Defending Christian Fellowship: William of Ockham and the Crisis of the Medieval Church

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Abstract:

Modern scholarship on Ockham's political thought suggests that his anti-papal polemical activities were intended to be destructive. A close analysis of Ockham's Dialogus, Part I in particular, reveals that the truth is just opposite: the reality as Ockham saw it was that the ecclesiastical institution had already broken down due to the heresy of the contemporary popes. Ockham thus proposed an alternative -- non-institutional -- vision of the Christian society; drawing on the Ambrosian (and Ciceronian) discourse on negative injustice, he appealed to all believers that a faithful believer's dissent from allegedly heretical papal authority was not irrelevant to them. Ockham called for the mutual protection of believers in opposition to heretical popes for the preservation of orthodox faith, which was indeed the common good of the Christian community. Ockham's anti-papal polemic was a constructive endeavour to rescue the very foundation of Christian solidarity.

Keywords: Christian social and political ethics; Cicero; Marsilius of Padua; St Ambrose of Milan; William of Ockham; communal duty; dissent; fellowship; heresy; later Middle Ages; medieval Church; medieval European political thought; medieval papacy; positive and negative injustice; solidarity

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of History, University of Otago, P.O. Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand, Email: takashi.shogimen@stonebow.otago.ac.nz

Publication date: January 1, 2005

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