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Truth, Tradition And History: The Historiography Of High/Late Medieval And Early Modern Penance

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Chapter Summary

The historical study of sacramental penance from the 12th to the 18th centuries has been driven by confessional apologetic and intra-Catholic theological politics. While the importance of confession for Martin Luther has made it a lightning rod of confessional polemic, competing parties within the Catholic Church have used the "tradition" to support their agendas for the sacrament. All have interpreted history to harmonize with a theological vision of penance. Surprisingly, perhaps, the same issues continue a sometimes subterranean existence in even the most modern scholarship. Catholic tradition was quite ahistorical, since it was required to reflect eternal truths. The possibility that tradition in the form of history might contest the "facts" established by theology and ecclesiastical authority was only with difficulty comprehended by Catholic authors and was never actually conceded.

Keywords: history; Martin Luther; penance; tradition; truth

10.1163/ej.9789004122123.i-464.6
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