The creation of new saints often has a political edge; the Catholic Church molds the lives of the saints to fit its needs, and individual popes have particular priorities in saint-making. In the early modern Church, this was particularly important after the Council of Trent. The Tridentine Decrees (1563) instructed bishops to reform the Church but provided few practical suggestions for how to do this. One solution was to hold up exemplary post-Tridentine bishops through beatification and canonization as models. Historians have noted the use of model bishops, but have not fully considered the process and its implication for the histories of Catholic Reform and of canonization. The case of Bishop Gregorio Barbarigo of Padua (bp. 1664-1697) tells a complicated and interesting story about the intersection of Catholic Reform and canonization. Barbarigo was beatified in 1761 during the Catholic Enlightenment and was finally canonized in 1960, on the eve of the Second Vatican Council. Examining the construction of his image from 1699-1960, this article argues that the Catholic Church in both the eighteenth and the twentieth centuries molded Barbarigo into the model bishop needed at those particular times, in response to the issues facing contemporary bishops and clergy.
|“What the People Want: Popular Support for Catholic Reform in the Veneto,” Catholic Historical Review 102 (2016): 65-89.|
Through examination of the unusually rich sources produced by a late seventeenth-century bishop of Padua, this article argues that investigating voluntary devotional practices can demonstrate the spiritual priorities of early modern laypeople. Seventeenth-century rural Paduan parishes experienced both an increase in interest in various devotions and a shift in their focus that reflect the priorities of Catholic Reform. Parishioners eagerly participated in the catechism schools promoted by the Council of Trent (1545-1563) and enthusiastically adopted saints promoted by the post-Tridentine Church, demonstrated by their pious bequests, dedication of altars, and membership in confraternities. At the same time, traditional devotions also flourished. While gauging lay interest in reforms in general is difficult and contentious, this article demonstrates that at least when it came to their voluntary practices, rural Paduans were engaged in Catholic Reform and supported a vibrant Catholic culture.
|“Conceptualizing the Priest: Lay and Episcopal Expectations of Clerical Reform in Late 17th-Century Padua,” Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte 104 (2013): 297-320.|
Priests occupied a contested space during the post-Tridentine era. Reforming bishops like Gregorio Barbarigo of Padua (bp. 1664-1697) wanted to fashion their clergy into leaders capable of instructing and guiding their parishioners. The ideal cleric would be seminary educated, have a true vocation, and would contentedly live a contemplative and incorrupt life. Some clergy managed to fit this image, but inevitably many fell short. While this was disappointing to the reforming bishop and detrimental to his overall reform plans, on a local level a given priest’s shortcomings were not always cause for lament. The laity had developed a more forgiving understanding of the priesthood. Parishioners expected their priest to fulfill all clerical obligations but cared little if he had a calling, and most saw the priest’s personal pastimes as acceptable unless they interfered with his ability to serve the parish or transgressed community norms. For most rural laity in the seventeenth century, the priesthood was an occupation more than a status. This article examines the differences between episcopal and lay conceptions of the priesthood and argues that through the reform attempts of post-Tridentine bishops like Barbarigo, laity were introduced to the concept of the priesthood as vocation and began to internalize some of the church’s priorities with regards to clerical comportment.
|“Confraternities and Rural Devotion in the Veneto,” in Rituals of Politics and Culture in Early Modern Europe: Essays in Honour of Edward Muir, eds. Mark Jurdjevic and Rolf Strom-Olsen, 309-336. Toronto: University of Toronto, 2016.|
Traditional historical narratives about the Council of Trent and Catholic Reform frequently assert that many reforms pushed laypeople further from their preferred, long-standing devotional practices. The push to reform certain practices and groups, most notably confraternities, is seen as antithetical to lay priorities and desires and blamed for alienating the common laity. Looking at lay participation and reactions to reform allows historians to gauge lay interest in reform, but many of these works look only at the initial impact of reforms in the mid-late sixteenth century. Truly gauging the effects of reform requires a longer scope – even if those initially confronted with change resented the imposition of new practices, over time laypeople had different reactions. In the diocese of Padua, reform had an overall positive effect on lay participation by the late 17th century. By the 1660s, participation in and enthusiasm for several of the confraternities supported or pushed by the Catholic Church, particularly the Holy Sacrament and Rosary, rose astronomically. This chapter argues that rather than turning laity off from confraternities, the reforms of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in the diocese of Padua revitalized religiosity, and that the rise of these confraternities demonstrates the laity’s engagement in, acceptance of, and in many cases enthusiasm for certain elements of reform. While the initial reaction of laypeople whose traditional practices were disrupted may have been negative, when the reforms were given time to settle, they ultimately brought laypeople into the fold with greater enthusiasm than before. At the same time, laypeople did not blindly accept all of the Church’s promoted devotions in Padua and did maintain some of their traditional preferences. From this, we can see both what the rural Paduans accepted and rejected in the Church’s plan, and gain a better understanding of the process of negotiation between bishop and parishioners at every step of reform.
|“Extending the Boundaries of the Sacred in Seventeenth-Century Padua,” in The Sacralization of Space and Behavior in the Early Modern World, ed. Jennifer Mara De Silva, 215-232. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2015.|
One of the primary reform goals of the early modern Catholic Church was to delineate between sacred and secular spaces and ensure proper behavior in the former. This was hindered by the fact that the two categories often blurred together in the minds of parochial clergy and laypeople. Bishops like Gregorio Barbarigo of Padua (bp. 1664-97) were tasked with bringing parochial understandings of sacred space in line with official Church expectations. Barbarigo discovered that certain aspects of this larger goal were easier than others. The majority of his laypeople were already comporting themselves honestly during church services, though he did find a few problems. Most also agreed that the parish church and other structures were to be protected from scandal and used in certain ways. In these instances, Barbarigo provided laity with a way to implement or enforce reforms they desired. But when it came to extending the boundaries of the sacred to include the cemetery, traditionally a communal space, Barbarigo faced a much greater challenge. It was in these final stages of reconciling parochial and episcopal ideas about sacred space that bishops like Barbarigo found themselves in conflict with the laity and parochial clergy. Although this was only one small part of the Catholic Church’s reform program, the Church’s inability to gain the cooperation of its flock on issues of the appropriate use of and behavior in sacred space demonstrates one of the greatest challenges to the Catholic Church’s reform program as a whole.
|“Challenges to Episcopal Authority in Seventeenth-Century Padua,” in Episcopal Reform and Politics in Early Modern Europe, ed. Jennifer Mara DeSilva, 173-193. Kirksville, MO: Truman State University Press, 2012.|
The Decrees of the Council of Trent expanded episcopal authority to ensure bishops would have sufficient power to enact and enforce reforms. Bishops with large dioceses, however, found it difficult to maintain consistent control over all their parishes, which significantly hindered the progress of reform. Like many of his contemporaries, Cardinal-Bishop Gregorio Barbarigo of Padua (bp. 1664-1697) attempted to overcome this challenge through a combination of bureaucratic organization and pastoral visitations, which proved insufficient. Although episcopal authority was theoretically extended over the diocese through his network of vicari foranei, in reality many vicars were inefficient administrators and the lower clergy and laity tended to respect episcopal authority only as embodied in the bishop himself. Barbarigo maintained control when physically present in a parish, but found his authority subverted when he was away, thwarting the progress of reform in Padua. Some of his vicars were simply negligent administrators, but even those who assiduously performed their duties found that Barbarigo’s flock understood episcopal power as personal power, rendering it impossible for him to extend his authority through an abstract bureaucracy.
If you lack institutional access to any of the journals or book chapters above, please email me.