Macculloch on Moore on the Cathari

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Ligon Duncan drew my attention yesterday to a review by Diarmaid Macculloch of R. I. Moore's new book on medieval heresy and persecution.  I have not yet read the book but these are my immediate reactions to the review.

1. The review itself is a top-notch church history lesson.  I am reminded once again of what an outstanding church historian Professor Macculloch is.  Nearly twenty years ago, as a young unknown academic in my first junior job, I was the recipient of a very kind review and a lovely note of encouragement from DM.  He was already at that time a famous scholar, on the brink of publishing his masterpiece on Thomas Cranmer.  That such a figure would take time to encourage a nobody was a sign of a true quality of character.

2. Moore's book is clearly an important read and has been added to my summer reading schedule.

3. The review indicates once again what historians take for granted: the rise, consolidation and definition of papal power is an historically very complex issue; and, indeed, as scholarship advances, the story becomes more, not less, convoluted and subversive of papal claims.  For some converts to Roman Catholicism, papal authority is somehow seen as an obvious riposte to problems with the perspicuity of scripture.  In other words, it is the answer to an epistemological/authority problem.  For those of us who have spent the best part of our lives reading late medieval and early modern history, however, papal authority is not an epistemological solution to much of anything at all; rather, it is first and foremost an historical problem and, until that problem is solved (which would be a result going somewhat against the flow of play at this point), I find that I can barely work up the energy to address all the other tricky issues that must be faced by real, full-blooded, baby-and-bathwater Roman Catholics (as opposed to the consumerist eclectic RCs) -- from Honorius to the purgatorial myths to the cult of Padre Pio and beyond.  Indeed, for myself the historiography of which Moore's work would appear to be a part seems to be a somewhat bigger problem than trying to make Paul and James consistent with each other.

Posted July 14, 2012 @ 3:59 PM by Carl Trueman

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