The Franciscan Disputes, Leuenberg Concord, and Florentine Union
Collective historical memory can be both burdensome and liberating; it can halt the progress of individuals or entire nations by keeping them trapped in the past or it can help prevent them from repeating their past errors in the future.1 This rule can also be applied to the churches. Those of us who come from the so-called traditional Christian churches, such as Orthodox or Roman Catholic, or even some of the older Protestant churches, for example Lutheran, Reformed, or Anglican, are not lacking in this historical memory—quite the opposite! The Orthodox Church, for example, to which the author of these lines belongs, sifts its every statement, opinion, and dogma through this memory in order to confirm its validity. If a new concept proves to be incompatible with historical experience, it is rejected as alien to the Church’s tradition. Now and then, these Churches run into a problem that cannot be solved by relying on historical memory, in which case they tend to (mis)interpret—not to say to manipulate—the historical memory in order to make it compatible with their modern solution to the problem. Instead of admitting that they have decided to change in order to acclimatize themselves to the modern world, these Churches claim continuity with the past. The past is, for us, as relevant as the present and sometimes even more relevant because it influences our present decisions to such a degree.
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- 2.On this topic, see Duncan Nimmo, Reform and Division in the Medieval Franciscan Order: From Saint Francis to the Foundation of the Capuchins (Rome: Capuchin Historical Institute, 1995).Google Scholar
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