Christianity in the Late Middle Ages-Early Renaissance - Album

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Part 01 - The Christian Pilgrimage and the Second Council of Lyon

The High Middle Ages had taught that Christians were involved in an exalted but highly complex, hierarchically-organized pilgrimage to God. Obstacles to completion of that pilgrimage came from all segments of Christendom. Dr. Rao explains that the Second Council of Lyon in the late 1200's was designed to tackle all of these obstacles, from that of Christian disunity and the failure of the Crusades to practical parochial vices.

Part 02- Opposition to Papal Supremacy, East and West

One obstacle to the organized pilgrimage to God was, Dr. John Rao argues, failure to recognize papal guidance of the line of march. Opposition came from the Eastern Churches, led by the restored Byzantine Emperors and the Patriarchs of Constantinople, as well as from Holy Roman Emperors, Kings, and many bishops in the West. Thirteen century popes--and the Council of Lyons with its supporter--tried many ways to overcome this resistance. 

Part 03 - The Debate Over Dogmatic, Natural and Mystical Theology

Another obstacle to the thirteenth century pilgrimage to God was, Dr. John Rao indicates, intellectual disunity, something that the university "think tanks" were supposed to overcome. Supporters and opponents of Aristotle battled one another ferociously. Differing interpretations of Aristotle clashed. Many thinkers--the people whom we call Nominalists--seemed to wish to reject philosophical discussions entirely and base our knowledge of Truth on an uninvestigated Faith alone. Some wanted to talk about God only on the basis of what we found pointing us to Him in nature alone. Others said that wisdom regarding the divine had to come from mystical union and feeling. Dr. Rao examines all of these approaches and illustrates the bitterness and sins against charity they could arouse. 

Part 04 - The Franco-Angevin Connection and Pagan Temptations

Holy Roman Emperors like Frederick II, the Kings of France and England, and even some noblemen saw themselves as having religious responsibilities in the political realm. When this was combined together with an exaggerated love for pagan Roman Law and Aristotle, it could lead to the idea that religion and the Church had to be guided by a spiritually-minded State. Also, the growth in appreciation for chivalry was accompanied by some other pagan temptations. It was the French Monarchs and the Dukes of Anjou who would most fall prey to these various temptations by the late 1200's. Dr. John Rao shows that the Papacy often indirectly encouraged these temptations as part of an effort to fend off the power of the Holy Roman Emperors. 

Part 05 - Philip the Fair, Crises of the Church, and the Move to Avignon

 Philip the Fair of France and his pagan-minded legal advisors were the chief examples of the problem that could develop by the late 1200's. They began to use the prestige of the monarchy of St. Louis to demand a complete and proto-totalitarian control over all aspects of religious and social life. Pope Boniface VIII sought to fend them off. Dr. John Rao shows that the ensuing crises led to the humbling of many international "pilgrimage" initiatives guided by the Papacy and its allies in Europe. Attempts to deal with the continuing crisis in France caused the popes to move their residence in and then near the Kingdom, in Avignon. 

Part 06 - The Disasters of the Fourteenth Century

The Fourteenth Century proved to be disastrous in innumerable spiritual, intellectual, and political/social ways. This is is discussed in detail by Dr. John Rao. The Papacy moved to Avignon and was concerned primarily for French issues. The Aristotelian-Nominalist-Mystic quarrels continued and worsened. Heresies expanded their influence, and apocalyptic thought prospered. The Holy Roman Empire weakened badly, France and England fought a seemingly never-ending conflict, the Plague hit repeatedly, and the Ottoman Turks began their relentless advance. 

Part 07 - Politics, Heresy, the Franciscans, and the Difficulties of a Return to Italy

Before weakening, the Holy Roman Emperors tried one last attempt to dominate the Church. Dr. Rao speaks of the allies which were found in Nominalist, heretical, and rebellious Church circles, and the utilization of the talents of William of Ockham, Marsilius of Padua, and the Spiritual Franciscans. A troubled Avignon Papacy, led by Popes such as John XXII, found it necessary constantly to call upon military force and ecclesiastical sanctions to defend themselves. This made the papacy look like more of a secular than a spiritual force. 

Part 08 - The Return to Italy, the Great Western Schism, and Conciliarism

War in France made a return of the Papacy to Italy appealing. Italy, however, was in a disastrous and divided state. A return to Rome led to the Great Western Schism, with two and then three papal courts competing with one another. All of the struggles to resolve the issue evoked more problems. Conciliarism, heresy, and corruption grew apace. Dr. John Rao discusses the complexity and interrelation of all of these problems. 

 Part 09 - The Difficulties of the Restored Papacy

The Council of Constance finally allowed for the return of a unified Papacy located in Rome. But, as Dr. John Rao explains, the restored Papacy was threatened by Conciliarism, political interference from France, Spain, and the Italian city-states, perpetually bankrupt or near bankruptcy, uncertain of the loyalty of the College of Cardinals, and forced to think constantly of its political and financial survival. Spiritual guidance of the Church Universal, therefore, continued to suffer.

Part 10 - The West, the Eastern Church, and the Crusades

Discussions of what to do to save the Crusades grew stronger after the total loss of the Holy Land in the late 1200's. Dr. John Rao discusses the various crusading theories which emerged. Crusading questions became more pressing still in the 1300's with the establishment of the Ottoman Turks in Europe and there pressure both on Constantinople, Serbia, and Albania. A joint eastern-western resistance to the Turks was combined with the hunt for reunion of the Churches, which was achieved, on paper, at the Council of Florence.

Part 11 - Internal Purification - Causes for Hope

Dr. John Rao shows that a surface glance at the condition of the Church in the 1400's can be depressing. There were horrific abuses on every level, which Councils at Constance and Basel could do practically nothing to address. Nevertheless, he explains that certain signs of hope were visible. There were reform "observant" movements in most religious orders which had suffered corruption. Sodalities of all kinds were being formed and pious groups like the Brethren of the Common Life. Perhaps most importantly, Spain was to undergo a major reform in the late 1400's, out of which many sixteenth century foyers of change would emerge. 

Part 12 - Humanism and Catholic Education

The movement called Humanism reintroduced a love for literature, history, the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew languages, Plato, and the Bible into Catholic Christendom. These "human" as opposed to "divine" studies helped to enhance Catholic education enormously. They aided the growth of what is called "positive theology", studies of subjects like Church History. Dr. John Rao argues that a Christian Humanism of the sort praised by Ludwig von Pastor was real and useful. 

Part 13 - Humanism, Heresy, and the Challenge to the Church

An exaggerated emphasis upon "human studies" could, however, lead to another form of illegitimate adulation of the ancient world, both pagan and Christian. It could also ensure an overestimate of the importance of rhetoric over philosophy and theology. This, in turn, could, and did lead to new heretical temptations. It also provided further tools which could be manipulated by already existing supporters of error. Dr. John Rao explores all such problems.

Part 14 - Corruption, Heresy, and Obstacles to Catholic Reform

Dr. John Rao explains that Nominalist, millenarian, and apocalyptic heresies continued to abound in the 1400's. These were aided by the corruption of the Church and her hierarchy. Bishops and priests often did not teach or even administer the sacraments. Much corruption had become so ingrained that it was actually treated as "traditional", so that efforts to remove it could be chastised as anti-Catholic! The hunt for raw political power on the part of the so-called "new monarchies" also contributed to poisoning the atmosphere by the end of the 1400's. 

These talks were taken from: Christianity in the Late Middle Ages-Early Renaissance - 1996 VonHildebrand Institute

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