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The latest series of Controversies in Church History is now complete. 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, “Varieties of Liberalism, 1815-1848,” 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?

Episode VI: Eclipse, 1870-1905,” begins in the aftermath of Vatican I, when the Church faced even greater hostility from liberal governments, making the position of Catholic Liberals even more difficult. The Ralliement under Leo XIII seems to embrace Catholic liberal ideals, but its failure followed by the condemnation of Americanism and the final separation of Church and State in France put an end to liberal hopes. Finally, we explore how the intellectual and social dimensions of Catholic Liberalism fed into the Modernist Crisis of the early 20th century.

In the final episode, I briefly discuss the legacy of 19th century Catholic Liberalism, and how it influenced theological movements in the 20th century. In particular, I look at the impact of Catholic Liberalism on the thinkers who prepared the way for Vatican II, and how knowledge of Catholic liberalism helps us understand the era that followed the Council.

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