The Modernization of the Roman Church: A Political-Philosophical Analysis of the Medieval Papacy




Ray, Kelsi

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The Great Western Schism of 1378 marked the beginning of one of the most tumultuous centuries for the Catholic Church. Often, however, the fifteenth century is overshadowed by the scandals of papal extravagance and reformative protestation in the sixteenth century. The conciliarist movement developed in response to the schism, however, is a political-philosophical treasure. In this thesis, I explore various theories of ecclesiastical rule from the time of the Great Western Schism through the papacy of Pope Pius II. I compare three periods of ecclesiastical government with three similar phases of political philosophy enumerated by Quentin Skinner in his article “The State.” In light of these comparisons, I consider how the ecclesiastical and secular realms can serve to illuminate one another, providing explanations for otherwise confusing or seemingly unfounded phenomena in theory and practice. In conclusion, I argue that the late medieval Church functions more as a political state than a church, leading to its modernization during the Renaissance.