Schilling, Heinz: Confessional Europe

Finally, it is important to emphasize another common feature of the early modern confessional churches in personnel matters, namely, the maintenance of the male monopoly of offices, even while women were being more closely integrated. Such were the Calvinist experiments with female deacons, the new social position of the Protestant pastor’s wife,(45) the emergence of leading Catholic nuns –notably Teresa of Avila (1515-82)– who profoundly influenced Catholic spirituality, or the direct or indirect incorporation of wives and daughters in the Marian confraternities. (46)



3. State and Society

THE INTERPENETRATION of religion and society made the formation of confessional churches a political and social fact. The coincidence of this process with the fundamental political, legal, and administrative transformation that produced the early modern state justifies our speaking of confessional Europe as the “warm-up time of modernity.” In the beginning, the confessional church set the tone and used the state for its purposes, which is why one can speak in this period of the “confessional state” . Thereafter, of course, European jurists and politicians discovered ways to harness confessionalism’s autonomous power and bind to the interests of state. This was as true of the republican and parliamentary regimes as of the absolutist ones. In the long run the alliance of state and church profited the former far more than it did the latter. The modernizing resacralization, which confessionalization promoted, produced the modernizing secularization of the modern era. This transformation requires comments, though there is not space here to draw the connections between confessionalization and the rise of capitalism or European culture.

Confessionalization and the Early Modern State

The general political consequences of confessionalization may be described in terms of Norbert Elias’ concept of the civilizing process as a form of “monopolization.” Elias recognizes in the state’s exclusive command of military and financial power the decisive “monopolies” that determined the rise of the early modern state, but he overlooks the state’s monopolization of the church and religion, which both preceded the other two processes and made them easier. (47) Confessionalization influenced four main aspects of state development: 1) the theoretical and ideological foundations of the early modern state’s authority; 2) the state’s human and material resources; 3) the formation of a political and cultural identity to integrate the subjects into the state; and 4) the growth of a system of European states, including their overseas missionary and colonizing efforts.

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