Judged on their own terms and with respect to the objectives of their own leading protagonists, medieval Christendom failed, the Reformation failed, confessionalized Europe failed, and Western modernity failed, but each in different ways and with different consequences, and each in ways that continue to remain important to the present.
That is the author’s tactful summation of The Unintended Revolution. A more pointed one is this:
The Protestant Reformation that began early in the sixteenth century destroyed the unity and the coherence of Christendom, initiating a process of explosive doctrinal fission from which western Christianity, western philosophy, western political theory and institutions, western economics, western society, and western morality have never recovered.
To paraphrase Sir Christopher Wren’s admirer: If you seek the Reformation’s monument, the chaos and rubble are all around you.
Brad Gregory’s scholarly thesis only expresses orthodox Catholicism’s common understanding of the past five centuries of Western history. For reflective and educated Catholics, his book’s 574 pages (too long by about a third, I should say) will come rather as confirmation than as enlightenment. It is welcome confirmation, however, while the wealth of historical detail...