Prophecy and Papacy: A Study of Lamennais, the Church, and the Revolution

Prophecy and Papacy: A Study of Lamennais, the Church, and the Revolution

Prophecy and Papacy: A Study of Lamennais, the Church, and the Revolution

Prophecy and Papacy: A Study of Lamennais, the Church, and the Revolution

Excerpt

This book contains a much expanded and an annotated version of six Birkbeck lectures which I delivered in Cambridge during the May term, 1953. For some years I had been intending and preparing to write a book about Lamennais, when I was honoured with an invitation from the Council of Trinity College to become Birkbeck Lecturer in the College for the academical year 1952-1953; and the Council was good enough to approve of the subject that I proposed.

I can best introduce the subject by making some remarks about the three terms in my sub-title, reserving the title itself for comment in the epilogue. The revolution includes here both the original French revolution, i.e. what took place between 1789 and 1799--to which I will refer when necessary as the 'great' revolution--and also the whole body of ideas and the course and sway of events stemming from and associated with the great revolution, which marked moved the history of Europe during at least the first half of the nineteenth century. It so happens that Lamennais was born under the ancien régime, and lived through the great revolution, through the Consulate, the Empire, the Bourbon Restoration, the July Monarchy, the Second Republic, and on into the Second Empire. This book will not proceed so far as that, because it is concerned with ecclesiastical history, and in 1836, when the publication of Affaires de Rome sealed his rupture with catholicism, Lamennais ceased to be a significant figure in the history of the church.

The church means here primarily the Church of France, but also the Church of Rome, and in particular the papacy. It may be, however, that in the history of the Church of France during this period there can be seen a paradigm of what other national churches have done or left undone, in one way or another, at one time or another-- and especially a paradigm of their shifting experiences during the last century and a half. If so, this piece of history should have a widespread and living, if somewhat melancholy, interest. The Church of France in our period was first a church privileged but far gone in decadence; then, a church persecuted, divided, and almost extirpated; then, a church restored but patronized and exploited; and . . .

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