• Robert Bireley
Part of the European History in Perspective book series (EUROHIP)


This book has proposed that early modern Catholicism, that is, Catholicism from roughly 1450 to 1700, is best characterized by Catholics’ response to the five major changes of the long sixteenth century. So I have written about how this response reshaped Catholicism during the early modern era rather than about the ‘Counter Reformation’ or ‘Catholic Reform’. These terms are not adequately comprehensive to denote the full reality of early modern Catholicism, but I have employed them nevertheless because they designate a substantial part of it and because they have a long tradition behind them. The period fits the pattern of Christianity’s recurring accommodation to contemporary society and culture, a phenomenon that is extremely evident in our own day. The rise of the Protestant churches in the sixteenth century illustrates this process too; they represented rival attempts to meet the challenges of the time. Whether one considers Catholicism to be the agent or the subject of this adaptation, and it was both, the church was anything but monolithic with its different directions and various spiritualities. Such diversity of approach, despite the controversy it generated, was ultimately a sign of health.


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Copyright information

© Robert Bireley, SJ 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Bireley
    • 1
  1. 1.Loyola University ChicagoUSA

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