presented to the Raleigh Tavern Philosophical Society
June 18, 2008

Clifton R. Fox
Professor of Geography and History
Lone Star College -- Tomball


This essay tries to work on two levels. As an historical narrative, I want to describe in a cursory way how the Catholic Church has been transformed in the last two centuries or so from an enemy of modern political and social change, particularly democracy, to its champion. However, I want you to keep a metanarrative in mind as well. Religions claim to teach eternal truths, truths which do not change. However, religions are comprised of people, and operate within history. Religions, in fact, change constantly -- and then pretend that nothing has changed at all, at least nothing essential.

I find this interesting in our time because of concerns about Islam. People ask whether Islam is X or Y or Z, as if Islam is an entity which never changes, and which exists apart from the activities of its participant, the Muslims. Of course, to the devout, Islam is an eternal unchanging entity, but in fact Islam changes all the time because Muslims live inside history, not outside of it. For people in the West, to whom the history of Christianity is more familiar, the idea of change in the Church should be easier to grasp, yet often Christians ignore the changes in their churches and doctrines across the centuries, editing out the incongruities, often without thinking about the discrepancies. For example, it is interesting to read traditionalist Catholic websites which seem to see their Church as unchanged from St. Peter's arrival in Rome right up to Vatican II -- which, of course, wrecked everything. In fact, the Catholic Church has changed at many points in its long history.

It is important to reflect that Islam possesses the same potential for variety and change as everything else which people do. Not long ago, observers often worried that the Islamic World would never modernized because Muslims were "fatalists" incapable of social and people action. Today, we worry that Muslims are much too active, resolved to transformed the world. Our views of other cultures can also go through similar revolutions: once upon a time, it was said that East Asia could never modernized because Confucianism was a rigid system of hierarchy which crushed individuality; today we are told that Confucianism is the key to East Asian development. Europe once spoke of the "Protestant work ethic" to suggests that Catholics were too unwordly to shape their societies [although Max Weber, who invented the Protestant work ethic was really trying to argue that culture, not blood, dominated the way human societies developed]. Is this anything but a stereotype? Cultures differ from another, of course, but we commit the error of stereotyping when we treated observers of a particular and place as if they were fixed and unchanging qualities which the human capacity to change.


In 18th Europe, the Catholic Church was a cornerstone of the social and political order of absolute monarchy in France, Spain, Austria and numerous smaller states. The rulers and nobles of these societies gained great benefit from the general arrangement because the Church legitimated the existing order and assisted in the stifling of all dissent and opposition to the hierarchies of society. The Church also provided a means for royal and noble families to put their younger sons and daughters into lucrative Church offices which allowed these "extras" to enjoy a manner of life comparable to their social status without drawing down the family wealth. In many cases, these noble clerics were not really expected to carry out the nominal duties of their office, nor were they necessarily expected to live a particularly holy life.

In return for the legitimation of the social order, the Catholic Church expected to be protected by the political authorities from competing systems of ideas, such as secular philosophies, other religions or heresies within its own ranks, although by the 18th century, certain traditional remedies such as burning heretics at the stake had fallen out of fashion. In addition, of course, there also lived a goodly number of Catholics in countries where they were a minority and not the state religion, which meant that the Church could not count on the repressive authority of the state to bolster its authority. For example, in the late 17th century, Dutch Catholics had become "infected" with a heresy called Jansenism, which the Curia in Rome abhorred to graft elements of Calvinism on to the Catholic tree. Unfortunately for the authority of Rome, the Dutch Republic was a Protestant-majority state with broad notions [by the standards of the time] about religious freedom, and Jansenism could not be suppressed or controlled. The Catholic Church did woo back most of their straying flock in the Netherlands by understanding, persuasion and compromise -- not the usual arrows in its quiver, In neighboring France, however, vigorous efforts were made to prevent the spread of Jansenism by juducal means through the Church's stringent regulation of education, the censorship of printed material and the policing of heresy.

One other point must be made: the Catholic Church was a massive landholder in every Catholic country. The Church did not simply own church buildings, but huge tracts of agricultural lands worked by peasants tenants, hired hands or serfs. Church ownership of 25% of all lands in Catholic countries was not unusual. Across the centuries, countless kings, nobles and lesser worthies had granted or bequeathed land to the Church to balance their sins in the scales of eternity, with what success it is impossible to say. However, once land passed into the control of Church, its resale into other hands was almost impossible, with the result that Church's control of land increased from generation to generation. The question of land ownership is fundamental. In the first place, the ownership of land worked by the peasantry gave the Church a vested interest in keeping peasants as they were: docile and impoverished. Sometimes, there were progressive Church leaders who sought to improve the land and uplift the peasantry, just as progressive nobles were not unknown, but these were uncommon. It was possible to recognize that the empowerment of the peasantry would make the land more valuable, but such an attitude was unusual. To most landholders, whether clerical or secular, the threat to the social order seemed to overbalance any possible economic gain from a more productive workforce.

Unsurprisingly, the Catholic Church regarded the French Revolution of 1789 as a threat to its very existence. The revolutionaries, to various degrees, returned the hatred of the Church measure for measure. The philosophe Voltaire had often exclaimed "Ecrasez l'infame!" -- "Crush the infamy!" The Catholic Church was the infamy against which Voltaire raged. However, many revolutionaries did not regard themselves as enemies of Christianity in a "purified" form, but most did believe that the social and political power of the Church had to be extirpated before Christianity could approximate its true self. This view, known as "anti-clericalism" has been common in all Catholic countries since 1789. Some anti-clerics truly want to destroy the Church, but others believe that they are saving the Church by ending its corruption. Anti-clerical priests and even bishops are not unknown.

In France, the National Assembly confiscated the lands owned by the Church in 1790; the lands were then sold to pay off the huge national debt which the kings had accumulated. The National Assembly also declared the Catholic clergy to be state employees, and every priest was required to take an oath of allegiance which placed its obedience to the acts of the revolution above the authority of the Pope. The clergy of France split: many took the oath, and others refused [known as "nonjuring priests"]. Later, when the Revolutionary government came under the control of the fiercely radical Jacobins, civil war erupted in rural France. Nonjuring priests often provided leadership and spiritual solace to those rebels who desired to declare the revolutionary experiment a failure and restore the monarchy. One interesting point: if you had been a French peasant in 1789 living on a land owned by a noble, you probably would have found as owner of the land you worked once the noble family had been ousted. However, if you had lived on Church land, the land would have been sold, and you would have had a new landlord: probably some urban middle-class merchant or lawyer who would raise your rent and demand more productive methods of agriculture. Many peasants on former Church joined the anti-revolutionary movement.

Although the Jacobins were overthrown in 1794, the French Revolution continued under more temperate leadership. This new leadership, although less radical in its methods, was just as determined to spread the French Revolution by force of arms across Europe. Pope Pius VI [born Giovanni Braschi], who had reigned since 1775, was to feel the consequences of revolutionary enthusiasm in a very personal manner. In 1796, French General Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Italy. Bonaparte occupied the northern part of Italy, which cut Pope Pius VI off from the traditional protection of Austria. The French government of the moment, known as the Directory, had initially hoped to extort from the Pope his blessing for how the revolution had "purified" the Church in France. If the Pope had agreed, the position of anti-revolutionaries and nonjuring priests in France would have been undercut. Although the ferocity of France's internal struggle had abated after the overthrow of the Jacobins, sporadic fighting still continued, the countryside was restive in many areas, and the authority of the Directory was difficult to assert. However, the Pope declined to be helpful tin securing the stability of the Directory hold on power.

Early in 1798, the French Army occupied Rome. The Papal States, which the Popes had ruled for centuries, were abolished. The Directory seemed unsure what to do with Pope Pius himself, who had just passed his 80th birthday a few weeks prior to the arrival of the French. The Pope's age and uncertain health made transporting him problematic, since the Directory was not anxious to be responsible for actually killing the Pope. On the other hand, once Bonaparte left Italy for distant Egypt, the possibility of an Austrian recovery of Italy, assisted by Russian troops, was very real, and maintaining physical custody of the pontiff became the highest priorty. Early in 1799, the Pope was transported to France overland across the Alps. The strain broke him, and Pope Pius VI died in France, a prisoner of the Directory on July 13, 1799.

A few months after the death of the Pope, General Bonaparte, returned from Egypt, overthrow the Directory. He assumed power in a de facto dictatorship under the title of First Consul. The Austrians and Russians, meantime, had invaded Italy to undo Bonaparte's past victories. When Pope Pius VI died, he had commissioned the Dean of the College of Cardinals to organize a conclave in a place of his choosing. The Cardinals meet, therefore, in Venice, where the Austrians could guarantee security. The choice of the next Pope, when it was made, suggests a canny determination to be prepared for all contingencies. The new pontiff selected after a fourteen week stalemate was Cardinal Chiaramonte, who assumed the name Pius VII when he was enthroned in Venice. Several years earlier, Cardinal Chiaramonte had given a speech which had led to jaw-dropping consternation among his colleagues. He had suggested that, in spite of events in French, that the Catholic faith was not necessarily incompatible with democratic government. His pronouncement on this point had been vague and abstract, but one surmises his election suggested that the Cardinals in Venice had no great confidence in their Austrian protectors -- and they were right. On June 14, 1800, Bonaparte smashed the Austrians at the Battle of Marengo. The new Pope would have to deal with the First Consul of the French Republic.

Bonaparte, for his own part, was ready to deal. Bonaparte himself was only a nominal Catholic; his only real object of worship was the deity he saw in the mirror. Yet, he also believed that no government could maintain itself in France without the blessing of the Church, and the peace of the countryside could not be restored without a Catholic patina to the Republic. In the Concordat of 1801, Bonaparte and Chiaramonte made their peace. Pope Pius VII recognized most aspects of the revolutionary settlement of the Church, but he also recovered the Papal States in full sovereignty. Bonaparte recognized the Catholic Church as the "principal religion of the French people." When Bonaparte promulgated his Napoleonic Code, he carefully assured that it did not conflict with the social or ethical teachings of the Church. For example, family law emphasized the subordination of women to men, which displeased the more progressive revolutionaries, but which accorded with Church teachings. From this point forward, Bonaparte always presented himself as a Catholic ruler. The concordat of 1801 remained the basis of Church-State elations in France until 1905 when the separation of Church and State was declared in the aftermath of the Dreyfus Affair.

The apparent reconciliation of the Catholic Church and Revolutionary France came at a high price to Pope Pius VII. By the end of his life in 1823, he had come to be regarded by much of the Catholic Church as a man who had given too much away, who had been too liberal, and who had become an example of how the Catholic Church should not deal with the modern world. Pope Pius VII had given Bonaparte what he wanted; in return, Bonaparte had humiliated him in numerous ways. For example, when Bonaparte decided to crown himself Emperor in 1804, Pius VII was summoned to Paris under the impression that he would crown the monarch, as the Popes had crowned Holy Roman Emperors in earlier times. At the coronation, however, Bonaparte grabbed the crown from Pope's hands and crowned himself, lest anyone imagine that he owed his new title to any force on earth or in heaven aside from his own will. Pope Pius VII was left to offer his benediction as a bystander rather than as a principal; the affront to his dignity was evident to every witness. Later, in 1809, Emperor Napoleon ordered the arrest of Pope Pius VII, who remained in custody, often under ardous conditions, until 1814.

In spite of these affronts, Pope Pius VII remained true to his relative openness. In his final years, he remained committed to the moderate views which had gained his election in 1800. For example, in spite of all that had happened, he opposed the Holy Alliance, which attempted to intensively identify the Church with absolute monarchy and suppression of revolution. In 1822, he declared the Church to be neutral in the conflict between Spain and its rebellious American colonies. The next year, of course, the United States pronounced the Monroe Doctrine to declare its solidarity with Latin American against the Holy Alliance, but the Pope had beaten John Quincy Adams to the punch.

After the death of Pius VII in 1823, a series of more conservative men filled the chair of St. Peter, who were resolved to undo the leniency of Pius VII. Their conservatism was graphically expressed by the manner in which they had administered the Papal States. In the period when the French ruled the Papal States, there had been numerous reforms: a secular civil service had been formed to increase the efficiency of administration. Pope Pius VII had retained this innovation, but his successors returned administration into the hands of clerics. Everything which smacked of "the modern" was reversed. The Jews of Rome and other towns were sent back to the ghetto from which Napoleon had liberated them. In one extreme case, the practice of smallpox vaccination was forbidden, although its remarkable medical efficacy had been well-established by both the British and French armed forces in the recent war.


By 1846, even the College of Cardinals wondered whether they had gone too far: might not to rigid an adherence to the past bring exactly the revolutionary crisis which they feared? The ground was shifting beneath their feet, and so they elected a reputed moderate to the Papal chair, Cardinal Mastai-Ferretti, who was crowned as Pope Pius IX. He would reign until 1878, the longest incumbency of the Papal throne in all of history [aside from the possible exception of St. Peter himself]. In fact, Cardinal Mastai-Ferretti started his reign with some reformist gestures, including the setting up of local advisory councils to represents the interests of the laity in the Papal States. Unfortunately, when the local councils demanded that the Pope grant a constitution for the Papal States, and join in a war to drive the Austrians from Italy, they crossed a line beyond which Pope Pius IX would not go.

In November 1848, after the murder of his Minister of Justice, Pope Pius IX fled Rome. This was a year of revolution across Europe, and the Papal States were no exception. The rebels held elections in the Papal State based on universal male suffrage, and the resulting Constituent Assembly declared the "Roman Republic" in February 1849. The leaders of the Roman Republic insisted that their new regime would not interfere with the rights of the Pope as head of the Catholic Church, and they invited Pope Pius IX to return home under their protection. Pope Pius IX would have none of it, and he called upon Catholic rulers to assist him by restoring his full authority, secular as well as religious, by force.

The assistance came from a rather unexpected source, and not one that the Pope would have selected himself given the choice. In France, the Revolution of 1848 had driven King Louis-Philippe from the throne, and a Constituent Assembly had been elected by universal male suffrage. In Paris, the blow which had driven Louis-Philippe from the throne had been led by Socialists, the first time that this particular species of political critter had been sighted playing a role under that name in European politics. One obscure German Socialist named Karl Marx had distained for these Parisian Socialists, and he called him by the label "Utopians," which was no compliment. Marx thought that they were impractical fools, and he had a point. The Socialists had no seemed to realize what would happen when universal male suffrage was applied to all of France: the Constituent Assembly they championed was dominated by rural, property-owning farmers who were devout Catholics and had no sympathy for Socialism. When the Socialists saw their mistake, they tried to launch a second revolution in the streets of Paris, but the French army stood loyal to the Assembly. With General Louis Cavaignac in command, the French army smashed the Socialists in a bloody week. Cavaignac then decided to run for President under the new constitution, but he was defeated in the election by Louis Bonaparte, the nephew of Emperor Napoleon I. Bonaparte had lived in exile for much of his life, but he returned to France to defeat Caviagnac at the ballot box. Bonaparte not only called upon memories of the uncle's glory, but also declared himself the defender of the Catholic Church. That was decisive at the ballot box.

The French Army landed on the Italian coast near Rome in April 1849. The events which followed were a bit bizarre, since Louis Bonaparte aspired to defend the Catholic Church and show himself true to Republicanism at the same time. To these end, the French command had orders to avoid excessive violence, and to gain his objectives by negotiation. Fortunately for Bonaparte, the leaders of the Roman Republic feuded among themselves. Giuseppe Mazzini, thought he could negotiate a favorable agreement with Bonaparte, while the more radical Giuseppe Garibaldi wanted to fight. In the end, the Roman Republic did neither, but simply surrendered. On July 3, 1849, French troops entered Rome. They would not leave until 1870.

Pope Pius IX would have preferred to be saved by Austria. How could he trust anyone named Bonaparte? Pope Pius IX did not return to Rome until 1850, on the strong assurance that France would not create problems, an assurance which could not necessarily be believed. He might have realized that Bonaparte's Republicanism was a facade. The French President had good reason to keep his Catholic credentials burnished. In 1851, Bonaparte suspended the Constitution of the Second Republic; in 1852, President Louis Bonaparte became Emperor Napoleon III: a Catholic Emperor with the blessing of the Pope.

Pope Pius IX's flight from Rome and restoration marked him for the balance of his life. There could be no compromise with the enemies of this authority: no concessions to the modern world. One celebrated episode of the 1850's which illustrates the situation was the Edgardo Mortara affair. Edgardo Mortara was a six year old Jewish boy who lived with his parents in Bologna, a city of the Papal States. The family employed a Catholic nursemaid to care for Edgardo. When the boy had fallen ill as an infant, the nursemaid feared for his soul: if Edgardo died unbaptized, he could go to hell. She obtained holy water from her parish church, and unknown to the Mortara family, she baptized the child. He recovered from the illness, however, and it seemed that life would go on for the Mortara family, but not as expected. The nursemaid told her priest what she had done, and her priest reported it up the chain of command. Under Church law, the baptism was valid; Edgardo was Catholic. The law of the Papal State did not allow a Catholic child to be raised by a Jewish [or any non-Catholic] family. In June 1858, the child was removed from his family, and they were never reunited. Edgardo, as young as he was, adjusted to his new life. He became a monk and a priest, and lived until 1940. His parents, on the other hand, were crushed, and their family never recovered.

The Mortara Affair became a rallying point for Italian nationalists, anti-clericalists, liberals and all others for whom the Catholic Church represented a dogmatic and irremediable past. The matter was not just confined to Italy or Europe. In the United States, for example, the 1850's saw the height of anti-Catholic feeling, including the organization of the American or "Know Nothing" Party. This movement was in part a response to the surge of Irish Catholic immigration, but against the background of the crushing of the Roman Republic and the Mortara Affair, it is not surprising that anti-Catholicism had such a wide audience in America. For American Catholics, the dilemma was often that they did not agree the Pope, but could not bring themselves to say so in public. For example, in 1852, the Catholic Bishops of the United States held a plenary meeting in Baltimore. Among the resolutions passed was this: "The Fathers profess their allegiance to the Pope as the divinely constituted head of the Church, whose office it is to confirm his brethren in the Faith. They also declare their belief in the entire Catholic Faith as explained by the ecumenical councils and the constitutions of the Roman pontiffs." The Catholic bishops wrote this paragraph in a very precise way, which means that they did not necessarily endorse the political views of the Pope, but would anyone but a canon lawyer or theologian have understood the distinction?

One important observer of the Pope in the 1850's was Camilio di Cavour, appointed as Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Sardinia in 1852. The Kingdom of Sardinia included not only the island of Sardinia, but also the northwestern part of the Italian mainland, then the most economically advanced part of Italy [including Turin and Genoa]. Cavour and his royal master, Vittorio Emanuele II, aspired to unite Italy under a liberal constitutional monarchy, but they faced great obstacles: Emperor Napoleon III of France, Emperor Franz Josef of Austria, Pope Pius IX, and even opposition from Giuseppe Mazzimi and Giuseppe Garibaldi who wanted an Italian Republic.

Cavour decided that Napoleon III was the weak link in the chain. Napoleon III was a man divided: on the one hand, he did not wish to end like his defeated uncle, and he aspired to rule as a sensible cautious European monarch; on the other hand, how can a Bonaparte not seek glory on field of battle? Cavour's first step was to join Britain and France in the Crimean War against Russia. After, the Crimean War, Cavour suggested to Napoleon an alliance against Austria. If Austria were driven out of Italy, Cavour suggested, Napoleon himself could fill the void. In 1859, the war was fought: the Austrians were defeated, and yielded Lombardy to Sardinia, but Napoleon inexplicably withdrew from the war at that point. The Sardinians were first aghast by this desertion, but Cavour saw opportunity and seized it. In 1860, Sardinian troops moved into a number of states which had maintained independence due to Austrian protection, annexing Tuscany, Modena, and Parma. Meantime, an expeditionary force commanded by Giuseppe Garibaldi landed on Sicily; he gained control of the island, and crossed over to the mainland. Garibaldi occupied Naples, and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies ceased to exist.

The Papal States stood isolated. French troops were garrisoned Rome and the surrounding region of Lazio, but no French troops were in the other portions of the Papal States, in the regions Umbria, The Marches or Romagna. Sardinian troops occupied these unprotected parts of the Papal States. Pope Pius IX excommunicated King Vittorio Emanuele and his government, but this had no effect on their behavior. In March 1861, King Vittorio Emanuele assumed the title "King of Italy." Cavour had little chance to savor his victory: in June, he died suddenly; Pope Pius IX could not help but take some grim satisfaction in the news.

The Pope's pronouncements grew more heated: Catholics were not to take no part in the new Italian state. They were not to vote, to serve in its armies, to participate in its administration. All of these actions incurred the penalty of excommunication. Pope Pius did not confine his wrath to Italy, but saw the situation close to home as the manifestation of a world gone mad. The end result of this was the issuance of the remarkable doctrine known as the Syllabus of Errors in 1864, a listing of eighty propositions which a Catholic must not believe.

The circle grew tighter. In 1866, the Austrian Empire was defeated by the Kingdom of Prussia, a Protestant state, in alliance with the Kingdom of Italy; Austria lost Venetia to Italy, and Austria seemed entirely ejected from Italy. Austria also seemed booted out of Germany, and a unified Germany, when it came under the Prussian aegis, would be under Protestant government, the German Catholics a besieged minority. In 1867, Emperor Maximilian of Mexico, brother of Emperor Franz Josef of Austria, was shot by the armies of the fiercely anti-clerical Benito Juarez [behind whom lurked another viper's nest of Protestants -- the United States]. Benito would then implement a law passed in 1856 which stripped the Catholic Church of its property in Mexico; the author of that law, Sebastian Lerdo, would later succeed Benito as President of Mexico. The name Benito became a symbol of anti-clericalism; a man might name his son Benito in order to mock the Church, as would the Socialist blacksmith Alessandro Mussolini in 1883. In 1868, Queen Isabel II of Spain fled into exile, and Spanish leaders debated whether to have a liberal monarchy or a republic. In Spain -- how the world gone mad!

In 1869, Pope Pius IX called an Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church, the first meeting of its kind since the 16th century. The sessions took place at the Vatican, and it is known as Vatican I. It is most famous for the adoption of the doctrine of Papal Infallibility, upon which Pope Pius insisted. The doctrine of Papal Infallibility is rather odd. First, the Pope is only infallible in regards to doctrine, not in other matters, and only when he invokes the doctrine. In spite of Pope Pius IX's insistence on the passage of the doctrine, which has always been a lightning rod for anti-Catholic and anti-clerical eye-rolling, he never invoked it. Indeed, it has been invoked only once, when Pope Pius XII declared the doctrine of the Assumption of Mary in 1950. The trouble with Papal Infallibility is that it contradicts [or seems to contradict] the Petrine Doctrine. Can a declaration of Papal Infallibility by one Pope bind a future Pope? If yes, then the future Pope is denied his full powers as the successor of St. Peter. If no, then Papal Infallibility is meaningless. Still, Pope Pius IX insisted on the passage of the doctrine of Papal Infallibility, although the doctrine caused an increase in anti-clericalism, and actually undercut real papal authority. Here was a sign of despair. The Vatican I Council last met on September 1, 1870, but it was not actually closed, because the Pope to bring it back one day. The end of the Vatican I Council was not proclaimed until 1960, when Pope John XIII started the planning for Vatican II.

The abrupt adjournment of the Vatican Council was a result of events elsewhere in Europe. Emperor Napoleon III of France had stumbled into war with the Kingdom of Prussia, led by its Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. Ostensibly, the conflict was caused by Napoleon's objections to the candidacy of a German prince to the throne of Spain. In fact, Bismarck proked the war because he believed that the defeat of France would "seal the deal" in the creation of the German Empire of which he and his crowned master, King Wilhelm I had long dreamed. Napoleon, in search of allies, sounded out Vittorio Emanuele of Italy. The Italian monarch suggested that Italy might support France [although Italy had supported Bismarck against Austria in 1866], but only if French troops left Rome and acknowledged the right of Italy to annex Rome. French troops abandoned Rome; the Vatican Council dispersed, and the Italian Army entered Rome on September 20, 1870. Whether Vittorio Emanuele would have really fought Prussia had become moot by then. On September 2, 1870, at the Battle of Sedan, the Prussians defeated Napoleon, and the Emperor of French became the prisoner of the Prussians. To add insult to injury, Vittorio Emanuele's second son, Amadeo, was elected King of Spain in November [but he was too anti-clerical for Spain, and he did not last].

Pope Pius IX had lost his secular authority, and he refused to leave his Vatican Palace for the rest of his life; he considered himself the "prisoner of the Vatican." After all, he could not travel through the streets of Rome without implicitly accepting the existence of the Kingdom of Italy. If this were not bad enough, Pope Pius' last years were further darkened by the Kulturkampf, the anti-Catholic struggle waged by Otto von Bismarck in the new German Empire. Although suspicious of Catholics, Bismarck incorporated Catholic areas, such as Bavaria, into the German empire when it was formed in 1871. Part of Bismarck's qualms about Catholics reflected religious prejudice, part of it reflected Bismarck suspicion of the Church's anti-nationalism, and part of it reflected his belief that Church was pro-Austrian [probably true, although Bismarck underestimated the degree to which political pragmatism could override the Church's political affiliations].

Bismarck's Kulturkampf included: criminal prosecution of political statements in the pulpit; banning of religious teaching from government schools; the requirement that Church owned schools follow a government curriculum for none religious subjects; state supervision of the education of clergy; ending of the right of clergy to be tried only in Church courts, and requirement of civil marriage [religious marriage lost any legal significance, although one was free to hold a religious ceremony]. Note the these measures were carefully written as not to target Catholics specifically, but applied to all clergy. Protestant clergy in Germany [except the pietists], however, had long functioned in a state church, lost few rights and were accustomed to not complaining. Jewish clergy had actually gained by being put on the same footing as Christians. Catholics were the big losers, and it was meant to be that way.

Bismarck himself grew rather disillusioned with the Kulturkampf after a few years. He realized that the Catholic Church posed no threat compared to the rising tide of Socialism among German workers. He saw that the Catholic Church could be an ally, and he tried to open secret negotiations to make a deal. Pope Pius IX was too bitter a man to respond to Bismarck overtures, and Bismarck had to wait until the "prisoner of the Vatican" was dead before he could strike a deal with his successor.

Pope Pius IX breathed his last on February 7, 1878. His troubles were not ended; his own will made the burial of his remains almost impossible, since it forbade the Italian state to have any role in any aspect of his last rites, not even in matters of security. Complex negotiations delayed a funeral until 1881, and it was held under the stipulation that Italian police and military would remain unseen at a discreet distance. Unfortunately, an anti-clerical mob attempted to gain control of the coffin and fling it into the Tiber, and the police and military had to take charge. Many in the Church suspected that the Italian government itself had instigated the mob to offer the Pope one final humiliation by forcing him, at long last, to be protected in his rights and dignity as a citizen of Italy.


After the death of Pius IX, his place was filled by Leo XIII [Cardinal Pecci], who ruled from 1878-1903, and then by Pope Pius X [Cardinal Sarto], who reigned from 1903-1914. Their reigns was marked by the rise of Socialism as a challenge to the existing order, which tended to eroded the intrasigence of the Church towards the governments of the day. One notable event was the encyclical Rerum Novarum [1891], which declared the Church's support for "social justice." In the years which followed, the Church supported the formation of Catholic trade unions, Catholic business groups and Catholic professional organizations. The goal was to undercut Socialism by assuring the working class that the Church understood its problems, and did not oppose all efforts to redress grievances. The Church needed to soften class conflict, and to make rapprochment with governments which, even if unsatisfactory, were supporters of the existing social order. Pope Leo XIII's settlement with Bismarck in 1878 had signaled an early turning towards these new attitudes, but the Church moved quicker in countries where it was a minority and had fewer options then where it had been traditionally in the majority. In Italy, it was not until 1905 that the ban on voting in Italian elections was lifted, and only on the condition that Catholic voters did not vote Socialist.

The outcome of this shift varied in different parts of the world due not only to the different status of the Catholic Church, but also due to the underlying political culture. In the United States, for example, the council of bishops meeting in Baltimore in 1884 mandated the every diocese must provide Catholic schools, and that every Catholic parent ought to send their child to these institutions to avoid Protestant indoctrination in the public schools of the United States. At the same time, Catholic schools in the United States soften the accusation of separatism by invariability teaching curricula which were academical rigorous and highly patriotic. Of course, Catholic school patriotism added a few distinctive notes to American history, as Catholics celebrated heroes to whom most Americans had given little thought. Every Catholic school student knew about the brothers Charles and John Carroll; Charles the only Catholic to sign the Declaration of Independence, and John the first Catholic bishop in the United States. Columbus Day was launched as a national observance largely in order to include Catholics in the American story; in the early days, non-Catholics were reluctant to support this holiday, seeing it as a Catholic holiday. Congress only made Columbus Day into a national holiday in 1934. It is amusing that when Columbus Day started to be criticized in 1960's and 1970's on quite different grounds, many defenders of the holiday talked as if it had been a quintessentially American holiday since the Republic began, when the holiday itslef had been the product of ethnic politics.

In other countries, matters took a different turn. At the opposite extreme from the United States, there were movements elsewhere which interpreted the quest for social justice under the banner of "integralism," the call for a powerful state which would enforce social peace by fiat. The later fascist movements might be thought as integralism with the Catholic call for social justice replaced by radical nationalism. To illustrate, let us consider the case of France.

After the Battle of Sedan in 1870, Emperor Napoleon III founded himself as an involuntary guest of Bismarck. Months later, in January 1871, the German Empire was proclaimed at Versailles. Bismarck's victory was so overwhelming, that he faced the problem of having no legitimate French government on which to impose a treaty. Consequently, once France's provisional government sued for peace, Bismarck demanded the France hold elections to a National Assembly under the Constitution of 1848 [universal male suffrage]. He would negotiate only with a government selected by the new National Assembly. In this bizarre way, France finally achieved democracy, which [with the exception of the Vichy regime], it has retained ever since. No Frenchman ever thanked Bismarck. Of course, it was not clear at the time how enduring the new form of government would be. The first order of business was to end the war; the new French government, dubbed the Third Republic, was forced to sign the humiliating Treaty of Frankfurt.

After the treaty was done, the National Assembly debated what form of government should be made for the long-run. Elections in 1873 swept in a monarchist majority, and it appeared that the Third Republic might end when it had scarcely started. However, the monarchy never happened because the monarchist were divided into three distinct movements. The Bourbon monarchists supported the claims of the man they called Henri V, the grandson of Charles X who had been deposed in 1830. The Bourbon monarchists were the most conservative of the three movements, and the most unabashedly Catholic. Bonapartists, the smallest of the movements, supported the claims of Napoleon III's son, known as the Prince Imperial to become Napoleon IV. The Bonapartists claimed to be Catholic too, but observers increasing understood that all Bonapartes worship only what they see in the mirror. Finally, the left wing of monarchism, the Orleanist party supported the claims of Louis-Philippe, grandson of the king of the same name who had been deposed in 1848. Louis-Philippe was an unabashed liberal; he had served in the Union Army in the American Civil War; his account of his service is a classic of Civil War literature. Pope Pius IX, still alive, had no sympathy for a person of this description. He had supported the Confederates in the American Civil War, and had sent letters of sympathy and gifts to Jefferson Davis in prison. In any case, the failure of the monarchists to agree on a king permitted the Third Republic to survive the 1870's by default.

The Catholic Church was opposed to Third Republic, and continued to hope for its demise, even if it lacked a political defender. Jules Ferry, the Minister of Education, turned the French schools into platform of anti-clerical propaganda; legislation sponsored by Ferry required every child in France to attend secular public schools until the age of fifteen. Here was the time when Jeanne Darc was elevated in France to the status of national heroine. Here was a clever ploy by the defenders of the Republic. Jeanne Darc was devout, after all, she was a symbol of faith, not a symbol of disbelief -- but, who burnt her at the stake? The corrupt prelates of the Church betrayed her to the invader and burnt her. Her ultimate canonization as saint in 1920, was part of the eventual rapprochnment between the Papacy and the Third Republic, but that is a later story.

In 1883, the putative Henri V, the Bourbon died. His will shocked his supporters. He left behind no close relations to follow him as the Bourbon claimant, and in his will he bequeathed his claim to Louis-Philippe, the Orleanist claimant. The conservative Bourbon supporters were shocked and left rudderless. Even the Church seemed to dessert monarchism. In 1890, Cardinal Lavigerie, a senior French prelate, echoing the shift in the Vatican under Leo XIII, said that the Church was not opposed to the Republic; that it was the general duty of Catholic to be good citizens, and, therefore, French Catholics should "rally" to the Republic. This shift reflected the fact that only massive Catholic participation in a regime which could not replaced would hold off anti-clericalism and Socialism. Ever since Cardinal Lavigerie gave his speak, the word "Rally" has been code word [now fading] for Catholic Republicanism. For example, Charles DeGaulle's first political party was the "Rally of the French People." Jacques Chirac's party was the "Rally For the Republic."

A few years later, the Dreyfus Affair exploded. The Jewish army captain Alfred Dreyfus was accused of treason and espionage on behalf of Germany. Although Edgardo Mortara and Alfred Dreyfus were very different people, in both cases these Jewish individuals became the unwilling symbols of liberalism, anti-clericalism, and secularism. France split on the matter when accusations surfaced that the evidence against Dreyfus had been fabricated to protect another man, and that Army leaders had decided the cover up the truth to protect their "honor" and, they left Dreyfus to rot on Devil's Island. For the most part, people in France, took sides in this controversy not based on evidence, but on their individual sense of who could be trusted and believed. Dreyfus' supprters, the Dreyfusards, took in anti-clericalists, anti-militarists, liberals and Socialists; the anti-Dreyfusards consisted of the ultra-nationalists, anti-Semites, and conservative Catholics. France was sharply divided. Gradually, the Dreyfusards gained majority support in the country, partly due to the leadership of Georges Clemenceau, and partly due to Georges Picquart, an army officer who had been sent to reinvestigate the Dreyfus case by the Army itself. The generals assumed that Picquart, a career officer of impeccable conservative opinions would reaffirm Dreyfus' guilt and whitewash the cover-up. However, Picquart was a man of real honor, and he revealed the truth that Dreyfus had been framed. One of the perpetrators committed suicide. After that, although the Army tried to ruin Picquart, the Dreyfusards held the political balance of power.

A series of Dreyfusard governments governed from the mid-1890's onward, but the coalition was unstable. Undoubtedly, all Dreyfusards were anti-clerical, but how far to go? Everyone claimed to believe in true freedom of religion, but what did that mean? The Associations Act of 1901 declared that religious organizations were subjected to same government regulation as all other activities. In 1904, thousands of illegal religious school were closed, and thousands of priests and nun fled the country to avoid prosecution. Finally, the formal separation of Church and State took place in 1905. Early in 1906, Dreyfus was officially exonerated; a few months later, Georges Clemenceau became Premier with George Picquart as Minister of War.

Interestingly, the Dreyfusard coalition broke up just as soon as Dreyfusards conviction was overturned. Clemenceau was a liberal in 19th century sense -- he regarded the rights of property as a great expression of liberty, [erhaps the greatest. He fell out with the Socialists, and he became as famous for crushing strikes as for upholding Dreyfus' rights; gradual rapprochment with the Catholic Curch within France in a tentative fashion, although formal relations with the Pope were not resumed until 1914. Jeanne Darc's beatification in 1909 was part of the peacemaking process. Later still, Clemenceau was Premier during World War I, and completely flummoxed Woodrow Wilson at Versailles. Clemenceau became a symbol of French power and unity at the end of his life, when he once been a symbol of division, but it was a different France that he represented.

But something else must be added, because the undercurrent of division never really ended. One fiery anti-Dreyfusard was Charles Maurras, who never accepted defeat. Although he acknowledged that the evidence against Dreyfus had been forged, he also pubically insisted that the Army was right to sacrifice Dreyfus. What was one Jew compared to the national interest? Charles Maurras advocated "integral nationalism," and the restoration of absolute monarchy. His movement, called L'Action Française, enjoyed wide popularity among Catholic who thought that the Church had gone soft, among disaffected aristocrats who despised democracy, and radical intellectual of the right. Maurras was a fascist before the word "Fascist" existed. Maurras lived long enough to celebrate the regime of Philippe Petain, although Maurras was too much of a French nationalist for the Petain's German masters to trust him completely. After Liberation, he was sentenced to life in prison, and died in 1952.


Pope Pius X died a few weeks after World War I opened in 1914. His successor, Cardinal Della Chiesa, was enthroned as Pope Benedict XV. Pope Bendict XV died in 1922 after a short, but turbulent reign. He tried to end the carnage of the First World War by exerting his influence, but with little effect. He lamented not only the carnage of war, but he feared that disorder would threatened the social order. The Russian Revolution of 1917, and consolidation of power by the Bolsheviki, were proofs that his fears were justified. Closer to home, post-war strikes and riots by Communists and Socialists in Italy were beaten back by the force called Fascism, led by the one time Socialist, and still unbaptisted, Benito Mussolini. Pope Benedict died in January 1922; a few months later, Benito Mussolini was named Prime Minister of Italy.

Many respectable Italians had regarded Fascism as a necessary evil to prevent Communist revolution. They were not quite prepared for a Fascist revolution, but many blithely supposed Mussolini in power would become respectable. Fascist thugs would wield pens instead of truncheons, and life would go on. The new pontiff, Pius XI [formerly Cardinal Ratti] saw little option except to work with the Fascist state, even when the Fascist state suppressed Catholic political activity. On a larger stage, Pope Pius XI continued the developments which had been launched before the World War. He sought a broad based mobilization of the laity into the life of the Church, which was an extension of activities launched by Rerum Novarum in 1891. Pope Pius XI organized the movement called Catholic Action, which sought to mobilize Catholics for social and political action. In 1931, shocked by the Great Depression, he reinforced the call to governments to achieve social justice in the encyclical Quadragesimo Anno [1931].

Fascism in Italy reached a turning point when Fascist thugs murdered Giacomo Matteotti, a Socialist member of Parliament in 1924. Although Mussolini did not order the crime, he had to decide how to proceed. If he punished the killers, he would loss the trust of his movement, and his hold on power would be shaken. Therefore, the killers would not be punished. This guaranteed that there there would be a torrent of strikes, protests and dissent. To hold power, Mussolini would have to abandon any pretense of a constitutional premiership in favor of the consolidation of strict dictatorship. And, Mussolini consolidated, smashing all politcal opposition. He was now Il Duce, not of Fascism, but of Italy. At the same time, Mussolini turned to the Catholic Church to bolster his legitimacy. In 1927, he accepted baptisim. Two years, Mussolini signed the Lateran Treaty with Pope Pius XI, and Vatican City-State came into existence as a sovereign state ruled by the Pope.

In retrospective, modern observers see Mussolini as the foreruuner of Hitler, but Pope Pius XI saw Italian Fascism and German Nazism as completely different. Pius XI's view was that Church could accept any government which did not persecute the Church, and which maintained a fundamental social and moral order. Democracy was besides point; France's separation of church and state had been enacted by a democratic government, but it was more objectionable than anything done by Mussolini. Communism was different, and Pope Pius XI came to conclude that Nazism also represented something beyond the pale, although Pope Pius XI bided his time, and never made a definitive public statement. We know that Pope Pius XI had commissioned an American Jesuit named John LaFarge to draft an encyclical denouncing Nazi racism, but it was never issued.

The opposition of Pope Pius XI to Nazism racism rested in the fact that the Nazi idea of Rassenkampf [racial struggle] insisted that a person's worth and identity derived from their biological heritage, and could not be altered. If this were accepted, then human free will would have no scope, culture and faith would be irrelevant. In this sense, Nazism was just as materialistic as Communism, except that its materialism refered to biological materials rather than material forces of production. However, it would be a mistake to image that the "hidden encyclical" involved any great defense of the Jews or other victims of Nazi racism. The basic elements of Catholic theology were restated: Jews and other non-Catholics were followers of error. True freedom of religion means the freedom of the Catholic Church to function, and the right of Catholics to worship; error has no rights, only limited tolerance in the margins based on humanity and mercy; there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church; the crime of the Nazis towards the Jews was to deny their opportunity to see the light and convert to the true faith. Although some writers have tried to picture Pope Pius XI as a anti-Nazi hero, they have often to slam his successor Pope Pius XII by comparison.

Pope Pius XII [formerly Cardinal Pacelli] has been a figure of furious controversy. The British writer John Cornwell has pilloried Pope Pius XII as "Hitler's Pope." Interestingly, five years after Cornwell published his book length denunciation of Pope Pius XII, he offered a very different opinion in the pages of the Economist that "I would now argue, in the light of the debates and evidence following Hitler's Pope, that Pius XII had so little scope of action that it is impossible to judge the motives for his silence during the war, while Rome was under the heel of Mussolini and later occupied by Germany." Pope Pius XII, like the men that he followed on the chair of St. Peter, saw the Nazis, like the Communists, as a danger in different category from Mussolini. However, Pope Pius XII regarded his main duty as the defense of the Church. In my view, he acted as a bureaucrat defending his organization; he did not assume the role of ethical hero in opposing evil. Many individual Catholics did act as heroes, but he did not. And, it is possible that this was not his proper role in any case. However, people who are not heroic in the face of evil are not evil people, and should not be denounced as if they were. Who knows if they would have done better?

In a discussion of Pope Pius XII, some discussion of the "Hitler's Pope" controversy seems unavailable, but my focus is on what Pope Pius XII did after the war: he was the architect of the Christian Democratic movement in Europe. Never before had political parties authorized by the Papacy functioned at the center of the dermocratic process. The Christian Democratic Party emerged in Italy out of variety if elements, including anti-Nazi resistance fighters with roots in Catholic Action. The founder of Christian Democracy in Italy was Alcide de Gasperi [1881-1954], who organized the Christian Democrats illegally from 1943, using a job in the Vatican library as cover for his clandestine activities. De Gasperi served as Prime Minister of Italy from 1945-1953. Immediately after liberation, all of the anti-Fascists parties worked in concert, but after the abolition of the monarchy in 1946 debated opened over the shape of the Constitution of the Italian Republic. A similar debate took place in France, with much the same results. The Communists favored a powerful presidency, which they hoped to occupy, but the Italian and French constitutions as finally completed were both designed on the Parliamentary model, and in a manner likely to guarantee weak and short-lived governments. In May 1947, in both France and Italy, the Communists were expelled from government, and politics polarized. In Italy, the first elections under the new constitution were held in 1948. The Catholic Church pulled out all the stops to guarantee De Gasperi's victory. The Soviet Union and the United States both poured in mountains of cash to finance the two sides [as both denied doing anything to intefere with Italian internal afIairs]. On April 18, 1948, the Christian Democrats won 48% of the popular vote, and Popular Democratic Front [Communists and allies] took 31%. De Gasperi achieved a mandate to rule, and the Communist never governed Italy.

Pope Pius XII had embraced democracy as no Pope had done before in order to halt the sweep of Communism. It is important to grasp, however, that the Catholic understanding of democracy differs from what many Americans might suppose. Democracy, form a Catholic point of view, is a procedural rather than a substantive doctrine. Communist must be opposed because it is a substantive doctrine opposed to the Church's view of the social and moral order, but democracy is an empty vessel which becomes whatever the majority of voters wants it to become. Support for democracy in this sense stems from the hope that most ordinary people can be persuaded to act within reasonable bounds, and it is only later that the Church has had deal with whether democracy is acceptable when the voters go beyond what the Church thinks is reasonable. Is democracy just a good method or it is particular system of values?

The emergence of Christian Democracy had difference wrinkles in different places. In France, Christian Democracy never quite got off, largely because Charles DeGaulle favored a brand of conservatism which was more "dirigiste" than the Church favored, and DeGaulle himself, although a devout Catholic, was unwilling to be directed by clerics. Partly, this was due to DeGaulle's own authoritarian streak, but this was due to DeGaulle's experience in shaping the Free French movement. When De Gaulle called the French people to "rally" in 1940 and 1941, those who joined him in London included a disportionate helping of Socialists, Liberals, anti-clericals and Jews [not to ignore some staunch Catholics like Georges Bidault], but to De Gaulle, too many good Catholics had truckled to Petain, and he would never forget it. In Germany, Konrad Adenauer was the progenitor of the Christian Democratic Party, but it was impraticable to build a Catholic party in majority Protestant Germany [although Adenauer was Catholic, as also Helmut Kohl], so the phrase "Christian Democratic" had to be viewed in the wider sense. The current German Chancellor Angela Merkel, is the Christian Democratic daughter of a Lutheran pastor. And, of course, there was Spain, where the Church supported the Franco dictatorship after World War II, as did the United States. To be sure, Franco rushed to clean up his act after the deaths of former allies Hitler and Mussolini, not only be adjusting his rhetoric to suit Americans tastes, but also by releasing many of the political prisoners that had been held since end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939 [those had not died in the brutal camps]. In many ways, the Catholic Church did itself great damage by its support of Franco, because the Church's association with the dictatorship is a key factor in decline of the Church in Spain; although Spain is still a country where most people are baptized, the Church's views carry little weight; consider the legalization of gay marriage in 2005. When the Franco dictatorship ended, the various conservative parties which emerged distanced themselves from the Church, no major political party took on the "Christian Democratic" label.

In many ways, Pope Pius XII marked the end of an age in a way which no one in his lifetime recognized. After his death in 1958, the Catholic Church under Pope John XXIII [Cardinal Roncalli] set out upon a new path. This new is often described as "liberal" or "reformist," but my view that does not capture what is most essential. Pope Pius XII was the last Pope of the Eurocentric Church, and Pope John XXIII inaugurates the age of the Global Church.


Angelo Roncalli, at the age of seventy-seven and no longer vigorous, did not look like a revolutionary when his colleagues in the College of Cardinals put him on the throne of St. Peter in 1958. He reigned for less than five years, but his legacy makes his pontificate as consequential as any in modern Catholic history. The Vatican II Council called by Pope John XXIII made the changes in the Church since the Council of Trent, which closed in 1563, tried to clean up the holy mess left by the Protestant Reformation. However, let us look the changes wrought in a somewhat different context than might be usual. He expanded the College of Cardinals by new appointments, carrying it beyond a fixed size which had been maintained since the 16th century. His new appointments were international in scope, and started the transformation of the College of Cardinals into an international body as it had never been before. In 1958, seventeen of the fifty-one Cardinals who elected John XXIII were Italians [exactly one-third]; twenty years later, the Italians were 23% of the Cardinals-Electors who elected the first non-Italian Pope since the 16th century, and they were reduced to 17% in the conclave of 2005, when the first German was elected Pope since the 11th century.

The changing composition of the Colleges of Cardinals has reflected the changing face of the Catholic Church. In 2000, for example, according to the Church's own figures, only 27% of baptized Catholics are Europeans. The Catholics of Latin American represent 43% of the global total. These figures, let it be noted, ignore the degree of religious observation or intensity of feeling. The speed of change is astonishing: in 1950, Europeans were 49% of world Catholic population. The shifting geographic composition of the Catholic Church has an important implication for the Church's stand on democracy. In Europe, support for democracy had a clear connection to anti-Communism, but beyond Europe the dynamics are quite different. The position of the Church in Latin America is illustrative of the point.

Earlier in this essay, we looked briefly at situation in Mexico. The conflict known as the "War of the Reform," fought from 1857 until 1861, had several dimensions, but the Liberals in the conflict, led by Ignacio Comonfort, Benito Juarez and Sebastian Lerdo were staunchly anti-clerical. Conservative forces controlled Mexico City from the time of the expulsion of Comonfort in January 1858 until Juarez returned to Mexico City on January 1861. After their defeat, some Mexican conservatives appealed to Europe for intervention. Emperor Napoleon III would not have involved himself except for the American Civil War. French troops occupied Mexico City in 1863, and Juarez fought onward as best he could from elsewhere in Mexico. Napoleon III's nominee for the post of Emperor of Mexico, Archduke Maximilian of Austria, reached his capital in 1864. However, the end of the American Civil War made the position of the French in Mexico impossible to maintain. Maximilian, only recently arrived rejected the entreaties of Napoleon III and his own brother Franz Josef to get out. Early in 1867, Maximilian abandoned Mexico City and withdraw to a fortress; he was shot after his surrender. Juarez ruled Mexico until his death in 1872; his successor Sebastian Lerdo was overthrown in 1876 by General Porfirio Diaz.

Juarez and Lerdo were staunch anti-clericalists. In the 180's, Porfirio Diaz made his peace with the Church, and the Church supported him in return. Porfirio Diaz remained ruler of Mexico until 1911. The regimes of Juarez, Lerdo and Diaz all described themselves as Liberals. Liberalism in 19th century Latin America did not by any means equate with democracy. Liberals in Latin American were interested in economic development and secular education; that is why they were usually anti-clerical. Liberals saw democracy as an ideal for the future; democratic rights would be given to masses when they were ready, but not before they were ready. The ignorant masses, loyal to the Catholic Church, were not ready, and Diaz looked to the Catholic Church to keep the masses docile in the meantime.

In 1911, the Mexican Revolution exploded; Porfirio Diaz fled from Mexico to die in Paris. The Mexican Revolutionaries were a varied lot, fighting among themselves, but anti-clericalism was the rule; the Church had carried water for the dictator. The situation of the Church grew worse when Venustiano Carranza consolidated his power and promulgated the Constitution of 1917. The Constitution of 1917 mandated secular education in schools; it outlawed monastic orders; it forbid religious worship outside church buildings; the Church was forbidden to own property other religious buildings; clergy were forbidden to wear religious garb outside of church and denied the right to vote.

The government of Mexico did not always enforce these stringent rules, but in 1924 a new president came to power who meant business. Plutarco Elias Calles resolved to enforce anti-Catholic measures to the full. In 1927, open rebellion by Catholic loyalists surged. Unfortuately for the rebels, who called themselves Cristeros, support from the official Church was nil. The bishops of Mexico preferred to ride out the storm rather then to risk annihilation. The Cristeros were slaughtered in encounter after encounter. An end to the conflict was brokered in June 1929 by United States Ambassador Dwight Morrow, a former J. P. Morgan partner, who was better known in the United States for his daughter Anne's wedding to Charles Lindbergh a few weeks earlier. Plutarco Elias Calles, the president against whom the Cristeros rose up, was the founder of one-party rule in Mexico, which did not end until 2000. The Mexican government remained anti-clerical for decades, but the Mexican people remained devout. Interesting, is it not? In countries where the Church was rich and powerful, the people turned away. Where the Church is poor and oppressed, the people continue to believe.

In many Latin American countries, social upheavals like these in Mexico never occured. The Catholic Church remained emmeshed with the structure of power into the late twentieth century. The Vatican II Council, launched by Pope John XXIII and completed by his successor Pope Paul VI [formerly Cardinal Montini], called for sweeping changes in the Catholic Church, but many of these would require far vaster transformations in Latin American than in Europe. Most Latin American countries lacked political democracy. In some cases, the forms of democracy were observed, but elections were rigged to produce the right result. Military rule and domination by landed aristocracies was commonplace. The gap between rich and poor was immense; racial divisions between European-descended elites and the majority of the population was often a vast chasm. Some priests in Latin America regarded the Church's concept of reform as suitable for Europe, but irrelevant in their different environment. In 1972 Father Gustavo Gutierrez of Peru published his work entitled A Theology of Liberation. Father Gutierrez's views were influenced by the Peruvian Marxist José Carlos Mariátegui [1894-1930], as well as by the Cuban Revolution of Fidel Castro. Although Gutierrez's incorporation of Marxism into Catholic theology would never be accepted by the Vatican, his work polarized the Latin American church, and it demanded some response from the Vatican.

Pope Paul VI was not a colorful or original leader, but he served as an efficient, if unexciting, executor of the theological estate of Pope John XXIII. He continued the globalization of the Church until his death in 1978. Pope Paul's reign was fulfilled by the short, if striking, pontificate of Pope John Paul I [Cardinal Luciani]. In his month long reign, Pope John Paul I had no time for major decisions, but his inclinations seemed clear. For example, he dropped the traditional papal coronation ceremony in favor of much simpler ritual, a change which many traditionalist Catholics still complain about [most recently when Benedict XVI followed the example of his two predecessors in this regard]. He also astonished many observers when he took Argentina dictator Jorge Videla to task, face to face, for Argentina's human rights violations in the so-called "Dirty War."

Karol Wojtyla was elected as Pope John Paul II in 1978, the first non-Italian Pope since the 16th century. Pope John Paul II's role in the for democracy in Europe in the face of Communism is well-known, but it is more useful in this essay to focus on this efforts in Latin America. Having lived under a Marxist regime, Pope John Paul II had no intention of allowing the Marxist elements of Liberation Theology to go unchallenged, but he also had no intention of allying the Church with the existing power structures: democracy was the middle way, the only way. In 1979, Pope John Paul II attended the meeting of Latin American bishops at Puebla, Mexico. He signed the Puebla Document prepared by the bishops under his direction. The Puebla Document strongly denounced Marxist influence, on the grounds that Marxism is "materialistic," the same word that Pope John Paul II often used later to denounce the excesses of capitalism. At the same time, Pope John Paul II endorsed the idea of a "preferential option for the poor," a phrase which Gustavo Gutierrez had coined, and which Latin American bishops had endorsed at the Medillin Conference in 1968. Pope John Paul II hoped to flesh the meaning of this idea in way which kept it under control of the Church, and within acceptable bounds.

Pope John Paul II also worked to reverse the trend towards military dictatorship which had swept Latin America since the 1960's. Part of the change can be seen in Latin American countries where Catholic organizations and parties worked with non-Catholics, including anti-clericalists and democratic socialists, to undercut military regimes. In the past, the Catholic Church had generally accepted dictatorship, but this attitude shifted, and opposition to dictatorship could not longer be stigmatized as "leftist." Chile presents a good example. Pope John Paul II pressured Augusto Pinochet to relinquish power. In addition, the role of the Pope was comforting to the United States, especially the Reagan adminstration. Military dictators always presented themselves to the Unitede States as a bulwark against Communism. Military rulers were quick to label all oppositional activities as Communist, and the United States in the past had generally accepted these claims as genuine. The endorsement by the Catholic Church of these oppositional activities as non-Communist did much to assuage the concerns of the United States. Of course, the waning of the Cold War after the accession of Mikhail Gorbachev played a role here as well. In countries such as Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Philippines, the transition to democracy was strongly pressed by the Catholic Church.

Pope John Paul II also made a noteworthy contribution by his series of statements across his reign which admitted to and apologized for past sins of the Church which were completely unprecedented. This aspect of pontificate started with his commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the birth of Martin Luther in 1983, when the Pope seemed to acknowledge that the state of the Church in Luther's time made his dissent understandable. This was an unprecedented acknowledgment of the Church's past deficiencies. There can no doubt that the Pope's personal experiences under both Nazism and Communism played an important role in his thinking, as did his personal connections to the Jewish community.

Of course, life never lacks for irony. Pope Benedict XVI [formerly Cardinal Ratzinger] has been shaped in his lifetime by many of the same forces as his friend and predecessor had been, and learned many of same lessons. In his many public statements, Benedict XVI has sought identify the Church with many of the aspects of the modern world which the Church in the past had stood against. He attempts, I think, to present the Catholic Church as the quintessential Western institution which can represent modern values in a dialogue with Islam. He might be right, but the irony of that statement is double. Not only does the Church present itself as a representative of that which it once opposed, but it does so at the time when the Church was never been less "Western" in its history since the early middle ages, given the demographic shape of the world and the decline of religious observation in Europe.






















Della Genga




































Della Chiesa




























Ioannes Paulus






Ioannes Paulus