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The Catholic Historical Review 87.2 (2001) 332-334

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Book Review

La Iglesia en la España contemporánea

La Iglesia en la España contemporánea, Volume I: 1800-1936; Volume II: 1936-1999. By José Andrés-Gallego and Antón M. Pazos. (Madrid: Ediciones Encuentro. 1999. Pp. 426; 372.)

This work by two highly regarded historians of the modern Spanish Church is an ambitious attempt to interpret an institution central to the country's history in the light of advances in research over the past three decades. The authors have followed a "state of the question" approach that recognizes the immense complexity of an institution linked to every aspect of Spanish life [End Page 332] over the past two centuries. They range far beyond an older tradition focusing on civil-ecclesiastical relations, although this topic receives due attention, to discuss the Church's role in society, its place in education, its relationship to the broader society, the formation of the secular and regular clergy, the development of theology and religious practice. Each section is placed within a chronological framework, but the work's organization is primarily thematic.

Volume I focuses on the Church's response to the enormous changes imposed by new political forces, particularly nineteenth-century liberalism and twentieth-century republicanism, within a society experiencing rapid and sometimes dislocating cultural, social, and economic upheaval. In a balanced treatment, the authors discuss the problems created for and by the Church in its struggle with the new political system and the cultural and social values that followed in its wake. After decades of uncertainty produced by the vagaries of nineteenth-century liberal politics and periodic revolutions, the Church experienced a remarkable recovery within the relatively stable framework of the conservative constitutional monarchy (1875-1923). The number of regular clergy expanded massively. Catholic associations of every kind proliferated in the form of devotional associations, trade unions, and Catholic electoral leagues. Historians have long recognized the existence of this "Catholic revival," but they have not given it the attention that it deserves. The authors have written the best account yet published of the revival and an accompanying anticlerical reaction. Their original interpretation of the subject is supplemented by a series of informative maps and graphs that show, for example, the geographical distribution of devotional practices, the pattern of proclerical demonstrations in 1910 against a proposed law limiting the growth of the regular clergy and of anticlerical manifestations in various years and the distribution of the regular clergy across the country. The authors argue that in spite of the growth of secularization, anticlericalism, and radical social movements in the first three decades of the twentieth century the Spanish Church proved remarkably resilient both in its religious activities and organizational initiatives.

The struggle between a resurgent Catholicism and a wide range of secularizing political, cultural, and social movements intensified after the turn of the century to culminate in the bitter conflicts between Church and State following the proclamation of the Second Republic in 1931. The authors' interpretation of the Republic's secularizing policies toward the Church is critical, although, curiously, they give this important period in the long history of conflictive civil-ecclesiastical relations less attention than to nineteenth-century liberalism.

Volume II begins with a brief discussion of the Civil War of the 1930's but moves quickly to analysis of the complexities of Church and Catholicism under the Franco regime and during the years that followed the general's death in 1975. The authors rightly point out that the Church's situation under the dictatorship was less comfortable than has often been supposed, especially during the regime's early years when the government was moved by powerful regalist currents and vaguely totalitarian ideas. To be sure, the Church recovered its [End Page 333] status as the established church but at the cost of having to accept the loss of its pre-1936 autonomy in important areas of activity. For the first time in decades, religious publications were subject to censorship, while the Church lost the right to organize Catholic trade...


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