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A History of the Reformation (Vol. 2 of 2)

Ximenes used these powers to the full


The

Concordat of 1482 gave the Spanish Crown the right of "visitation" (held to involve the power to dismiss from office) and of nomination to benefices. Ximenes used these powers to the full. He "visited" the monasteries personally, and received full reports about the condition of the convents. He re-established in all of them monastic discipline of the strictest kind. The secular clergy were put to like proof. The secular power was invoked to sweep all opponents to reform from his path. His Queen protected him when the vacillations of the papal policy threatened to hinder his work. In the end, the Church in Spain secured a devoted clergy whose personal life was free from the reproaches justly levelled at the higher clergy of other lands.

Ximenes, having purified the morals of the Spanish clergy, next set himself to overcome their ignorance and lack of culture. In every Chapter within Castile and Aragon, two prebends were set apart for scholars, one of them for a student in Canon Law, and the other for an expert theologian. A special "visitation" of the clergy removed from their places all utterly ignorant persons. New schools of theology were instituted. In addition to the mediaeval Universities of Salamanca and Valladolid, Ximenes founded one in Alcala, another in Seville, a third at Toledo. Alcala and Valladolid were the principal theological schools, and there, in addition to the older studies of Dogmatic Theology and Ethics, courses of lectures

wore given in Biblical Exegesis. The theology taught was that of Thomas Aquinas, to the exclusion of the later developments of Scholastic under John Duns Scotus and William of Occam. The Augustinian elements in Thomas were specially dwelt upon; and soon there arose a school of theologians who were called the New Thomists, who became very powerful, and were later the leading opponents of the Jesuit teachers. There was also an attempt to make use of the New Learning in the interest of the old theology. Ximenes collected at Alcala the band of scholars who under his superintendence prepared the celebrated Complutensian Polyglot.

The labours of Erasmus were sympathised with by the leaders of this Spanish movement. The Princes of the Church delighted to call themselves his friends. They prevented the Spanish monks from attacking him even when he struck hardest at the follies of the monastic life. He was esteemed at Court. The most prominent statesmen who surrounded Charles, the young Prince of the Netherlands, the King of Spain, called themselves Erasmians. Erasmus, if we are to believe what he wrote to them,--which is scarcely possible,--declared that the work in Spain under Ximenes followed the best type of a reformation in the Church.

But there was another and terrible side to this Spanish purification of the Church and of the clergy. The Inquisition had been reorganised, and every opinion and practice strange to the mediaeval Church was relentlessly crushed out of existence. This stern repression was a very real part of the Spanish idea of a reformation.

The Spanish policy for the renovation of the Church was not a reformation in the sense of providing room for anything new in the religious experience. Its sole aim was to requicken religious life within the limits which had been laid down during the Middle Ages. The hierarchy was to remain, the mediaeval conceptions of priesthood and sacraments; the Pope was to continue to be the acknowledged and revered Head of the Church; "the sacred ceremonies, decrees, ordinances, and sacred usages"[650] were to be left untouched; the dogmatic theology of the mediaeval Church was to remain in all essentials the same as before. The only novelty, the only sign of appreciation of new ideas which were in the air, was that the papal interference in the affairs of national Churches was greatly limited, and that at a time when the Papacy had become so thoroughly secularised as to forget its real duties as a spiritual authority. The sole recognition of the new era, with its new modes of thought, was the proposal that the secular authorities of the countries of Europe should undertake duties which the Papacy was plainly neglecting. Perhaps it might be added that the slight homage paid to the New Learning, the appreciation of the need of an exact text of the original Scriptures, its guarded approval of the laity's acquaintance with Holy Writ, introduced something of the new spirit; but these things did not really imply anything at variance with what a devoted adherent of the mediaeval Church might readily acquiesce in.


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