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Current Series: Catholic Liberalism


The next series of Controversies in Church History is now under way. The topic this time is “Catholic Liberalism,” a movement that emerged in the early 1800s in France and influenced the Church throughout in the nineteenth century. In the first episode, we discuss what Catholic Liberalism as a movement sought to achieve, its main intellectual sources, and key terms that will help us understand this important, and still very relevant, episode in the life of the Catholic Church. You can subscribe to the podcast on Anchor, iTunes, Spotify or you favorite platform, and our YouTube channel.

In the second installment of our series on Catholic Liberalism, “Revolutionary Times, 1789-1848,” we delve into the historical background out of which a Catholic form of liberalism emerged. We discuss the French Revolution and its impact on the French Church, the emergence of political liberalism in Restoration France, and the nature of the French Church after 1814. If you enjoy the podcast, please subscribe and recommend it to friends and other interested parties.

In the third installment of our series on Catholic Liberalism, “Lamennais & the Origins of Liberalism,” we look at the rise and fall of the Abbe de Lamennais, the French priest who urged the Church to embrace liberalism in an effort to reconvert his native France, only to end his life estranged from the Church, and his teachings condemned.

In the fourth installment in our series on Catholic Liberalism, we look at the sources of Catholic liberalism beyond France. Specifically, we look at the making of Catholic liberalism in Italy, where dissatisfaction with the government of the Papal States fueled Catholic engagement with liberalism. Also discussed are Church-State relations in German speaking lands, and the emergence of theological liberalism in German Catholic circles. Finally, we note the connection between Catholic liberalism and the beginnings of the Catholic Revival in England, including its connection with John Henry Newman.

The fifth episode, “Catholic Liberalism in Retreat, 1848-1870,” explores how political events and a changing papacy conspired to derail the movement of Catholic Liberalism. The Revolutions of 1848, and the wars of unification in Italy and Germany, left the Church exposed to hostile, anti-clerical governments, and in response Catholics across Europe turn to the power of the papacy to shield them. At the same, time, pope Pius IX and his advisors decided on a combative stance toward political liberalism in Europe, issuing the Syllabus of Errors in 1864, and convoking the First Vatican Council in 1870, which made papal infallibility a dogma binding on the faithful. These events seemed to lead to the demise of any Catholic liberalism hoping to compromise with the modern world–or did they?

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