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Posted January 28, 2013

Book: Trent: What Happened at the Council
Author: John W. O'Malley
Belknap/Harvard University. MA. 2013. pp. 335

Taken from a book review by Michael Dirda -- Washington Post

"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 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 be counted one further consequence of Original Sin.

"Doctrinal traditions. Disciplinary traditions. Ecclesiastical traditions. Apostolic traditions. Traditions with seemingly little or no such basis. Fasting on Friday? Infant baptism? The sign of the cross? The observance of Sunday? Auricular confession? Christ's descent into hell, which was an article of the Creed but not easily or at all found in the New Testament? Communion under both forms, bread and wine, an early apostolic tradition no longer observed? Are the decisions of previous councils traditions? What about the writings of the Fathers?

Some of these matters were addressed at Trent; many were skirted; and others seemingly minor, took up enormous amounts of time.