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Trent: What Happened at the Council Hardcover – January 15, 2013
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In Trent: What Happened at the Council, distinguished author John O'Malley disentangles for us the complicated history of one of the most important ecumenical councils ever held, extracting for us the essential issues from the often animated discussions and the technically formulated decrees on doctrine and reform. Written in a lively literary style without recondite terminology, this compendious account of the Council of Trent will be useful not only to students of church history, theology, and canon law, but also to anyone interested in the religious and cultural developments of the early modern Western world. (Robert Trisco, Catholic University of America)
Jesuit historian O'Malley goes beyond the myths to study what actually happened at the Council of Trent (1545-63), at which the Catholic Church codified its teachings. In clear, crisp prose, he clears up misconceptions about the Church at the time (e.g., that Catholics did not read the Bible and priests did not give sermons), shows that many ideas widely considered "Tridentine" actually arose after Trent, and corrects misconceptions: that the council mandated the Mass be in Latin, and that it established a "Tridentine" liturgy. Using the Acts of the council as his source, O'Malley gives an almost day-by-day account, putting the council's debates in political and religious context of the issues of the day, especially the counter-Reformation and the battle between Pope and princes...Making use of telling details about the very human men who made up the council, O'Malley deftly weaves the story of reformers and traditionalists, to offer an enlightening view of this most influential Church council that will appeal to those interested in church history or in the history of modern Europe. (Augustine J. Curley Library Journal 2012-09-15)
Despite my diligent efforts, the Council of Trent has always been something of mystery to me. Thanks to John O'Malley, I now know the principal characters and the doctrinal and political issues about which they were so passionately concerned. And O'Malley's narrative skills make us see the scene, the weather, even the problems of stabling and feeding the hordes of horses necessary to bring the carriages of the participants to a smallish town. A major contribution to the history of the Church. (Jill Ker Conway, President Emerita, Smith College)
At last, a contemporary history of the Council that made the modern church. And what a history: learned, lucid, and rich in historical insight. (Anthony Grafton, Princeton University)
O'Malley's lively narrative shows how so much was accomplished despite the chaos and difficulties: Trent, even when it didn't enact legislation itself, set Catholicism on the road to reforming its late medieval abuses. (Brian Bethune Maclean’s 2013-01-18)
Trent: What Happened at the Council is written with the clarity and learning one expects of a Jesuit scholar. Its introduction and epilogue are especially cogent expositions of the basic accomplishments of Trent...The bulk of the book, however, comes across as both fascinating and somewhat disillusioning, as we observe the constant tug of earthly powers in the formulation of spiritual doctrine. There are no angelic doctors, as Thomas Aquinas was called, among the council's deeply savvy leaders. The dark ascendancy of party politics must, I suspect, be counted one further consequence of Original Sin. (Michael Dirda Washington Post 2013-01-23)
[O'Malley] has written what is, amazingly, the first one-volume, scholarly narrative history of the council in English...This is a history that is engaged and committed as well as being critical--sometimes searingly so...It is important to remember what actually happened at the council. And that is why this little book, this readable masterpiece of compression, is going to be so indispensable. (Alec Ryrie Times Higher Education 2013-01-17)
John O'Malley has done it again. In 2008, he published his splendid What Happened at Vatican II, the best one-volume history of the Second Vatican Council, at least in English. In producing the best one-volume history of the Council of Trent (1545-63), he has rendered equal service to the history of Catholicism...O'Malley's new history of Trent will be just as influential as his history of Vatican II...Readers of What Happened at Vatican II will enjoy this new conciliar history...In exposing the myths about and elucidating the realities of Trent, O'Malley reconstructs a dramatic event in the history of Catholicism...Anyone interested in the development of the Church's modern history can now readily engage O'Malley as a guide to what happened not only at Vatican II but also at the Council of Trent. (Hilmar Pabel The Tablet 2013-02-09)
The very considerable achievement of John O'Malley, an immensely learned American Jesuit and academic, is twofold: he strips away these accumulated layers of myth to provide a balanced and convincing account of the Council in its proper historical context; and, more impressively still, he manages to conjure a compelling narrative out of potentially dry-as-dust procedural deliberations and abstruse doctrinal formulations. What emerges most strongly from this account is the sheer unlikeliness of the Council ever having been convened in 1545, and the yet more unlikely circumstance of its successful conclusion 18 years later... O'Malley's beautifully crafted short account gives readers as much as most of them will need to know about the course and conduct of the Council, while somehow managing to fit in sensitive evaluations of key achievements (the decree on justification and the reform of marriage law) and lively pen portraits of unlikely heroes, such as the can-do papal legate Giovanni Morone, and Charles de Guise, Cardinal of Lorraine, the debonair aristocrat who was also a serious-minded reformer. The abiding impression is of a more rounded, nuanced and less monolithic Catholicism than the brisk syllable 'Trent' usually manages to convey. (Peter Marshall Literary Review 2013-02-01)
Every historian of early modern Christianity that I know would agree: in 1993 John O'Malley, S.J., put us all in his debt with the publication of The First Jesuits. This year he moves us deeper into the red with his new book Trent: What Happened at the Council...It is quite simply the most engaging book on the council that I have read. (Denis R. Janz America 2013-03-18)
About the Author
John W. O’Malley is University Professor at Georgetown University.
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