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Part 2 of 4: The Leading Characteristic of the Renaissance
The leading characteristic of the Renaissance was a general infatuation with the writings and the art of pagan antiquity. From the admiration of the ancient literary and artistic forms there was, with some of the Humanists, but one step to the imitation of pagan morals and manners, and but another step to the consequent contempt of Christianity and the further attempt to paganize the modern world. This extreme led some well-meaning but narrow-minded persons to the opposite, perhaps not less dangerous, extreme. Seeing that the study of pagan art, pagan literature, and ancient science led to the rejection of the Christian faith and Christian morals, these extremists contended that this study should be abandoned and that Christians should confine themselves to the acquisition of the divine sciences. But this extreme runs counter to the ancient axiom, Propter abusus non tollitur usus, the abuse of a thing does not do away with its use. Again, others, the rigorists of the moral order, attributed the corruption of their time to luxury, and dreamed of forcing people back into the simple living of former times, at the expense of man's noblest prerogative, his individual liberty, as later happened in the cases of the Puritans in America, and of Calvin in the Commune of Geneva. These, too, were extremists, because Christianity does not condemn any human faculty, not even the faculty of lawful enjoyment, nor demand of civilization the surrender of any of its legitimate conquests.
Part 1: The Term Renaissance
Part 2: The Leading Characteristic of the Renaissance
Part 3: Catholic Church's Stand
Part 4: The Renaissance an Auxiliary of Christianity
The Catholic Encyclopedia: an International Work of Reference on the Constitution, Doctrine, Discipline, and History of the Catholic Church, Volume XVII - Supplement I. New York: The Encyclopedia Press, Inc., 1922.
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