Anne Ashley Davenport
The historiography of English Catholicism has grown enormously in the last generation, led by scholars such as Peter Lake, Michael Questier, Stefania Tutino, and others. In Suspicious Moderate, Anne Ashley Davenport makes a significant contribution to that literature by presenting a long overdue intellectual biography of the influential English Catholic theologian Francis à Sancta Clara (1598–1680). Born into a Protestant family in Coventry at the end of the sixteenth century, Sancta Clara joined the Franciscan order in 1617. He played key roles in reviving the English Franciscan province and in the efforts that were sponsored by Charles I to reunite the Church of England with Rome. In his voluminous Latin writings, he defended moderate Anglican doctrines, championed the separation of church and state, and called for state protection of freedom of conscience.
Suspicious Moderate offers the first detailed analysis of Sancta Clara’s works. In addition to his notorious Deus, natura, gratia (1634), Sancta Clara wrote a comprehensive defense of episcopacy (1640), a monumental treatise on ecumenical councils (1649), and a treatise on natural philosophy and miracles (1662). By carefully examining the context of Sancta Clara’s ideas, Davenport argues that he aimed at educating English Roman Catholics into a depoliticized and capacious Catholicism suited to personal moral reasoning in a pluralistic world. In the course of her research, Davenport also discovered that “Philip Scot,” the author of the earliest English discussions of Hobbes (a treatise published in 1650), was none other than Sancta Clara. Davenport demonstrates how Sancta Clara joined the effort to fight Hobbes’s Erastianism by carefully reflecting on Hobbes’s pioneering ideas and by attempting to find common ground with him, no matter how slight.
“Christopher Davenport, or Sancta Clara, is a figure that has slipped to the margins of many treatments of English Catholicism. This book does an excellent job in making the case for his recovery. Suspicious Moderate: The Life and Writings of Francis à Sancta Clara (1598–1680) is a significant and worthwhile contribution to the historiographies of English Catholicism, the politics of seventeenth-century England, and early modern philosophy and natural science.” — Jeffrey Collins, Queen’s University
“Anne Davenport has opened a new window onto the intellectual and spiritual history of England in the seventeenth century. Her passionate account of Francis à Sancta Clara’s life and ideas restores religious discourse and controversy—Catholic and not just Protestant or Puritan—to the world that witnessed the emergence of the Scientific Revolution. It is a must-read for anyone wanting to understand the mentality of that turbulent period.” — Steven P. Marrone, Tufts University
“This is the full-length scholarly study of Sancta Clara’s life and writings that early modern historians have needed for so long. Richly contextualized, painstakingly researched, and brimming with fascinating insights, this book offers a comprehensive and convincing portrait of the career and ideas of one of the most intriguing religious figures of the seventeenth century.” — Anthony Milton, University of Sheffield