contributor.author: Mark Dupuy

title.none: Pascoe, Church and Reform (Mark Dupuy)

identifier.other: baj9928.0611.004 06.11.04

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Mark Dupuy, Edith Cowan University, m.dupuy@ecu.edu.au

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2006

identifier.citation: Pascoe, Louis B., S.J. Church and Reform: Bishops, Theologians, and Canon Lawyers in the Thought of Pierre d'Ailly (1351-1420). Series: Studies in Medieval and Reformation Traditions: History, Culture, Religion, Ideas, vol. 105. Leiden: Brill, 2005. Pp. xii, 332. $150.00 (hb) 90-04-14062-X. ISBN: .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 06.11.04

Pascoe, Louis B., S.J. Church and Reform: Bishops, Theologians, and Canon Lawyers in the Thought of Pierre d'Ailly (1351-1420). Series: Studies in Medieval and Reformation Traditions: History, Culture, Religion, Ideas, vol. 105. Leiden: Brill, 2005. Pp. xii, 332. $150.00 (hb) 90-04-14062-X. ISBN: .

Reviewed by:

Mark Dupuy
Edith Cowan University
m.dupuy@ecu.edu.au

Louis B. Pascoe's Church and Reform presents the latest in his series of investigations into the world of late medieval theology, particularly as practiced and understood by Pierre d'Ailly and Jean Gerson. Its genesis can be sought in a more expansive project previously embarked upon by Pascoe, who decided ultimately to narrow its scope and focus solely on d'Ailly. The result is a work which, in its own way, is a reflection of the character of d'Ailly which emerges from this volume: cautious, measured, and conservative.

Pascoe has worked through the bulk of d'Ailly's extensive corpus, none of which has ever been worked into critical form, although many works from it have been printed in pre-critical editions. Pascoe thus treats his reader to a generous sampling of that corpus, although at time the work relies quite heavily upon d'Ailly's digressions upon contemporary controversies, particularly the Blanchard Affair and the Monzon Controversy at the University of Paris. All are marshalled by Pascoe into an analysis of d'Ailly's ecclesiology, a narrow, neglected, and useful focal point for the work. The "bishops, theologians, and lawyers" of Pascoe's title are respectively afforded three, two, and one chapters, with some understandable overlap amongst them.

The themes addressed in the course of those chapters lead to an unsurprising conclusion, namely that bishops and theologians occupied top rungs on d'Ailly's ecclesiological ladder. Part of his distinctiveness can be located in the leading role he assigned the episcopate in initiating general church reform (101). The episcopate in d'Ailly's scheme, however, could not so easily divorce itself from the magisterium associated with theologians, who, in one of d'Ailly's metaphors, were as windows transmitting light to the rest of the structure of the church. The fact that they had come to assume the dual function of preaching and teaching historically associated with bishops, coupled with the "corrective authority" traditionally associated with theologians, leads d'Ailly to the conclusion that bishops should often avail themselves of theological consultation when making significant decisions (191, 193, 195). If the fate of active church renewal was thus bound with theologians and bishops, canon lawyers escape with a less significant role to play in d'Ailly's thought; his early lectures categorize them not according to function or subdiscipline, but rather in accordance with their adherence to the ideals of their profession (236). Such a simplistic distinction betrays a certain disenchantment, which seems to have stayed with d'Ailly, who later placed some of the blame for the prolonged Schism at the feet of the canonists (240).

The importance allotted to theologians is more understandable once one accepts the critical primacy of scripture in d'Ailly's thought about teaching and reform. He asserted its primacy even over the thought of Aquinas (202), and Pascoe notes d'Ailly must be placed in the ranks of those who sought to keep scripture central to late medieval theology (285). While Pascoe is quick to emphasize that these facts do not mark d'Ailly as a forerunner of protestant ideas about salvation sola scriptura (231), he nonetheless portrays d'Ailly's "stress on the evangelical nature of the Episcopal office" as being fulfilled only in the context of sixteenth century Catholic reform (51). Moreover, his willingness to consider the implications of contemporary apocalyptic literature--common enough in the day (37)--never overrode his fidelity to scripture itself; ideally the former might be employed by the episcopate to understand which elements of the contemporary church were indeed prefigurative (285).

As prolific and otherwise influential as he was, d'Ailly's role in determining the actual course of late medieval reform seems to have been minimal. In terms of practical reform measures in his own day, d'Ailly was most influential only in suggesting that cardinals-elect must possess university credentials (123).

Although never fully drawn into what Giles Constable has called "the seductive game of precursorism," Pascoe hints that while most of d'Ailly's ideas were ignored by the Council of Constance, future studies might confirm d'Ailly's prefiguring of Tridentine reform programs, especially where the formation of bishops was concerned (282).

This last point warrants attention, for if in this regard d'Ailly was indeed ahead of his time, in most other respects he was utterly of his own age. Pascoe describes his thought as "mainstream" or "traditional" on several occasions, for instance with regard to the episcopal right to doctrinal and judicial determination (90), and again with regard to his espousal of a "hierarchically ordered world view" (168). D'Ailly held what were essentially traditional attitudes towards the church hierarchy and episcopal power, but went further than most of his contemporaries in assigning them such a position of importance in general church reform. Nonetheless, with regards to reform of personal lives and behaviors of bishops, the "special characteristic" of d'Ailly's thought was its "moderation" (281).

Pascoe is willing to admit the influence that d'Ailly's personal circumstances might have had on these ideas. The payment of annates and services--both of which provided supplementary incomes to curial cardinals like d'Ailly--did not strike him as being a form of simony (113), and he was even able to argue for "reasonable absences" by bishops, a position somewhat compromised by his own status as absentee bishop of Le Puy (130). These conflicts of interest are paralleled by d'Ailly's somewhat pragmatic attitude towards the use of other people's texts in the course of his own argumentation. Although he might revisit and revise his own work from the standpoint of a "deeper reflection" (279), he was not averse to an intentionally selective quotation of patristic and decretalist texts in the cause of bolstering his own argument (31, 177). None of this is entirely out of square with what Pascoe feels is d'Ailly's characteristic sense of moderation.

Historians interested in the intellectual roots of church renewal will find Pascoe's latest offering to be very valuable. His unwillingness to draw broader conclusions about the course and continuity of church reform does not preclude his readers from positing such links on their own, but perhaps, in this regard, Pascoe is most like his subject--careful and moderate. Worthy of note as well is the relative absence of typographical errors in the volume, a feat all the more admirable given the publisher's editorial processes.