Symposium on "Catholicism and Democracy"

Apr 5, 2019
Breasted Hall, Oriental Institute
1155 E 58th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
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Rémi Brague Sorbonne, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich

Daniel MahoneyAssumption College

Gladden PappinUniversity of Dallas

Mary KeysUniversity of Notre Dame

  • Catholicism and Democracy

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Free and open to the public. Persons with disabilities who may need assistance should contact us at 773-955-5887 or by email. Copies of the book will be available for sale by the Seminary Coop Bookstore at the event.


Looking at leading philosophers and political theologians—among them Joseph de Maistre, Alexis de Tocqueville, and Charles Péguy—Perreau-Saussine shows how the Church redefined its relationship to the state in the long wake of the French Revolution.

Disenfranchised by the fall of the monarchy, the church in France at first embraced that most conservative of ideologies, "ultramontanism" (an emphasis on the central role of the papacy). Catholics whose church had lost its national status henceforth looked to the papacy for spiritual authority. Perreau-Saussine argues that this move paradoxically combined a fundamental repudiation of the liberal political order with an implicit acknowledgment of one of its core principles, the autonomy of the church from the state. However, as Perreau-Saussine shows, in the context of twentieth-century totalitarianism, the Catholic Church retrieved elements of its Gallican heritage and came to embrace another liberal (and Gallican) principle, the autonomy of the state from the church, for the sake of its corollary, freedom of religion. Perreau-Saussine concludes that Catholics came to terms with liberal democracy, though not without abiding concerns about the potential of that system to compromise freedom of religion in the pursuit of other goals.


"Many people think that the reconciliation of the Catholic Church and liberal democracy consummated at Vatican II represents a sudden shift. Perreau-Saussine shows to the contrary that it has deep roots in the history of the church, and in particular in the Gallicanism of ancien regime France. Even Vatican I can be seen as a stage on this long march. This rich and fascinating book sheds much light on what this reconciliation means—and what it couldn't mean."—Charles Taylor, professor emeritus, McGill University
"The modest title of this erudite and thoughtful book belies its actual achievement. It makes an important contribution to understanding a topic that seems likely to occupy thinking people in the West for some time to come: the general relation between politics and religion in the modern world."—Raymond Geuss, author of Philosophy and Real Politics
"Catholicism and Democracy is a wonderfully fresh interpretation of the fascinating and tortuous path of Catholic political theology over the last two hundred years. With its strong narrative, this original book required me to turn the historical frame upside down and look at issues in a new way."—F. Russell Hittinger, University of Tulsa
"Catholicism and Democracy looks at some of the ironies and paradoxes inherent in the relationship of the Catholic Church to modern politics. Deftly weaving together political history and literary interpretations of that history, Perreau-Saussine tells an important story with persuasion and brilliant insight."—James B. Murphy, Dartmouth College

Rémi Brague is Professor Emeritus of Arabic and Religious Philosophy at the Sorbonne and Romano Guardini Chair of Philosophy at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. In 2012, he was awarded the Ratzinger Prize for Theology. He is author of numerous books on classical and medieval culture, religion, literature, and law, including Eccentric Culture: A Theory of Western Civilization and Law of God: The Philosophical History of an Idea.

Daniel Mahoney is Professor and Augustinina Boulanger Chair of Political Science at Assumption College. He holds a PhD in Political Science from the Catholic University of America. He is associate editor of Perspectives on Political Science and book review editor for Society magazine. A renowned expert on French political philosophy, his books also include the critically acclaimed Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: The Ascent from Ideology.

Gladden J. Pappin is assistant professor of politics at the University of Dallas. In 2017 he cofounded American Affairs, of which he is the deputy editor. He is a senior adviser and permanent research fellow of the University of Notre Dame's de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture, and is also a director of Pro Civitate Dei (La Londe-les-Maures, France). His writings on contemporary politics, as well as the history of ecclesiastical politics, appear in a variety of publications. He received his AB (history) and PhD (government) from Harvard.

Mary M. Keys is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame. She holds a B.A. from Boston College and an M.A. and PhD from the University of Toronto. Her research and teaching interests span a broad spectrum of political theory, with a special focus in Christianity, ethics, and political thought. She is the author of Aquinas, Aristotle, and the Promise of the Common Good (Cambridge University Press, 2006) and of articles appearing in the American Journal of Political ScienceHistory of Political Thought, and Perspectives on Political Science.