Field: Early Modern Europe
Advisor: Ed Muir
Charles Keenan is a Ph.D. candidate studying the history of religious pluralism in early modern Europe. His research asks how Catholic leaders responded to widespread religious difference in Europe after the Reformation, particularly their reaction to the spread of religious toleration in the late sixteenth century. His dissertation – entitled “The Lesser Evil: Papal Diplomacy and the Politics of Toleration in Early Modern Europe, 1561-1605” – is composed of five case studies exploring Rome's response to edicts of toleration in England, France, Savoy, and Poland and reveals the degree of disagreement in Catholic circles over the toleration of religious minorities.
Significantly, almost none of the clerics in this study were trained as theologians. They were lawyers, diplomats, and simply noblemen who approached complex questions of religious difference from a completely different perspective than scholastics or inquisitors would. That Catholics usually opposed the toleration of religious minorities is unsurprising, but when we ask why they opposed it, how they opposed it, and who was involved, the picture becomes much more complicated. This dissertation suggests that even among those Catholics who opposed religious toleration, they could do so on a variety of grounds, citing political, theological, or simply pragmatic concerns. More surprisingly, however, such opposition was never guaranteed, since in some cases Catholic officials actually recommended toleration as a necessary expedient -- the lesser evil, compared to alternatives. By reconstructing the broad spectrum of beliefs that Catholics held about religious minorities, this project offers a new perspective in the history of religious difference in early modern Europe.
About Charles (academia.edu)