Sunday, February 03, 2013

"Ass-heads and Lack-Latins"

There's a strain of triumphalism in most histories of the Reformation, which still shapes the way many of us think of it.  You know the drill:  intellectually and spiritually bankrupt Papism was driven out by Luther's unflagging zeal and Melanchthon's unsurpassed scholarship.  That sort of thing.

Among Anglicans, not so much.  In English history-writing, excitement about the Reformation was undermined by the early Anglo-Catholics, who knew (stunningly) little of the Continental churches but existed as form of deep reaction against their own "Evangelicals." Between Eamon Duffy and the now-aging "New Approach" to St. Paul, triumphalism in in still sharper decline of late.

Here, as a corrective to anybody's naive celebration of those difficult times, is C.R.L. Fletcher's 1908 Introductory History of England, on the years 1552-3:
Increase of irreligion accompanied the nominal purification of doctrine. Latimer's often-quoted sermons show us how men mocked at holy things, and gave the benefices in their gift to illiterates, to serving men, to huntsmen. ... 'Ass-heads,' 'doddipots,' 'lack-latins' are some of the mildest contemporary names for the curates of the period. 
Remember that, the next time you preach on Reformation Day. Or, we suppose, any other day.

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