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The Irony of Modern Catholic History: How the Church Rediscovered Itself and Challenged the Modern World to Reform

George Weigel

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Religion: general

A powerful new interpretation of Catholicism's dramatic encounter with modernity, by one of America's leading intellectuals

In The Irony of Modern Catholic History, acclaimed Catholic scholar George Weigel offers a bold reinterpretation of the Church's history since the nineteenth century, completely overturning conventional wisdom about the relationship between Catholicism and modernity.

For much of the nineteenth century, both secular and Catholic leaders assumed that the Church and the modern world were locked in a battle to the death. The triumph of secular modernity-democracy, liberalism, mass education, religious freedom-would finish the Church as a consequential player in world history, and it would lead inevitably lead to the death of religious conviction. But today the Catholic Church is far more vital, and far more consequential, than it was 150 years ago, when Pope Pius IX retreated into the Vatican, forced to surrender the Italian lands the popes had ruled for centuries. And even in today's modern world, secularism is the exception, not the rule.

In The Irony of Modern Catholic History, Weigel reveals how the encounter with modernity, rather than killing Catholicism, ultimately made the Church more coherent and less defensive. While previous histories of Catholicism posit modernity as the sole protagonist and Catholicism as a reactive force, Weigel asserts that Catholicism was a protagonist in this drama in its own right. He introduces readers to a remarkable

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