Pope Against Modernity

Anxious Bench | 1/14/2019 | Staff
DebraS (Posted by) Level 3
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Today’s post is an initial draft of a review of two books out recently on Pope Pius IX (r.1846-78), the longest reigning pope in the history of the papacy and easily among the most controversial. Herewith:

David I. Kertzer, The Pope Who Would be King: The Exile of Pius IX and the Emergence of Modern Europe (Random House, 2018), 474pp.

John - O'Malley - SJ - Vatican - Council

John O’Malley, SJ, Vatican I: The Council and the Making of the Ultramontane Church (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2018), 307pp.

As the funeral procession of Pope Pius IX (r. 1846-78) wound itself through the streets of Rome, anticlerical protesters breached the police escort as it neared the Tiber river and attempted to throw the papal bier into the river’s murky water. Although they did not succeed, the episode gives testimony to the fiery passions roused by this pope’s legacy.

Faithful - Day - Liberals - Protestants - Intellectuals

Beloved by the faithful in his day but reviled by liberals, Protestants, and anticlerical intellectuals, Pius IX or “Pio Nono” cut a path in history rivaled by few others. The longest reigning pope ever, Pius took the papal mantle in 1846 and held it until his death in 1878. This was among the most tumultuous periods in European and the church’s history. Shaken by revolutions in 1848, the Continent witnessed the birth of modern Italy in 1861 and modern Germany in 1871, the former entailing the collapse of the Papal States, the pope’s millennium-old temporal kingdom in central Italy. Meanwhile, the Industrial Revolution proceeded apace, nationalist ideologies burgeoned, and socialism found influential expression in the writings of Karl Marx.

Traumatized by its earlier confrontation with the French Revolution and Napoleon Bonaparte, the Catholic Church entered a period of embattlement, usually tagged as ultramontanism (from ultras and montes, “over the mountain,” to Rome, the seat of firm authority). As the century progressed, pope after pope...
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