Jay P. Corrin
Tracing the development of progressive Catholic approaches to political and economic modernization, Catholic Intellectuals and the Challenge of Democracy disputes standard interpretations of the Catholic response to democracy and modernity in the English-speaking world—particularly the conventional view that the Church was the servant of right-wing reactionaries and authoritarian, patriarchal structures.
Starting with the writings of Bishop Wilhelm von Ketteler of Germany, the Frenchman Frédérick Ozanam, and England’s Cardinal Henry Edward Manning, whose pioneering work laid the foundation of the Catholic “third way,” Corrin reveals a long tradition within Roman Catholicism that championed social activism. These visionary writers were the forerunners of Pope John XXIII’s aggiornamento, a call for Catholics to broaden their historical perspectives and move beyond a static theology fixed to the past.
By examining this often overlooked tradition, Corrin attempts to confront the perception that Catholicism in the modern age has invariably been an institution of reaction that is highly suspicious of liberalism and progressive social reform. Catholic Intellectuals and the Challenge of Democracy charts the efforts of key Catholic intellectuals, primarily in Britain and the United States, who embraced the modern world and endeavored to use the legacies of their faith to form an alternative, pluralistic path that avoided both socialist collectivism and capitalism.
In this sweeping volume, Corrin discusses the influences of Cecil and G. K. Chesterton, H. A. Reinhold, Hilaire Belloc, and many others on the development of Catholic social, economic, and political thought, with a special focus on Belloc and Reinhold as representatives of reactionary and progressive positions, respectively. He also provides an in-depth analysis of Catholic Distributists’ responses to the labor unrest in Britain prior to World War I and later, in the 1930s, to the tragedy of the Spanish Civil War and the forces of fascism and communism.
“Corrin is to be congratulated for looking at the story from a broad, international perspective (the book is a model for the internationalization of history), and for provoking further important questions….” — H-Net Reviews
“Corrin presents a thoughtful and well-crafted book on political Catholicism, examining the relationship of the Catholic Church to modernity in general and to democracy in particular. This important study deserves a place in both university and seminary libraries and in any library with a Catholic constituency.” — Library Journal
“Corrin meticulously follows the development of some of the most significant progressive American and European Catholic thinkers on politics and social issues. He reliably assesses their contributions, carefully establishing the background against which they acted.” — Choice
“Corrin provides an invaluable survey of the main currents of modern Catholic social thought up to World War II. His book should be required reading for undergraduates and the general reader interested in social ethics or the history of ideas.” — Christianity Today
“Corrin’s study is thought provoking, carefully researched and documented throughout. It has much to teach, and all serious students of Catholic political history should have a look at it.” — American Catholic Studies
“Social scientist Jay Corrin presents a historical and informative perspective on the progressive drive within the Catholic church between the late 1800s and the mid 1950s a time when anti-democratic forces appeared to hold sway.” — Conscience
“… an interesting read …” — Catholic Historical Review
“Jay P. Corrin’s new book is a major contribution to the study of Catholic intellectuals and their varying responses to these issues in the century following the French Revolution. Thoroughly researched, the book provides a comprehensive view of the Catholic intellectual scene in Europe and America through the prism of the personalities and events that shaped their thinking. Catholic intellectuals brings to light an important part of Catholic intellectual history that societies like the United States, in which Catholics comprise the largest single religious denomination, should revisit.” — Crisis Magazine
“The subject itself is fascinating and the compendium of facts which Corrin assembles is a fitting testimony to the considerable historical research he has undertaken. As a historical document it has much to offer.” — Review of Politics
“…splendid … a seminal contribution to Chesterton studies, and also to scholarship in Catholic intellectual history and in modern political thought. This volume … is researched deeply, written lucidly, and argued with an admirable fair mindedness…. Catholic Intellectuals and the Challenge of Democracy is an estimable, weighty work of scholarship that deserves careful, respectful reading.” — The Chesterton Review
“[Corrin] has done a tremendous amount of research into primary sources, and the extensive documentation is impressive. He provides an engaging treatment of English Catholics in general and Belloc in particular, and splendid treatment of the Spanish Civil War. …[Corrin] has written a rewarding volume filled with colorful characters, insightful comments on well-known events, and revealing information on more obscure chapters in the tale of Catholic thinkers and democracy.” — Theological Studies
“A fascinating study of the distinctly varying perspectives of early Twentieth Century intellectuals consciously moved by Catholic principles. Corrin’s careful analysis shows that thinkers like Belloc, Chesterton, H.A. Reinhold, and Luigi Sturzo defy easy categorization. An excellent guide to their different responses to issues like the Spanish Civil War.” —John P. McCarthy, Professor of History and Director, Institute of Irish Studies, Fordham University
“Professor Corrin has produced an informative, balanced, and insightful study of the Catholic Church’s liberal or progressive voices from the late 1800s to the mid-1900s. This book is required reading for anyone reflecting on how the Church should relate to the contemporary world.” —Robert Krieg
“Professor Corrin’s book is a significant contribution to our understanding of the Catholic reaction to the modern world, and particularly to the cataclysmic events of the 1920s and ‘30s. Corrin succeeds splendidly in bringing to light the activities of a small and oft-ignored group of progressive Catholics struggling against reactionary critics to show the world that Church teaching was not hostile to democracy. The author’s wide reading in the sources and his clear explanatory style make this work necessary reading for anyone who wants to understand Catholic thought as an essential element in the entire fabric of intellectual discourse on the problems of democracy and of the poor.” —Jose Sanchez, professor of history at Saint Louis University and the author of The Spanish Civil War as a Religious Tragedy
Winner of the 2003 American Catholic Historical Association’s John Gilmary Shea Prize.