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The Catholic Church and the Nation-State

Comparative Perspectives

Paul Christopher Manuel, Lawrence C. Reardon, and Clyde Wilcox, Editors

Publication Year: 2006

Presenting case studies from sixteen countries on five continents, The Catholic Church and the Nation-State paints a rich portrait of a complex and paradoxical institution whose political role has varied historically and geographically. In this integrated and synthetic collection of essays, outstanding scholars from the United States and abroad examine religious, diplomatic, and political actionsùboth admirable and regrettableùthat shape our world. Kenneth R. Himes sets the context of the book by brilliantly describing the political influence of the church in the post-Vatican II era. There are many recent instances, the contributors assert, where the Church has acted as both a moral authority and a self-interested institution: in the United States it maintained unpopular moral positions on issues such as contraception and sexuality, yet at the same time it sought to cover up its own abuses; it was complicit in genocide in Rwanda but played an important role in ending the horrific civil war in Angola; and it has alternately embraced and suppressed nationalism by acting as the voice of resistance against communism in Poland, whereas in Chile it once supported opposition to Pinochet but now aligns with rightist parties. With an in-depth exploration of the five primary challenges facing the Churchùtheology and politics, secularization, the transition from serving as a nationalist voice of opposition, questions of justice, and accommodation to sometimes hostile civil authoritiesùthis book will be of interest to scholars and students in religion and politics as well as Catholic Church clergy and laity. By demonstrating how national churches vary considerably in the emphasis of their teachings and in the scope and nature of their political involvement, the analyses presented in this volume engender a deeper understanding of the role of the Roman Catholic Church in the world.

Published by: Georgetown University Press

Series: Religion and Politics series


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pp. vii-viii

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Foreword: Faith and Culture in a Turbulent Age

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pp. ix-xi

“IN ALL YOU DO YOU should seek advice,” wrote Anselm of Canterbury in 1076, and “let your advisers be one in a thousand.” This book takes up Anselm’s call, for it offers a dialogue across disciplines that rarely engage one another. The authors come from political science, history, theology, and comparative religion; they include lay scholars and clerics. They all wrestle with one of the crucial...

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pp. xii-xiii

THIS VOLUME IS A RESULT of papers presented and discussed at two scholarly meetings that examined how the Vatican and the local national churches try to influence politics and public policy. The initial round table took place at the annual meeting of the New England Political Science Association (NEPSA)in Providence in May 2003, followed by a two-day interdisciplinary Research...

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Introduction: Theoretical Considerations on the Relationship between the Catholic Church and the Nation-State

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pp. 1-12

IN 2004, THE ROMAN CATHOLIC Church was intensely involved in an amazing range of international, national, and subnational politics around the world.Internationally, the Church was actively influencing the language of international agreements being negotiated within various United Nations organizations. Pope John Paul II spoke eloquently in opposition to the American invasion and occu-...

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THE VOLUME OPENS WITH TWO contributions on the theological and political challenges faced by the Vatican. To begin, the theologian Kenneth Himes reviews the Vatican’s political role throughout history. He argues that the Second Vatican Council represented a moment of choice in the theological and political identity of the Roman Catholic...

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1. Vatican II and Contemporary Politics

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pp. 15-32

INVOLVEMENT IN POLITICAL LIFE IS not something new for the Roman Catholic Church. There are abundant illustrations available throughout history that Catholicism has engaged the political order. There also is the record of service evidenced by the multitude of institutions sponsored by the Catholic Church. Add to these the various movements for social reform that have been...

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2. The Vatican as a Transnational Actor

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pp. 33-50

WHEN THE UNITED NATIONS CALLED its Third International Conference on Population and Development in 1994, the Bill Clinton administration wanted a final document with clear pro-choice language on abortion and that linked population control with development. Because wealthy industrialized states sup-ported the American position, the United States was confident of realizing its...

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IN HIS CHRISTMAS 2000 MESSAGE, Pope John Paul II warned of a “culture of death” in those societies that condoned abortion, euthanasia, and the death penalty. He was also disturbed by the increasing commoditization of the human body by pornography, which places pleasure and profit over sacrifice and charity as ultimate values in society. Pope Benedict XVI has continued to voice...

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3. The Latin European Church: “Une Messe Est Possible”

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pp. 53-68

FOR MORE THAN A THOUSAND YEARS, Latin Europe, which includes the nation-states of France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal, has shared a common Christian and Roman Catholic faith. Yet during the last two hundred years, the modernization process, initiated by the democratic and industrial revolutions,has also introduced far-ranging secularization. In the twentieth century, each state...

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4. The American Church: Of Being Catholic and American

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pp. 69-88

IN 1960, JOHN F. KENNEDY became the second Roman Catholic to run for president of the United States. As a Catholic, he was repeatedly called upon to clarify his positions on church–state relations and on his possible relationship with the Vatican if he were elected. Speaking to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association on September 12, he strongly reiterated his position on church–...

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5. The Chilean Church: Declining Hegemony?

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pp. 89-100

IN THE YEARS SINCE THE 1990 Chilean transition to democracy, the Catholic Church has faced several challenges to its political power. Tradition-ally, the Church has adopted the corporatist approach promoted by Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum by aligning itself with Chilean political and economic elites, just as the Church has done throughout the world—also discussed in...

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POLAND, EAST TIMOR, IRELAND, AND Northern Ireland each provide examples of the Roman Catholic Church acting as an indigenous institutional and cultural expression against an outside occupying force. These case studies speak strongly to three interwoven themes: first, the church as a strategic moral actor battling foreign occupiers; second, the church as distinctive cultural space, which...

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6. The Polish Church: Catholic Hierarchy and Polish Politics

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pp. 103-116

THERE ARE TWO KEYS TO understanding the important role that the Roman Catholic Church plays in contemporary Polish politics. First, there has been along-standing, intimate relationship between Catholicism and Polish national identity. From the creation of the Polish state in A.D. 966, during the national crises of partition and occupation between 1795 and 1948, to the communist...

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7. The Catholic Church in Ireland and Northern Ireland: Nationalism, Identity, and Opposition

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pp. 117-130

...the Republic of Ireland as well as in Northern Ireland. It examines the Irish Church, its former prominence, and its changing contemporary role; the im-pact of economic development in Ireland in creating a new social, political,and moral culture in the nation; the scandals the Church has had to contend with; and the Church’s present status in Irish society. It also analyzes the North-...

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8. The East Timorese Church: From Oppression to Liberation

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pp. 131-148

AFTER CENTURIES OF SERVING THE interests of the colonial elite, the Roman Catholic Church in East Timor has emerged as a heroic advocate of human rights and national autonomy during the past three decades. Currently,the Church acts as a peacemaker and provides a venue for the building of a non-violent East Timor, or as it is officially known today, Timor-Leste. This chapter...

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THIS PART OFFERS THREE OF the volume’s most compelling case studies detailing the Catholic Church’s paradoxical struggle for justice. These chapters on Brazil, Rwanda, and Angola each recall that the Roman Catholic Church itself can be understood in paradoxical terms—sometimes heroic and courageous, and other times cowardly and spineless—in the face of social injustice, poverty, and...

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9. The Brazilian Church: Reintegrating Ontology and Epistemology

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pp. 151-172

THE EMINENT HISTORIAN Thomas Skidmore tells us that in March of 1500,King Manuel of Portugal celebrated a special mass to mark the launch of his greatest fleet of ships. The fleet was to sail around the tip of Africa to India, repeating Vasco da Gama’s famous voyage of a few years earlier. To announce Portugal’s dedication to the Christian mission, the ships’ flags were emblazoned...

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10. The Rwandan Church: The Challenge of Reconciliation

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pp. 173-190

IN THE YEARS IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING World War II, when the truth of the Holocaust proved much worse than anyone believed possible, global re-action was unanimous: Crimes of this magnitude must never be allowed to hap-pen again. But the firm imperative “never again” heard in the late 1940s has become something closer to “again and again.” One such example is the 1994genocide in Rwanda, in which nearly a million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were...

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11. The Angolan Church: The Prophetic Tradition, Politics, and the State

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pp. 191-206

THE CALL TO BE BOTH prophetic and political has presented a major problem for the Roman Catholic Church in Angola. During the time of Portugal’s authoritarian “New State,” or Estado Novo, which was in power from 1926 to1974, Portuguese colonial authorities used the Angolan Church as a convenient ally to subvert the liberty of Portuguese and Africans alike. The postcolonial...

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IN CHAPTER 1 OF THIS VOLUME, Kenneth Himes argues that the early Church was lacking both political and military influence, and, as such, patiently endured the larger political dynamic all around. That description speaks very clearly to the contemporary situation for the Catholic Church in India and China, and to a lesser extent, in the Congo. In all three cases, the respective...

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12. The Indian Church: Catholicism and Indian Nationhood

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pp. 209-226

AFTER THE INDIAN GOVERNMENT RECOGNIZED Vatican City as a state and exchanged ambassadors, Pope John Paul II announced that he would make a state visit and a “pilgrimage” to India in 1986. The Catholic Bishops Council of India (CBCI) promulgated several documents that invoked the spirit of the Second Vatican Council to renew the Indian Church.1 Many Indian Catholics hoped that the papal visit would bring international attention to the Indian...

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13. The Chinese Catholic Church: Obstacles to Reconciliation

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pp. 227-244

FOLLOWING THREE DECADES OF PERSECUTION and suppression, Christianity in China is enjoying a renewed sense of vibrancy and growth. Churches that were once used as pigsties, grain silos, and automotive repair centers have reopened to serve China’s 21 to 80 million Christians.1 The Protestant and Catholic churches are enjoying an upsurge in popularity as China’s masses increasingly search for religious alternatives to the atheistic credo of Marxism–...

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14. The Congolese Church: Ecclesial Community within the Political Community

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pp. 245-258

Roman Catholic Church to participate in the political life of several African countries, including the Republic of the Congo.1 Under the leadership of the Congolese bishops, the Church has sought to contribute to the country’s political, economic, and social life—a rather complex task given the county’s history of political instability and the fact that the Church has never enjoyed the same...


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pp. 259-268


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pp. 269-270


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pp. 271-283

E-ISBN-13: 9781589017245
E-ISBN-10: 1589017242
Print-ISBN-13: 9781589011151
Print-ISBN-10: 1589011155

Page Count: 298
Publication Year: 2006

Series Title: Religion and Politics series