Suspicious Moderate: The Life and Writings of Francis à Sancta Clara (1598–1680)

University of Notre Dame Pess
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The historiography of English Catholicism has grown enormously in the last generation, led by scholars such as Peter Lake, Michael Questier, Stefania Tutino, and others. In Suspicious Moderate, Anne Ashley Davenport makes a significant contribution to that literature by presenting a long overdue intellectual biography of the influential English Catholic theologian Francis à Sancta Clara (1598–1680). Born into a Protestant family in Coventry at the end of the sixteenth century, Sancta Clara joined the Franciscan order in 1617. He played key roles in reviving the English Franciscan province and in the efforts that were sponsored by Charles I to reunite the Church of England with Rome. In his voluminous Latin writings, he defended moderate Anglican doctrines, championed the separation of church and state, and called for state protection of freedom of conscience.

Suspicious Moderate offers the first detailed analysis of Sancta Clara's works. In addition to his notorious Deus, natura, gratia (1634), Sancta Clara wrote a comprehensive defense of episcopacy (1640), a monumental treatise on ecumenical councils (1649), and a treatise on natural philosophy and miracles (1662). By carefully examining the context of Sancta Clara's ideas, Davenport argues that he aimed at educating English Roman Catholics into a depoliticized and capacious Catholicism suited to personal moral reasoning in a pluralistic world. In the course of her research, Davenport also discovered that "Philip Scot," the author of the earliest English discussions of Hobbes (a treatise published in 1650), was none other than Sancta Clara. Davenport demonstrates how Sancta Clara joined the effort to fight Hobbes's Erastianism by carefully reflecting on Hobbes's pioneering ideas and by attempting to find common ground with him, no matter how slight.

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About the author

Anne Ashley Davenport is a lecturer in the Boston College Honors Program. She is the author of Descartes's Theory of Action and Measure of a Different Greatness: The Intensive Infinite, 1250–1650.

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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Notre Dame Pess
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Published on
May 15, 2017
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Pages
640
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ISBN
9780268101008
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Modern / 17th Century
Literary Criticism / Modern / 17th Century
Religion / Christianity / Catholic
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Russell Shorto
Anne Marie Wolf
Juan de Segovia (d. 1458), theologian, translator of the Qur'ān, and lifelong advocate for the forging of peaceful relations between Christians and Muslims, was one of Europe's leading intellectuals. Today, however, few scholars are familiar with this important fifteenth-century figure. In this well-documented study, Anne Marie Wolf presents a clear, chronological narrative that follows the thought and career of Segovia, who taught at the University of Salamanca, represented the university at the Council of Basel (1431–1449), and spent his final years arguing vigorously that Europe should eschew war with the ascendant Ottoman Turks and instead strive to convert them peacefully to Christianity. What could make a prominent thinker, especially one who moved in circles of power, depart so markedly from the dominant views of his day and advance arguments that he knew would subject him to criticism and even ridicule? Although some historians have suggested that the multifaith heritage of his native Spain accounts for his unconventional belief that peaceful dialogue with Muslims was possible, Wolf argues that other aspects of his life and thought were equally important. For example, his experiences at the Council of Basel, where his defense of conciliarism in the face of opposition contributed to his ability to defend an unpopular position and where his insistence on conversion through peaceful means was bolstered by discussions about the proper way to deal with the Hussites, refined his arguments that peaceful conversion was prefereable to war. Ultimately Wolf demonstrates that Segovia's thought on Islam and the proper Christian stance toward the Muslim world was consistent with his approach to other endeavors and with cultural and intellectual movements at play throughout his career.
Peter H. Wilson
The horrific series of conflicts known as the Thirty Years War (1618-48) tore the heart out of Europe, killing perhaps a quarter of all Germans and laying waste to whole areas of Central Europe to such a degree that many towns and regions never recovered. All the major European powers apart from Russia were heavily involved and, while each country started out with rational war aims, the fighting rapidly spiralled out of control, with great battles giving way to marauding bands of starving soldiers spreading plague and murder. The war was both a religious and a political one and it was this tangle of motives that made it impossible to stop. Whether motivated by idealism or cynicism, everyone drawn into the conflict was destroyed by it. At its end a recognizably modern Europe had been created but at a terrible price.

Peter Wilson's book is a major work, the first new history of the war in a generation, and a fascinating, brilliantly written attempt to explain a compelling series of events. Wilson's great strength is in allowing the reader to understand the tragedy of mixed motives that allowed rulers to gamble their countries' future with such horrifying results. The principal actors in the drama (Wallenstein, Ferdinand II, Gustavus Adolphus, Richelieu) are all here, but so is the experience of the ordinary soldiers and civilians, desperately trying to stay alive under impossible circumstances.

The extraordinary narrative of the war haunted Europe's leaders into the twentieth century (comparisons with 1939-45 were entirely appropriate) and modern Europe cannot be understood without reference to this dreadful conflict.

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