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Title: A second counter-reformation? : aspects of the pontificate of Pius VI reconsidered
Author: Jabes, Davide Franco
ISNI:       0000 0004 2732 6633
Awarding Body: University of York
Current Institution: University of York
Date of Award: 2011
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Radical transformations came about in the Habsburg Empire and their satellite states during the 1780s, as the Emperor Joseph II embraced the Enlightened reforms and promoted ways in which laws and a new order could be spread. The main opposition towards this sovereign and his reforms came from the Catholic Church. In 1775, shortly after he was declared pope, Pius VI issued a bull (Inscrutabile divinae) which was at the same time an anti-Enlightenment manifesto and a warning towards any criticisms within the Church of Rome. In 1781, Joseph II reformed censorship, and in 1782, began a campaign to suppress monasteries belonging to contemplative orders and issued the Edict of Tolerance. In a short period of time, the subjects of the Empire had access to great scholarly works of seventeenth and eighteenth-century Europe. Under Joseph II the newly generated intellectual culture produced an amazing number of pamphlets, books, and journals/periodicals, the like of which had never been seen before in the Habsburg territories. Public debate on the state, religion, and society accompanied the flood of short tracts, bringing together a group of intellectuals in support of “Josephinism”. A strong counter-reform movement arose in answer to this reform action; the movement was represented by members of new diplomatic class endowed with greater powers, since they were announced as the pope’s direct representatives abroad. After the suppression of the Jesuit Order, the apostolic nunciatures and printed publications became the instruments of diffusion and control of the Catholic population. The increase in anti-Enlightenment publications and the recall of the community of the faithful back to the orthodoxy was the pretext for a series of measures against the Jews and catholic reformers. Therefore Rome and Vienna became the centres of a battle whose main objective was the renewal of society or its negation. Compared to “orthodox” historiography and the main research into this topic which state Pius VI’s inadequacy when confronted by the reforms imposed by the Emperor, many of the documents consulted demonstrate a certain capacity on the part of the Church of Rome in not only resisting the wave of reforms introduced by the Hapsburg court, but also in successfully imposing its own political policy in the Italian peninsular at the same time. The answer from Pius VI led to a series of changes (among which, it should be remembered, the worsening status of the Jews and the end of Jansenism) which left lasting traces in the history of the Church, and even stronger in European history.
Supervisor: Ditchfield, Simon Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available