Soldiers of God in a Secular World: The Politics of Catholic Theology, 1905-1962
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CitationShortall, Sarah Elizabeth. 2015. Soldiers of God in a Secular World: The Politics of Catholic Theology, 1905-1962. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation examines the impact of Catholic theology on French politics after the separation of Church and state in 1905, approaching this moment as a beginning rather than an endpoint in the political history of the Church. It argues for the productive relationship between secularization and theology, showing how the secularization of public institutions inspired new politico-theological configurations and opened up new modes of religious engagement in political life. As I demonstrate, the events of 1905 provided both the institutional and intellectual impetus for one of the most important movements in twentieth-century Catholic theology, known as the “nouvelle théologie,” which would eventually become the leading theological force behind the Second Vatican Council.
This dissertation tells the story of that movement, which was elaborated in part by a group of French Jesuits around Henri de Lubac. These theologians sought to develop a new approach to Catholic politics—one that would allow the Church to be in the newly secular public sphere, but not of it. Rejecting both secular party politics and the royalist dream of restoring the confessional state, they looked to the Church as an alternative site of collective mobilization capable of transcending the limitations of political ideologies and warring nation-states. It was this vision which inspired these Jesuits to lead the “spiritual resistance” to Nazism in France during the Second World War, just as it led them to oppose Communism in the postwar period. But despite their staunch anti-totalitarianism, these priests also rejected the basic premises of liberal politics, including the distinction between the private and public spheres, the primacy of the individual, and the sovereignty of the state. Instead, I show how de Lubac’s circle deployed the resources ecclesiology, eschatology, theological anthropology, and biblical studies to fashion what I call a “counter-politics”—a way of intervening in questions traditionally classified as political while engaging in a critique of politics itself. As a result, I argue, their work requires us to re-imagine what constitutes a political act and where the boundaries of the political lie, by revealing a dimension of modern European politics beyond the remit of secular parties and ideologies.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:23845484
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