In these the tendency of the Syllabus towards obscurantism and papal despotism, and its incompatibility with modern thought, were clearly pointed out; and the evidence against papal infallibility, resting, as the Letters asserted, on the False Decretals, and accepted without controversy in an age of ignorance, was ably marshalled for the guidance of the council.
The controversy was assumed to be against prejudice, ignorance, obscurantism; what monks were to Erasmus the clergy as such were to Woolston.
Animated by an intense love of truth and devotion to public duty, he waged war on such ecclesiastical systems as seemed to him to favour obscurantism, and to put the claims of sect above those of human society.
The first English scholars of the Renaissance, like Erasmus on the continent, did not see the logical outcome of their own discoveries, nor realize that the campaign against obscurantism would develop into a campaign against Roman orthodoxy.
The brutalities of Austrias white coats in the north, the unintelligent repression then characteristic of the house of Savoy, the petty spite of the duke of Modena, the medieval obscurantism of pope and cardinals in the middle of the peninsula and the clownish excesses of Ferdinand in the south, could not blot out from the minds of the Italians the recollection of the benefits derived from the just laws, vigorous administration and enlightened aims of the great emperor.
The effects of this policy of blind obscurantism far outweighed any good that resulted from the king's well-meant efforts at economic and financial reform; and seven this reform was but spasmodic and partial, and awoke ultimately more discontent than it allayed.
If ecclesiastical authority fostered what was commonly regarded as intolerant obscurantism, to be enlightened meant to be prepared in spirit for that reform which soon developed into the Revolution.
He shared to the full the autocratic temper of the Habsburgs, their narrow-mindedness and their religious and intellectual obscurantism; and the qualities which would have made him a kindly, if somewhat tyrannical, father of a family, and an excellent head clerk, were hardly those required by the conditions of the Austrian monarchy during a singularly critical period of its history.
Has outlived its day may be justly identified with obscurantism, but not so the systems of those who, by their intellectual force alone, once held all the minds of Europe in subjection.