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"Remnants of the Papal Yoke": Apathy and Opposition in the Dutch Reformation

Benjamin J. Kaplan
The Sixteenth Century Journal
Vol. 25, No. 3 (Autumn, 1994), pp. 653-669
DOI: 10.2307/2542640
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2542640
Page Count: 17
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"Remnants of the Papal Yoke": Apathy and Opposition in the Dutch Reformation
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Abstract

In some parts of Europe, many people greeted religious reforms, whether Protestant or Catholic, with apathy or open hostility. In the Netherlands, such resistance was strong: a majority of Netherlands rejected first the Tridentine plans of Philip II, then the efforts of Calvinist reformers. As a result, for several decades a majority of Netherlanders belonged to no church at all. Calvinists called such people "Libertines." This essay seeks to explain the religious sentiments of this vast number of unchurched Christians. It does so by examining the explicit utterances of Libertines who spoke out against Calvinism. It argues against two traditional interpretations: that Dutch Libertinism reflected a widespread irreligiosity, and that it was a form of Erasmian humanism. Instead, it shows that two strains of piety predominated among outspoken Libertines: spiritualism and a distinctly Protestant brand of anticlericalism. Ultimately, though, Dutch Libertinism included every form of piety that did not fit the emerging confessional norms of one church or another.

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