Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Church and Revolution: Catholics in the Struggle for Democracy and Social Justice

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Church and Revolution: Catholics in the Struggle for Democracy and Social Justice

Article excerpt

Church and Revolution: Catholics in the Struggle for Democracy and Social Justice. By Thomas Bokenkotter. [Image Books.] (New York: Doubleday. 1998. Pp. xii, 580. $15.95 paperback.)

How did the Catholic Church become a staunch defender of human rights in the late twentieth-century world, after having spent the nineteenth century in emphatic denunciations of the French Revolution and its "rights of man"? A seasoned historian proposes to cast light on this question chiefly by presenting a series of biographical portraits that illustrate his subtitle. "Lives and times" are what the reader finds here, presented with great care for factual accuracy and balanced judgment. Though highly selective, it is not a gallery only of heroes and champions of human dignity: alongside of Daniel O'Connell, Frederic Ozanam, Luigi Sturzo, and Dorothy Day one finds Monsignor Umberto Benigni (1862-1934), whose campaigns for the social ideals of Leo XIII, as he understood them, and against political democracy, led him eventually to adopt a clerico-fascist stance.

The temporal and geographical range of the figures treated is broad. The sixteen chapters go from Lamennais and companions in the first generation of Liberal Catholics to Oscar Romero's martyrdom in 1980 and Lech Walesa's contemporary "revolution." France (Albert de Mun,Jacques Maritain, Emmanuel Mounier) and Ireland (O'Connell, Michael Collins, and Eamon de Valera) are prominent. Italy has its pair as noted, while England is represented by Cardinal Manning; Germany (only) by (Karl Marx and) Konrad Adenauer. …

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