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Journal > Volumes > 43 (2012) / 4 (Winter)
Pluralism, Liturgy, and the Paradoxes of Reform: A Reforming Pluralist in Early Sixteenth-Century Rome
Jennifer Mara DeSilva
Ball State University

Catholic reformers cited pluralism and absenteeism as the chief sins of elite clergy and the cause of the church’s ignorance and poverty. Reformers encouraged bishops to reside in their dioceses, educate their flocks, and investigate both theological and behavioral abuses. This line of argument ignored the practical realities that drove pluralism and absenteeism and those clergy who pursued reform mandates in their dioceses and benefices. Paris de’ Grassi (ca. 1460–1528), the bishop of Pesaro, was a reforming pluralist whose expertise and ambition were financed by his work as the papal master of ceremonies in Rome. This prevented him from residing in his bishopric, but influenced his understanding of the bishop’s responsibility as an educator and reformer of liturgical practice. This article shows how de’ Grassi contributed intellectually as an author of liturgical guides and locally as a liturgical patron to the church of SS. Celso and Giuliano in Rome, substituting these reforming activities for a presence in his see. The notion of the reforming pluralist expands the definition of reform, as not all reformers considered their own pluralism and absenteeism to be abuse, nor did their reforms focus exclusively on the diocese.

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