Priest and Revolutionary: Lamennais and the Dilemma of French Catholicism

Priest and Revolutionary: Lamennais and the Dilemma of French Catholicism

Priest and Revolutionary: Lamennais and the Dilemma of French Catholicism

Priest and Revolutionary: Lamennais and the Dilemma of French Catholicism

Excerpt

After the fall of Napoleon relations between the Catholic Church and French politics and society entered a decisive new stage. For twenty-five years the French Church had been embattled, facing first the hostility of the revolution and then the more subtle controls of Napoleon. Now it could establish solid contacts with the state and, hopefully, regain some of the ground it had lost in society. Many churchmen thought that stability and normalcy, defined in prerevolutionary terms, had returned. But this was not the case; both state and society had changed. The currents of the revolution still ran strong. The question remained: What adjustment could the Church make to the revolutionary heritage? Could it accept a strong state, active in, say, education? Could it meet the growing demand for freedom of thought, of the press, of religion itself? Could it deal with a society increasingly urbanized, in which the social problems of early industrialization were already being felt? These were the leading issues for the Church. That many churchmen sought to ignore them simply added to the problem.

A number of Catholics saw that times had changed. Their leader, until 1834, was Hugues-Félcité Robert de La Mennais, a priest. Lamennais was to change his views in many ways during this period, but always his central concern was . . .

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