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Towards a Full Account,
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This review is from: The Late Medieval English Church: Vitality and Vulnerability Before the Break with Rome (Hardcover)
Bernard makes clear that he substantially accepts the 'revisionist' picture of the late medieval church but nonetheless this work is driven by the belief that Duffy's account 'did not tell the full story' and indeed that as it stood 'it left the subsequent reformation inexplicable'. Hence Bernard sets out to balance the vitality of the church with its vulnerability.
A major source of weakness was that this was always a monarchical church. The church was able to act as it did because the Crown either supported or at least tolerated it and when the two came into conflict the Crown had its way. The reality was always one of 'crown power and clerical dependence'.
Within that framework the church is cleared of generalised immorality. The parish clergy emerge as decent men who did their rather limited best, but the cathedral clergy on the other hand who could have provided leadership were 'too ready to accept a comfortable life in the close. The bishops are seen as highly competent but largely non-resident administrators rather than preachers or pastors. The monasteries also cleared of gross immorality but more prevalent was 'sloth and quarrelling' and often 'cosy, comfortable and inward looking' making little wider contribution.
Bernard points to a high level of lay participation and argues that visual imagery could do much to educate. He then tactfully, mainly through a series of rhetorical question, suggests to the reader the ease with which a religion which revolved around objects, places or movements ofton believed to possess inherent spiritual power could slide into magic and superstition vulnerable to the scripturally based tequniques to which it was subjected in the early C16th. And further 'a set of practises desperately vulnerable to Erasmian, protestant or even commonsense rationalist technniques'and 'the distinction between what was true religion and what was superstition or magic was not always easy to maintain'.
Overall the reader is presented with a coherent,balanced account. The main weaknes is that it does not pay sufficient attention to to the intellectual background ,most obviously Erasmian humanism but there are others,
which to adapt Peters evocative phrase could act as bridges to reformationn. There is, in effect, a missing chapter hence not 5*!!!!
Bernard is still too ready to take the revisionist account at face value. The publication of over fifty parts or entire bibles without full freedom, before the censors clamped down again c1540 was a massive exercise and points to strong underlying demand. Love's, Mirror produced just two editions in the decade to 1530 which indicates the scale of the shift taking place. There are other examples but overall very,very good----required reading.