some stuff wrong about Jansenism but I think he is right when he said that Jansenists were wrong not necessarily in believing they had the truth, but in believing no one else had it.

Your reference to Cardinal Marx is really interesting. Yes, in the sense that Ricci really was planning for a Europe-wide (I suppose eventually worldwide) reform of Catholicism through diocesan and then national synods (and in this he was in step with broader Jansenist networks in Utrecht and France), there are parallels with Marx and the current talk of a Synodal Way. Certainly one’s opinion of both men is a fairly reliable litmus test of what one thinks about a variety of issues. But I will resist the temptation to say any more, and to say whether I think Ricci is more like Marx or Burke, Kasper or Schneider!

AD: Your long footnote on p.9 traces out some of the contemporary invocations by so-called traditionalists positing a link between Pistoia and Vatican II, especially with regards to liturgical reform. I confess that I’ve grown extremely tired of these “armchair genealogists” as MacIntyre might call them. They think they have accomplished something significant, perhaps even interesting, by asserting links between two events or personages—but have they? Is their whole point simply to suggest that the condemnation of Pistoian reforms by Pius VI should somehow still apply to comparable reforms at and after Vatican II? 

Evocations of the kind you describe are definitely done to try to discredit Vatican II or at least its implementation. These sloppy geneaologies are almost never done by people who are acquainted with the actual history. Most have just read Denzinger, or seen it cited on Twitter or a blog. I have even seen anti-Francis people who think it is Pius VI condemning the synod of a previous pope, which gives them hope that a future Pope Pius XIII will come and save them from Amoris Laetitia and the Synod on the Amazon!

And yet, the similarities are there and they are undeniable. Someone like Bernard Fellay of SSPX seeing in Lumen Gentium the ghost of early modern opponents of ultramontanism (he traces collegiality to Jansenism and calls it a “timebomb”) is not completely wrong. The council fathers were aware of this, as I show in the book. This is why only looking at discrete theses is not enough – one must have a hermeneutic of change and reform. Ironically, the fact the some so-called “traditionalists” lack this makes them susceptible to the same mistakes their hated “Jansenists” made.

AD: You refer (p. 201, fn. 17) to “the antiquarianism of many late Jansenist appeals to primitive church order and synodality.” Can you clarify what is meant by antiquarianism, both as you use it, and as it shows up as a term of reprobation in papal documents (e.g., Mediator Dei 63-64)? 

Yes, this is an important point. Pius XII slammed the Pistoians for this in Mediator Dei. His words in the passage you cite were a little over the top, and typical of papal polemic against Jansenism, but he had a real point. The Jansenists had vast historical learning but little “sense of history” (if you will) – they lacked the kind of historical consciousness that people like Muratori and, later, Newman, were figuring out. They of course instinctively understood a kind of pragmatic change and development, but they could be rigidly “fixiste” and die on a hill about stupid things. I say on page 254 (note 278) “any theological, disciplinary, or pastoral differences between the past and the present that the Jansenists encountered in their books were simply deficiencies on the part of the present Church.” That’s a bit of an exaggeration but not far off. They would select certain authors (of course Augustine first and foremost) or times and events in church history and then use those loci to too sweepingly discredit the contemporary church.

In True and False Reform Congar got some stuff wrong, in my opinion, about eighteenth-century Catholicism. But on this point about the relationship between past and present he was totally right on, and he wanted to make sure that ressourcement figures in his day and age got this right and didn’t shipwreck their reforms as late Jansenists, Josephinists, and radical Gallicans did. You can’t go back. He was right about this.

Circling around to Pius XII, I think he was preemptively fending off any idea that his own liturgical renewal – which involved restoring old things that had lapsed into disuse, like elements of the Triduum liturgies – was not mistaken for a kind of liturgical archaeology or primitivism. Anyone interested in cautious, sane reform should look into Pius XII. His positive legacy is, I think, underestimated by theologians. Ulrich Lehner has pointed out he is the most frequently cited non-biblical source at Vatican II!

AD: Sum up your hopes for the book, and tell us who especially would benefit from reading it.

I hope the book is read and enjoyed by anyone interested in early modern Catholicism, Vatican II, Jansenism, or the issues of continuity-discontinuity and true and false reform. I think certain ecclesiological issues that are very much still with us – you highlighted most or all of them in your questions – have an important history that people could learn something about from the book. My fear for the book was that it would suffer from “Goldilocks syndrome”; that is, that it would be perceived as too historical for theology folks, and too theological for historians. But initial feedback has been that this is not the case. I hope that continues.

Finally, I hope it can be comforting to people who feel exhausted and beaten down by all the controversy and mean-spiritedness on display in the Church today. I never thought of the book like this, but a couple Catholic friends who read it said they felt relieved to see that past generations have suffered from polarization, misunderstandings, and genuine crises but the Church and the faith have always endured. I was really touched to hear this.

AD: Having finished The Synod of Pistoia and Vatican II, what projects are you at work on now? 

Ulrich Lehner and I are co-editing an anthology of Catholic Enlightenment texts. This is a really exciting project which will bring Polish, German, Portuguese, Spanish, Mexican, Brazilian, and Italian texts into English for the first time. With the assistance of Glauco Schettini, I translated a 5000-word portion from Muratori’s Della regolata. We also have an amazing selection from a Mexican intellectual arguing in favor of indigenous use of marijuana. So it should be an intriguing selection of texts for undergrad classrooms and for academics interested in Catholic Enlightenment.

Next, my friend Stephen Bullivant and I are co-authoring a book on Vatican II’s for Oxford University Press’ Very Short Introduction series. This is a good chance for me to get out of the 1700s and return to the rapidly growing literature on Vatican II, and I love any chance to work with Stephen, preferably over multiple espressos, fried chicken burgers, and pints of ale.

I also have a number of smaller projects I’m excited about, like chapters in the forthcoming Oxford History of British and Irish Catholicism and the new Cambridge History of the Papacy. This summer I spend time in Ireland, England, Austria, and Italy and will have a chance to do some research and give talks on the book and on the Catholic Enlightenment and Jansenism.

Finally, I must thank you so much for this very stimulating dialogue! The questions really made me think. You highlighted some issues that I hadn’t fully thought through.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Armenian Genocide and the Global Order

One of the things research into trauma has uncovered is the multi-generational nature of the suffering, and the fact that at least to the third generation after the original event one can find major post-traumatic disorders afflicting a wide number of people. This has been shown to be the case with the Holocaust and with the first massive genocide of the last century, the slaughter of the Armenians in 1915. A new book situates that genocide in a particular context--that of American foreign policy--with obvious implications even down to our own day: Charlie Laderman, Sharing the Burden: The Armenian Question, Humanitarian Intervention, and Anglo-American Visions of Global Order (Oxford University Press, 2019), 300pp.

About this book the publisher tells us this:
The destruction of the Armenian community in the Ottoman Empire was an unprecedented tragedy. Even amidst the horrors of the First World War, Theodore Roosevelt insisted that it was the greatest crime of the conflict. The wartime mass killing of approximately one million Armenian Christians was the culmination of a series of massacres that Winston Churchill would later recall had roused publics on both sides of the Atlantic and inspired fervent appeals to save the Armenians.
Sharing the Burden explains how the Armenian struggle for survival became so entangled with the debate over the international role of the United States as it rose to world power status in the early twentieth century. In doing so, Charlie Laderman provides a fresh perspective on the role of humanitarian intervention in US foreign policy, Anglo-American relations, and the emergence of a new world order after World War I. The United States' responsibility to protect the Armenians was a central preoccupation of Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. Both American and British leaders proposed an Anglo-American alliance to take joint responsibilities for the Middle East and envisioned a US intervention to secure an independent Armenia as key to the new League of Nations. The Armenian question illustrates how policymakers, missionaries, and the public grappled for the first time with atrocities on this scale. It also reveals the values that animated American society during this pivotal period in the nation's foreign relations.
Deepening understanding of the Anglo-American special relationship and its role in reforming global order, Sharing the Burden illuminates the possibilities, limitations, and continued dilemmas of humanitarian intervention in international politics.

Monday, February 24, 2020

A Russian-American Christian University

When I spent the summer of 2001 teaching in Eastern Europe, I heard from people how much--a scant ten years after independence--many of them, in places like Ukraine and Russia, resented rich American interests muscling in to spread Mormonism, evangelical Protestantism, and other such traditions, making the recovery of truly indigenous institutions that much more difficult. Recently released is a new book that functions as a case-study of one rather highly placed such attempt: Opening the Red Door: The Inside Story of Russia's First Christian Liberal Arts University by John A. Bernbaum (IVP Academic, 2019, 260pp.)

About this book the publisher tells us this:
After the Berlin Wall fell, a group of Christian colleges in the U.S. seized the opportunity to begin strategic faculty and student exchanges with universities inside the Soviet Union. They could not have foreseen the doors that would open next. During a 1990 visit to Russia, John Bernbaum and his colleagues received a surprising invitation from a Russian government official: come help build a faith-based university in Moscow. Thus, after seventy years of fierce religious persecution under communism, the Russian-American Christian University (RACU) was born. 
In Opening the Red Door, Bernbaum presents an insider's account of the rise and fall of a Russian-American partnership. As a founder and later president of RACU, Bernbaum offers a ground-level perspective on Russia’s post-communist transition and the construction of a cultural-educational bridge between the two superpowers. He describes how American RACU staff worked to understand Russian history and culture―including the nation's rich spiritual heritage―so they could support their new Russian friends in rebuilding an educational system and a society. He documents the story of the first private Christian liberal arts university to be accredited in Russia's history, from its first steps, through its major successes, to its facing increasing opposition during the Putin era. Opening the Red Door offers unique insight not only into Russian culture and post–Cold War history but also traces the dynamics within international educational institutions and partnerships. When he first traveled to Russia, Bernbaum writes, he thought of it as a nation of mystery. But after more than twenty-five years of work there, he believes Russia can be understood. His journey of understanding will prove instructive to educators, administrators, students, missionaries, and anyone interested in international relations.

Friday, February 21, 2020

On Pining for Past Slavery and Servitude

I've been at several academic conferences over the last decade in which I keep hearing lectures from researchers deep inside Russia repeatedly discovering potent pockets of nostalgia for the Stalinist era--sometimes even replete with pseudo-icons of Uncle Joe inside Orthodox churches! We might think this very strange, but for those of us who have read Erich Fromm's 1941 international best-seller, Escape from Freedom, this makes a great deal of sense. As he demonstrated there (in what his biographer Lawrence Friedman calls his most important and profound book), most of us, at least some of the time, rather prefer slavery to freedom, and rather like having strongmen of various sorts tell us what to do.

It is not a shock, therefore, to hear of such stories elsewhere across the formerly communist states of Eastern Europe. Some of them are captured in a recent book I just came across: Witold Szablowski, Dancing Bears: True Stories of People Nostalgic for Life Under Tyrannytrans. Antonia Lloyd-Jones (Penguin, 2018), 256pp.

About this book the publisher tells us this:
For hundreds of years, Bulgarian Gypsies trained bears to dance, welcoming them into their families and taking them on the road to perform. In the early 2000s, with the fall of Communism, they were forced to release the bears into a wildlife refuge. But even today, whenever the bears see a human, they still get up on their hind legs to dance.
In the tradition of Ryszard Kapuściński, award-winning Polish journalist Witold Szabłowski uncovers remarkable stories of people throughout Eastern Europe and in Cuba who, like Bulgaria’s dancing bears, are now free but who seem nostalgic for the time when they were not. His on-the-ground reporting—of smuggling a car into Ukraine, hitchhiking through Kosovo as it declares independence, arguing with Stalin-adoring tour guides at the Stalin Museum, sleeping in London’s Victoria Station alongside a homeless woman from Poland, and giving taxi rides to Cubans fearing for the life of Fidel Castro—provides a fascinating portrait of social and economic upheaval and a lesson in the challenges of freedom and the seductions of authoritarian rule.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Jansenism and Other Bogeymen

I've sent some questions for an interview to Shaun Blanchard, author of the new and utterly fascinating book The Synod of Pistoia and Vatican II: Jansenism and the Struggle for Catholic Reform (Oxford University Press, 2019), 370pp. I will post that interview once I have it.

In reading the book preparatory to our interview, I could not put it down. It is cogently and crisply written and covers such wide swaths of Catholic history and so many controverted areas and ideas with great care and innumerable insights. At the same time, however, like all excellent history, it is aware of its limits, and sets forth what things cannot be covered in one volume but must await further treatment.

In the meantime, however, let me urge you to get this book at once, not least if you have any interest in any of the four main ideas in his title: Pistoia, Vatican II, Jansenism, and Catholic reform movements. There is a lot in here for those of us interested in ecclesiology, synodality, and the papacy as an agent of both reaction and reform. Ecumenism also shows up regularly, both in a Protestant direction but also with regard to Armenian Christians among others. There is also much here to consider when dealing with questions of Catholic historiography over the last two centuries and more. The book clearly takes the French annalist approach here, arguing that there is indeed a very longue durée from Pistoia to Vatican II in unexpected ways.

In addition the book will be an invaluable corrective for those--including some poor right-wing fantasist on Twitter imagining that his perch at some law school named after a dish of beets my mother used to make when I was a child--who feel entitled to tell the rest of us what Jansenism is and was while having no background in this complex history. Such creatures always put me in mind of this sketch of the boorish Jim Hacker complaining about "left-wing" corruption of education while revealing how little he had:

Monday, February 17, 2020

Russian Thought on Deification

Published at the end of last year is an impressive new book that adds to the library of books on deification/theosis/divinization which, as I've been tracking on here, have continued to emerge in steady and unrelenting number over the last 15 years especially:  Deification in Russian Religious Thought: Between the Revolutions, 1905-1917 by Ruth Coates (Oxford University Press, 2019), 256 pp.

About this book the publisher tells us this:
Deification in Russian Religious Thought considers the reception of the Eastern Christian (Orthodox) doctrine of deification by Russian religious thinkers of the immediate pre-revolutionary period. Deification is the metaphor that the Greek patristic tradition came to privilege in its articulation of the Christian concept of salvation: to be saved is to be deified, that is, to share in the divine attribute of immortality. In the Christian narrative of the Orthodox Church 'God became human so that humans might become gods'. Ruth Coates shows that between the revolutions of 1905 and 1917 Russian religious thinkers turned to deification in their search for a commensurate response to the apocalyptic dimension of the universally anticipated destruction of the Russian autocracy and the social and religious order that supported it.
Focusing on major works by four prominent thinkers of the Russian Religious Renaissance--Dmitry Merezhkovsky, Nikolai Berdiaev, Sergei Bulgakov, and Pavel Florensky--Coates demonstrates the salience of the deification theme and explores the variety of forms of its expression. She argues that the reception of deification in this period is shaped by the discourse of early Russian cultural modernism, and informed not only by theology, but also by nineteenth-century currents in Russian religious culture and German philosophy, particularly as these are received by the novelist Fedor Dostoevsky and the philosopher Vladimir Soloviev. In the works that are analysed, deification is taken out of its original theological context and applied respectively to politics, creativity, economics, and asceticism. At the same time, all the thinkers represented in the book view deification as a project: a practice that should deliver the total transformation and immortalisation of human beings, society, culture, and the material universe, and this is what connects them to deification's theological source.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Divine Guidance

In perusing the 2020 catalogue from Oxford University Press, I am delighted to find a familiar name, the name of a man who was and is both mentor and friend: John A. Jillions, author of the forthcoming Divine GuidanceLessons for Today from the World of Early Christianity (OUP, 2020), 336pp.

Fr John was on the faculty of the Sheptytsky Institute when it was still in Ottawa at Saint Paul University nearly twenty years ago now when I started my doctorate there. He sat on my jury for what became my first book, Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy.

His own doctoral work had taken place in Greece but had never been published as far as I know. He told me it was on the subject of divine guidance, and now we are able to read what he wrote in this forthcoming book, set for official release next week in fact.

About Divine Guidance, Oxford UP tells us the following:
The twenty-first century opened with the religiously-inspired attacks of 9/11 and in the years since such attacks have become all too common. Over against the minority who carry out violence at God's direction, however, there are millions of believers around the world who live lives of anonymous kindness. They also see their actions as guided by the divine. How is divine guidance to be understood against the background of such diametrically opposed results? How to make sense of both Osama bin Laden and Mother Teresa?
In order to answer this question, John A. Jillions turns to the first-century world of Corinth, where Jews, Gentiles, and early Christians intermixed and vigorously debated the question of divine guidance. In this ancient melting pot, the ideas of writers and poets, philosophers, rabbis, prophets, and the apostle Paul confronted and complemented each other. These writers reveal a culture that reflected deeply upon the realities, ambiguities, and snares posed by questions of divine guidance. Jillions draws these insights together to offer an outline for the twenty-first century and suggest criteria for how to assess perceived divine guidance. Jillions opens a long-closed window in the history of ideas in order to shed valuable light on this timeless question.
We're also given some impressive and well-known "blurbers":

"By a comprehensive historical survey of literary and religious evidence from Greco-Roman and Jewish cultures, Fr. Jillions offers a brilliant analysis of Paul's letter to the Corinthians. Philosophical reflections about grace and free will, faith and reason, inspired Scripture and personal experience, encounter the cross. This book reflects that of all theological doctrines, the most challenging may be providence: does God sit idle in heaven, or does he exercise divine guidance in our lives?" -- David W. Fagerberg, Professor, University of Notre Dame

"John Jillions has written a book that is a splendid work of scholarship, and on a fascinating (if neglected) topic. But it is ever so much more than that: a rich, searching, moving meditation on some of the most essential dimensions of spiritual longing and religious hope." -- David Bentley Hart, author of The Hidden and the Manifest: Essays in Theology and Metaphysics.

"This is a work of original scholarship that breaks new ground. It is of interest to specialists in the field of New Testament studies and early church history, but it is written in such a way that it will also appeal to a wider field, including theology students in general, and clergy and laity who are not necessary academics. I predict it will become the standard treatment of the subject." -- Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia.

I've already contacted Fr John to see if we can set up an interview on here about his book. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Things Spotted While Reading the London Review of Books

I'm a bit behind here, but last week on a plane greatly enjoyed the 2 January 2020 edition of the London Review of Books. In there I found notices for, and long review essays about, various books, including the following.

David Runciman reviewed the third and final volume of Charles Moore's Margaret Thatcher: the Authorized Biography vol. III: Herself Alone (Allen Lane, 2019), 1072pp.

I've read the first volume, but not this one yet, though it sounds fascinating. I've also read several other biographies of her over the years, and some of her own works, including The Downing Street Years.

Thatcher, of course, is routinely credited for working with Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II in helping to dismantle the Soviet Union which destroyed so much of Eastern Christianity and so many Eastern Christians.

Also not to be missed are the uproariously funny and farouche diaries of her junior defense minister Alan Clark. I've read them probably three times over the last twenty years, and having read rather a lot of British political memoirs and diaries, can safely say nothing comes close to these.

Clark was also something of an historian manqué, and his scathing book of British military leadership during the Great War, The Donkeys, is a quick, devastating, but not entirely fair critique.

The highlight of this issue for me was a long essay by Jean McNicol discussing three new books, the first of which is Maggie Craig's When The Clyde Ran Red: A Social History of Red Clydeside.

Socialism here in this time was not just a program of political revolution, though it was that, and awakened close and ongoing interest on the part of Lenin and others in Russia. Socialism here, according to Craig's book (quoting an article in the Times from 1922) included
‘Socialist study circles, socialist economics classes, socialist music festivals, socialist athletics competitions, socialist choirs, socialist dramatic societies, socialist plays – these are only a few of the devious ways in which they attempted to reach the unconverted.’ 
This essay and the books awaken a feeling of personal albeit distant connection insofar as my maternal great-grandfather was a ship-builder along the River Clyde in the late 19th and early 20th century. McNicol's essay, "The Atmosphere of the Clyde," does a splendid job of capturing the sense of social and economic tumult, suffering, but also real progress especially during and right after the Great War.

The Clyde was then, and for some time afterwards remained, one of the largest shipbuilding sites in the whole of the British Empire, employing tens of thousands at its height, including the long-suffering John Maclean: Hero of Red Clydeside, the second book reviewed here and written by Henry Bell. MacLean and others fought for just wages, rent reforms, adequate housing, and a 40-hour work week among other things we now take for granted.

The third book is Glasgow 1919: the Rise of Red Clydeside by Kenny MacAskill, who is a sitting MP for the Scottish National Party.

About this book the publisher tells us this:
On the 31st January 1919 Glasgow was in the midst of a strike for a 40-hour week. A demonstration in George Square saw the Red Flag hoisted and panicked police baton charge the milling crowd.
The War Cabinet in London monitoring the developing situation had declined pre-emptive arrests of strike leaders, but now unleashed the military. That evening 10,000 British soldiers started to arrive in the city, supported by tanks and guns. Howitzers protruded from the City Chambers and barbed wire surrounded it. Armed soldiers guarded critical sites and tanks were based at the cattle market. Images of these events have entered collective memory of the city's inhabitants.
In context this was a time when fears of Bolshevism were spread amongst western ruling elites. The first month of January saw western allied troops fighting in Russia, Trotsky leading the Red Army in Poland, the Spartacist Rebellion suppressed in Germany and the Irish Republic declared by victorious Sinn Fein MPs. Glasgow, crucial to Britain's war effort was conversely, one of the most deprived cities in Europe, and ripe for change. It was a world in turmoil.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Murdering the Souls of Children

Leonard Shengold, who has died just last week at the age of 94, was a pioneer in helping us understand the utter devastation caused by child sexual abuse. A psychoanalyst and clinician, he was author of numerous books, but none so well known (and rightly so) as Soul Murder: The Effects of Childhood Abuse and Deprivation, originally published in 1991.

It is a searing and powerful book and it very much should be required reading of all those--including this idiot priest in Rhode Island--who want to downplay, diminish, and dismiss the effects of abuse, as far too many Catholic clergy today continue to do. Shengold's title was not hyperbolic in the least: abuse murders the soul of victims, and often leads them to end their own life via suicide.

If reading an entire book is too much to ask of these ignorant fools, then perhaps they might at least skim some of the myriad studies in the clinical literature on the connection between suicide and child sex abuse. But narrowed down to considering such cases just within a Catholic context alone, and just within what is available in mainstream newspapers in IrelandKansas, the rest of America, Australia, Canada, and elsewhere, there is plenty of evidence and no excuse for so heinous and hurtful a claim.

Christian Nationalism

It is of course a commonplace, almost a banality, to speak of the problems of nationalism in the Christian East. But increasingly we are seeing today that this is no longer a problem (if it ever was) limited only to the East, but more and more to be found among Western Christians.

Along comes a new book treating this problem, which I'm greatly looking forward to reading upon its release later this month: Kyle Haden, Embodied Idolatry: A Critique of Christian Nationalism (Lexington Books, 2020), 174pp.

About this book the publisher tells us this:
Embodied Idolatry: A Critique of Christian Nationalism is an examination of the effect of Christian nationalism on Christian practice in the United States. Kyle Edward Haden focuses on the mechanisms by which such beliefs become sedimented into the emotional, embodied structures of the church and the individual. Using a variety of disciplines, Haden thus identifies and highlights how such beliefs and practices are, in fact, idolatrous and inhabit an anti-Christian theological and ethical space. This book describes the formative process and mechanisms by which social and cultural values are acquired through imitation, by the individual and within ecclesial communities. As a constructive countermeasure, it investigates Jesus’s practice in his own social, cultural, political, religious, and economic context, and argues that Christian nationalism is a betrayal of Jesus’s teachings in light of his own practice of hospitality and table fellowship. This book thus calls Christians to conversion, putting loyalty to the kingdom of God over that of the nation.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky and the Nazis

It has been said for years that one of the factors holding up the canonization of Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky is some concern around what he may have said with regard to the German invaders of 1941. This new study, by a young historian Andriy Mykhaleyko, is therefore going to be invaluable in airing and analyzing these claims once and for all: Metropolit Andrey Graf Sheptytskyj und das NS-Regime: Zwischen christlichem Ideal und politischer Realität (Brill, 2020).

Mykhaleyko's book is published by Brill as the first volume in their new series, Eastern Church Identities. About that series Brill tells us this:
This new series focuses on the interplay between theological thinking and cultural self-understanding of the Oriental-Orthodox, the Byzantine and the Uniate branches of the Eastern Churches worldwide. The series studies the Eastern Churches' various roles within their mainfold contexts, i.e. either as actors within the transformation-processes in Eastern Europe or as minorities both in the Middle East and in the north American diaspora. By fully acknowledging the role of ritual and hagiography for the ecclesial community-building and the theology of the Eastern Churches the series opens up new approaches to an often-neglected dimension of global Christianity. The series accepts contributions in English, German and French. Each incoming manuscript is evaluated in a peer-reviewing-process conducted by renowned specialists from the editorial and the advisory boards.
And about the book itself the publisher tells us this:
Metropolit Andrey Sheptytskyj war der einflussreichste Repräsentant der Ukrainischen Griechisch-Katholischen Kirche im 20. Jahrhundert. Sein letzter Lebensabschnitt unter dem NS-Regime wird bis heute sehr gegensätzlich bewertet und kontrovers diskutiert.
Während die sowjetische Geschichtsschreibung Sheptytskyj als Kollaborateur des NS-Regimes, Feind des Kommunismus und Agenten des Vatikans verurteilte, verehrt die griechisch-katholische Kirche ihn als nationale Symbolfigur, als »neuen Moses«, dessen Heiligsprechung sie betreibt. Mykhaleyko legt einen Beitrag zur Neubewertung Sheptytskyjs vor: Durch die Kontextualisierung seiner Biographie im Zeitalter der Totalitarismen während der ersten Hälfte des 20. Jahrhunderts korrigiert die Studie die historischen Narrative, dekonstruiert die ideologischen Porträts Sheptytskyjs und entmythologisiert das ambivalente Verhältnis Sheptytskyjs zum NS-Regime.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Uniates in a Partitioned Poland

If this new book by Larry Wolff is half as fascinating as his The Idea of Galicia: History and Fantasy in Habsburg Political Culture, it will be very good indeed. Just out last month is Larry Wolff, Disunion within the Union: The Uniate Church and the Partitions of Poland (Harvard University Press, 2020), 156pp.

About this new book the publisher tells us this:
Between 1772 and 1795, Russia, Prussia, and Austria concluded agreements to annexand finally eradicate the Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania. As a result of the partitions of Poland, the members of the Uniate Church (later known as the Greek Catholic Church) found their dioceses fractured by the borders of three regional hegemons.
Larry Wolff’s deeply engaging study of these events delves into the politics of the episcopal elite, the Vatican, and the three rulers behind the partitions: Catherine II of Russia, Frederick II of Prussia, and Joseph II of Austria (with their successors). Wolff uses correspondence with bishops in the Uniate Church and ministerial communiques to reveal the nature of state policy as it unfolded.
This detailed study of the responses of common Uniate parishioners, as well as of their bishops and hierarchs, to the pressure of the partitions paints a vivid portrait of conflict, accommodation, and survival in a Church subject to the grand designs of the late eighteenth century’s premier absolutist powers.
Additionally, Wolff adopts methodologies from the history of popular culture pioneered by Natalie Zemon Davis (The Return of Martin Guerre) and Carlo Ginzburg (The Cheese and the Worms) to explore religious experience on a popular level, especially questions of confessional identity and practices of piety.
“Ukraine has been blessed and damned as a land between the East and the West, as has been the Uniate or Greek Catholic Church, an institution poised between the Orthodox East and the Catholic West. Larry Wolff provides an erudite and fascinating insight into the late eighteenth century, when the Uniates, facing attempts by imperial Russia to destroy them, were able to survive thanks to the enlightened if self-serving policies of Austria’s Habsburg monarchs” (Paul Robert Magocsi, University of Toronto).
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