Steadfast saints or malleable models? : Seventeenth-century Irish hagiography revisited
Ryan, Salvador (2005) Steadfast saints or malleable models? : Seventeenth-century Irish hagiography revisited. The Catholic Historical Review, 91 (2). pp. 251-277. ISSN 0008-8080
At one of the last sessions of the Council of Trent, the question of the role of saints within the Church was addressed. While the fathers upheld the value of venerating images and relics of the saints, they nevertheless admitted that there had been some abuses of their cults in the past. This led effectively to an effort to regulate and reform the process of canonization,by which saints were made, involving a greater control over the creation of saints by the authorities in Rome in order to avoid the further growth of dubious local cults that ranged from the benign to the bizarre.1 In other words, recognition of the sacred was centralized. 2 In the wake of the Council, and amidst criticisms of the previously accepted view of sainthood from reformers within and without the Church alike, the official reaction of church authorities was indecisive. Thus, from the close of the Council in 1563 until 1588, when the Congregation of Sacred Rites and Ceremonies was established to oversee canonizations, there were no new saints officially recognized within the Catholic Church.3 One of the problems facing the Church was the prevalence of what was now considered to be questionable material in the lives of even the officially recognized saints.A more historically critical method of outlining the lives of saints was required if the idea of sainthood was going to retain any credibility in a rapidly changing Europe. In order to achieve this, the construction of new lives would have to attain certain standards and, concomitantly, old lives that were deficient in this area necessitated amendment. Peter Burke sees evidence of this new and more critical approach to the lives of saints in the work of Erasmus on the life of St. Jerome.
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