Mittwoch, 15. Juni 2022, 18:30 - 20:00 iCal

Geschichte am Mittwoch

Shaun Blanchard (Pittsburgh, PA): The Rise and Fall of the Counter-Enlightenment Narrative in the Catholic Church

Moderation: Thomas Wallnig

In Kooperation mit der Österreichischen Gesellschaft zur Erforschung des 18. Jahrhunderts

Hybrid – vor Ort und online unter:



Hörsaal 30 (HS) im Hauptgebäude der Universität Wien
Universitätsring 1, 1010 Wien



The concept of a “Catholic Enlightenment” was introduced by Sebastian Merkle in a 1908 lecture in Berlin. Since then, and especially for the last half-century, there has been widespread reappraisal of the relationship between Catholicism and Enlightenment, and the interplay between the “religious” and the “secular” in the creation of modernity. While important tensions and ambiguities remain, it is now commonplace in scholarly literature to recognize “Catholic Enlightenment” or “enlightened Catholicism”.

This lecture examines the rise of a “counter-Enlightenment” Catholic ideology, beginning in the 18th century, and the reasons for the ultimate defeat of most of the projects that later scholars associated with “Catholic Enlightenment”. In 19th century Catholicism, Enlightenment (seen as univocal, secular, and anti-Christian) became a key link in a "chain of errors" narrative connecting 16th century Protestantism to 19th century Liberalism and skepticism.

Only after the defeat of Catholic anti-Modernism in the wake of the Second Vatican Council (1962–65) have positive reappraisals of the relationship between Catholicism and the Enlightenment become possible from within the institutional Church. This lecture argues that “Enlightenment” and “Catholic Enlightenment” function as shibboleths within institutional Catholicism for a variety of unresolved questions not only concerning narratives of church history, but also contemporary questions of ecclesial identity and orientation.

Zum Vortragenden:

Shaun Blanchard is Senior Research Fellow at the National Institute for Newman Studies in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. His first monograph is The Synod of Pistoia and Vatican II (OUP: 2020). With Ulrich Lehner, Shaun co-edited The Catholic Enlightenment: A Global Anthology (CUA: 2021) and, with Stephen Bullivant, co-authored the forthcoming Vatican II: A Very Short Introduction (OUP).


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Institut für Geschichte


Martina Fuchs
Institut für Geschichte
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