A History of Auricular Confession and Indulgences, Vol. 3 of 3


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A HISTORY OF AURICULAR CONFESSION AND INDULGENCES IN THE LATIN CHURCH, Vol. 3 of 3 Vols., by Henry Charles Lea. Lea is my kind of Historian, careful in his research to a fault, he does not allow personal feelings and opinions, his own or others, to influence the facts he gathers. From the Preface I will quote this long two paragraphs: "PERHAPS in treating the subject of the present work I may be accused of threshing old straw. For nearly four centuries it has served as material for endless controversy, and its every aspect may be thought to have been exhausted. Yet I have sought to view it from a different standpoint and to write a history, not a polemical treatise. With this object I have abstained from consulting Protestant writers and have confined myself exclusively to the original sources and to Catholic authorities, confident that what might thus be lost in completeness would be compensated by accuracy and impartiality. In this I have not confined myself to standard theological treatises, but have largely referred to popular works of devotion in which is to be found the practical application of the theories enunciated by the masters of theology. I have purposely been sparing of comment, preferring to present facts and to leave the reader to draw his own conclusions. * I may perhaps be pardoned for the hope that, in spite of the arid details of which such an investigation as ‘this must in part consist, the reader may share in the human interest which has vitalized the labor for me in tracing the gradual growth and development of a system that has, in a degree unparalleled elsewhere, subjected the intellect and conscience of successive generations to the domination of fellow mortals. The history of mankind may be vainly starched for another institution which has established a spiritual autocracy such as that of the Latin Church, or which has exercised so vast an influence on human destinies, and it has seemed to me a service to historical truth to examine somewhat minutely into the origin and development of the sources of its power. This can only be done intelligently by the collocation of a vast aggregate of details, many of them apparently trivial, but all serving to show how, amid the clash of contending opinions, the structure gradually arose which subjugated Christendom beneath its vast and majestic omnipotence, profoundly affecting the course of European history and moulding in no small degree the conception of the duties which man owes to his fellows and to his God. Incidentally, moreover, the investigation affords a singularly instructive example of the method of growth of dogma, in which every detail once settled becomes the point of departure in new and perhaps wholly unexpected directions." This will hopefully give an idea of the determination and dedication to facts that makes Henry Charles Lea among the very top Historians America has produced.
Emmett F. Fields

  • Model: LE3
  • Author: Lea, Henry Charles

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