As a passionate reader, the requirement to conduct research across many fields to keep up with everything that impacts the work of the Lampstand Foundation, is one I engage in regularly.
Currently I am reading several books, but the one that is the most surprising is the 893 page history tome: Reformations: The Early Modern World, 1450-1650 by Carlos M. N. Eire.
What is surprising, since history is usually so dry, is how utterly readable it is, as these paragraphs reveal:
“The idea of reform was not at all new, however; in fact, it was already an ancient tradition in the Catholic Church and European society. Paradoxically, the church itself bred corruption and reform simultaneously, in an ongoing dialectic, as old as Christianity itself, which was driven by an intensely bipolar idealism; on the one hand, the church taught that all humans are bound to sin, while on the other hand, it encouraged all to obey Jesus’s command “be ye therefore perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Most often, the clerics themselves strove to bridge the gap and bring church and society closer to perfection. And as many of these reform-minded clerics saw it, the only way out of this dilemma was for the clergy to purify the church. One should not think of these idealists simply as “religious” reformers. Since religion was so intricately woven into nearly every aspect of life in medieval Europe, all religious reformers were also social, cultural, and political reformers. But the phrase often used toward the end of the Middle Ages, reformation in head and limbs (reformation in capite er in membris), which relied on a bodily metaphor and on medical theory, figuratively summed up by the assumption that all reforms had to begin with the head, that is, at the apex of society, among the pope and his clerics.
“But reforming the church was easier said than done, even for a pope or an emperor. By the beginning of the sixteenth century, despite all the cries for reform, the Catholic Church was as rife with problems as the world itself. The situation was not necessarily worse than it had been for centuries—on the contrary, in some ways the church and religious life were more vibrant than ever. Experts speak of this period as being more “churchly-minded and devout,” or as marked by an “immense appetite for the divine,” and an “enormous unfolding of religion in daily life.” The difference between this and preceding ages was one of perception, not necessarily of increased corruption: during the course of the fifteenth century the abuses and failings of the church became more conspicuous, more openly discussed, and more deeply resented by a wider spectrum of people. Also, after 1450, the invention of the printing press not only allowed for the wider dissemination of information and reforming ideas, but also speeded up the process of consciousness-raising among both the clergy and the laity.” (pp. 43-44)
See, good stuff, and I would recommend it for your library.