Separation of Church and State: the Heart of Catholic Reluctance in the Liberal 19th Century Modern World

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During the 19th-century many ideologies were taking hold across the world which were changing the political and social atmosphere for all people and institutions. As a result, the Catholic Church was faced with the challenge of how to deal with this new, modern world. In this century, the old regime of absolutism and conservatism, favored by most Catholics, saw its definitive end with the emergence of a society that looked to nationalism as well as liberalism to govern itself. The Catholic Church was finally faced with this new ideology when the Italian city states it had previously known came together to create the Kingdom of Italy (Cavour pp. 346-348 ; Maclear pp. 153-154) )(Antonelli pp. 187-188 ; Maclear p. 155). How the Church handled the issue of liberalism can only be described as reluctant and unyielding. Many issues caused tension between the Church and this new liberalist society, however, at the heart of all of these was the controversy over the separation of church and state (Salisbury and Sherman, pp. 581-586).

Prior to the emergence of the modern state, or even the ideal of liberalism, Catholicism had existed in a world in which the Church had wide-ranging temporal powers, this was the medieval world. It was here, as well as during the ruling style of absolutism, that the Church was most comfortable, having at least some input in all matters of daily life. However, Catholicism began to lose its grip on Latin Christendom when the Reformation took hold in Europe; inducing the chipping away of the Church’s previously tight grip on society. This was the beginning of the end for temporal powers held by the Roman Pontiff. Now, jumping ahead a few hundred years, we arrive in an era of revolutions, which was sparked, initially, by the Enlightenment’s focus on the individual’s freedoms and capacities. As conservatives, whom Catholics mainly belonged, looked out at the wildly changing world around them, they were struck with horror at the sight...
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