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The Catholic Historical Review 87.4 (2001) 713-714



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Book Review

The Politics of Religion in an Age of Revival: Studies in Nineteenth-Century Europe and Latin America


The Politics of Religion in an Age of Revival: Studies in Nineteenth-Century Europe and Latin America. Edited by Austen Ivereigh. [Nineteenth-Century Latin American Series, No. 5.] (London: Institute of Latin American Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London. Available through the Institute of Latin American Studies, 31 Tavistock Square, London WC1H 9HA. 2000. Pp. viii, 223. £12.00 or $19.95 paperback.)

The Institute of Latin American Studies promotes closer investigation into what it feels is a neglected period in Latin American Studies, the nineteenth century. The focus in this collection of essays from a symposium presented by the Institute is on the Church/State conflict and does indeed suggest that much work remains to be done on this important subject. Dynamic leadership and bold initiatives experienced by the Catholic Church in its Revival made Catholics determined to play a prominent role in the development of their respective countries. This was not viewed benignly by secular-minded liberals. The standard interpretation of the ensuing conflict is derived from the republican position: liberalism advanced all that was positive and desirable, religion was a hindrance. Such is far from the whole truth.

Margaret Lavinia Anderson lucidly describes important characteristics of the Revival in Europe, beginning with the vigorous assertion of papal authority. Other elements including schools, associations, and Catholic participation in politics are described as "the divisions of the pope." James F. McMillan cogently argues that in France republicans precipitated the quarrel with their anticlerical measures to circumscribe the role of religion in national life, then were infuriated by the Catholic opposition liberals termed "clericalism," meaning "illicit interference on the part of the clergy in the sphere of politics and public life."

Religion and French political philosophy both constituted major influences in Latin America. However, Eric Van Young illustrates how indifferent or ignorant of the true desires of the masses their purported leaders were during the struggle for independence in Mexico and later. Indians were motivated by traditional and spiritual attitudes which may be traced back to pre-Columbian origins, not the French Revolution. (Still, it is curious that there is no discussion of the influence of the sixteenth-century missionaries and their millenarian ideals in the evolution of the Indian concept of a messiah-king.) In the new republic one bishop, Clemente de Jesús Munguía, is described by David Brading as an "intransigent" [End Page 713] advocate of the Mexican Church's prerogatives and totally opposed to the anticlerical Reform; neither side in this war benefited the Indians.

Catholics and liberals also differed over the relation of the state to society, as Austen Ivereigh discusses in his analysis of the Argentine debate over education in 1884. While the Church asserted that the state should reflect society and its values, including the religious, liberals contended that the state was an entity above its society with the responsibility to unify and to mold its citizens through such methods as a public education that was rational and wholly secular in nature.

Because conservative politicians held views similar, although not identical, to the Church's, their relationship was usually more harmonious. In Spain, Frances Lannon notes, this meant that the clergy concentrated their efforts on institutional, cultural, and pastoral activities rather than political. The situation changed in the steady political disintegration after 1898. When the state proved inadequate to defend them in that volatile environment, Catholics became involved in both regional and national movements that were part of the effort to define a new national identity.

These activities were not necessarily directed and certainly not dictated by the Church's hierarchy as J. Samuel Valenzuela and Erica Maza Valenzuela demonstrate in a most instructive revisionist study challenging the view that the Conservative party in Chile was a "clerical" party controlled by the Church. Devout laymen in the party and organizations advocated...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-0708
Print ISSN
0008-8080
Pages
pp. 713-714
Launched on MUSE
2001-10-01
Open Access
No
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