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Catholicism's contribution to the development of nationalist ideology, and more generally to the process of European nation building in the nineteenth century, has been neglected. Most previous work has concentrated instead on varieties of liberal nationalism. In fact, Catholic intellectuals forged a whole nationalist discourse, but from traditional-conservative and orthodox doctrine. This essay charts a transnational path through Latin European countries, whose thinkers pioneered the theoretical development of Catholic nationalism. The Latin countries–France, Italy, and Spain, especially–were the homeland of Catholicism and theological, philosophical, historical, and political theories originating in it had a tremendous impact on the general formation of Western nationalism. This essay examines the formation, evolution, and consolidation of Catholic nationalism through “New Catholicism,” showing how the nation-state project and modernity itself were rethought in a new conservative and Catholic form.



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I would like to thank the three anonymous readers; the editorial staff of Modern Intellectual History; and, above all, Samuel Moyn, Gregorio Alonso and James Chappel. An early version of this essay was presented at the University of Leeds “Sujetos frágiles” Research Group workshop.



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1 The works of historians like Smith, Anthony D., The Ethnic Origins of Nations (Oxford, 1986); Greenfeld, Liah, Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity (Cambridge, MA, 1992); Hutchinson, John, Modern Nationalism (London, 1994); Hastings, Adrian, The Construction of Nationhood: Ethnicity, Religion and Nationalism (Cambridge, 1997); Marx, Anthony W., Faith in Nation: Exclusionary Origins of Nationalism (Oxford, 2003); and Sahlins, Peter, Unnaturally French: Foreign Citizens in the Old Regime and After (Ithaca, NY, 2004) show an alternative vision to modernist theories of modern-centered nations, invented ex nihilo by nation-building processes.

2 Marx, Faith in Nation, 197.

3 Colley, Linda, Britons: Forging the Nation 1707–1837 (New Haven, 1992); Bell, David A., The Cult of the Nation in France: Inventing Nationalism, 1680–1800 (Cambridge, MA, 2001), García-Cárcel, Ricardo, La herencia del pasado: Las memorias históricas de España (Barcelona, 2011); and Thiesse, Anne-Marie, La création des identités nationales. Europe, XVIIIe–XXe siècle (Paris, 2001).

4 Gellner, Ernest, Nations and Nationalism (London, 1983), 183. See also the reference works of Anderson, Benedict, Immagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London, 1983); Hobsbawm, Eric and Ranger, Terence, eds., The Invention of Tradition (Cambridge, 1983); and Hobsbawm, Eric, Nations and Nationalism since 1780: Programme, Myth, Reality (Cambridge, 1991).

5 Blackbourn, David, “The Catholic Church in Europe since the French Revolution”, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 33 (1991), 778–90; Clark, Christopher, “The New Catholicism and the European culture wars”, in Clark, Christopher and Kaiser, W., eds., Culture Wars: Secular–Catholic Conflict in Nineteenth-Century Europe (Cambridge, 2003), 1146.

6 René Rémond has shown greater interest in the relationship between nationalism and religion and tried to understand it, with partial success, based on the French case. See Rémond, René, “La fille aînée de l’Eglise”, in Nora, P., ed., Les lieux de mémoire: III. Les France, 3. De l’archive à l’emblème (Paris, 1992), 541–81; Rémond, Religion et société en Europe: La sécularisation aux XIXe et XXe siècles 1789–2000 (Paris, 2001), 143–64. Similarly, Urs Altermatt has focused on this relationship, also with partial success. See Altermatt, Urs, “Religion und Nationalismus: Ein Essay”, Jaarboek van get Katholiek Documentatiecentrum, 24 (1994), 1225; and Altermatt, “Katholizismus und Nation: Vier Modelle in europäisch-vergleichender Perspektive”, in Urs Altermatt and F. Metzger, eds., Religion und Nation: Katholizismen im Europa des 19. und 20. Jahrhunderts (Stuttgart, 2007), 15–33.

7 See Godechot, Jacques, La contre-révolution 1789–1804 (Paris, 1961).

8 See Seigel, Jerrold, Modernity and Bourgeois Life: Society, Politics, and Culture in England, France, and Germany since 1750 (Cambridge, 2012), especially the French case.

9 The best-studied example is the English one, which follows the aforementioned general scheme. See Parsons, Gerald, “Victorian Roman Catholicism: Emancipation, Expansion and Achievement”, in Parsons, ed., Religion in Victorian Britain, vol. 1 (Manchester, 1988), 146–83, 162; and Heimann, Mary, “English Catholic Particularism in Piety and Politics”, in Lamberts, E., ed., The Black International, 1870–1878 (Brussels, 2002), 450–8.

10 See the studies for the German case in Anderson, Margaret L., “The Limits of Secularisation: On the Problem of the Catholic Revival in Nineteenth-Century Germany”, Historical Journal, 38 (1995), 647–70; and Blaschke, Olaf, “Das 19. Jahrhundert: Ein Zweites Konfessionelles Zeitalter?”, Geschichte und Gesellschaft, 26 (2000), 3875.

11 The term is coined by Christopher Clark in “The New Catholicism”, 46. However, a similar term has existed for years in the Spanish scholarship in the form of Neocatolicismo. Created as an anticlerical derogatory appellation against conservative Catholics in mid-nineteenth-century Spain, the term has been revived and assumed by Spanish historians in the last thirty years. For a general explanation of the term and the historical set, see the biased but original work of Urigüen, Begoña, Orígenes y evolución de la derecha española: el neo-catolicismo (Madrid, 1986).

12 Unlike what Taylor, Charles asserts in “A Catholic Modernity?”, in Heft, J. L., ed., A Catholic modernity? Charles Taylor's Marianist Award Lecture (Oxford, 1999), 1419, Catholic modernity did not imply the conceptual subordination and resultant acceptance of liberal humanism.

13 For the importance of Mazzinean nationalism see Mazower, Mark, Governing the World: The History of an Idea (New York, 2012), 3190; and Bayly, Christopher A. and Biagini, Eugenio, eds., Giuseppe Mazzini and the Globalization of Democratic Nationalism, 1830–1920 (New York, 2008).

14 See Stoetzer, Carlos, The Scholastic Roots of the Spanish American Revolution (New York, 1979); and Sebastián, Javier Fernández, “Levantamiento, guerra y revolución: El peso de los orígenes en el liberalismo español”, in Demange, C., Géal, P., Hocquellet, R., Michonneau, S. and Salgues, M., eds., Sombras de mayo: Mitos y memorias de la Guerra de la Independencia en España (1808–1908) (Madrid, 2007), 187219.

15 For a detailed account of this Spanish clerical patriotism see Alonso, Gregorio, “‘Del altar una barricada, del santuario una fortaleza’. 1808 y la Nación Católica”, in Barrientos, J. Álvarez, ed., La Guerra de la Independencia en la cultura española (Madrid, 2008), 75105.

16 de Jesús, José María, ¿Debemos esperar o temer? (Palma, 1808), 2.

17 de Cádiz, Diego José, El soldado católico en guerra de religión (Cádiz, 1812), 68.

18 Eastman, Scott, Preaching Spanish Nationalism across the Hispanic Atlantic, 1759–1823 (New Orleans, 2012).

19 Cúndaro, Manuel, Historia político-crítico militar de la plaza de Gerona en los sitios de 1808 y 1809 (Girona, 1950), 312.

20 Ibid., 26.

21 Ibid., 65, 226.

22 Ferrer, Raymundo, Barcelona cautiva, vol. 4 (Barcelona, 1817), 237, 449.

23 de Maistre, Joseph-Marie, Du Pape (Paris, 1821), 308.

24 d’Agostino, Peter, Rome in America: Transnational Catholic Ideology from the Risorgimento to Fascism (Chapel Hill, 2003), 23.

25 Martina, Giacomo, Pio IX (1846–1850) (Rome, 1974), 63.

26 See Perreau-Saussine, Emile, Catholicism and Democracy: An Essay in the History of Political Theology (Princeton, 2012), 23, for this exercise of Franco-centrism.

27 Paul, Harry W., “In Quest of Kerygma: Catholic Intellectual Life in Nineteenth-Century France”, American Historical Review, 75/2 (1969), 387423, 390–91; Byrnes, Joseph F., “Chateaubriand and Destutt de Tracy: Defining Religious and Secular Polarities in France at the Beginning of the Nineteenth Century”, Church History, 60/3 (1991), 316–30, 319–20.

28 de Lamennais, Felicité, De la religion considérée dans ses rapports avec l’ordre politique et civil (Courtrai, 1825), 215–18.

29 Perreau-Saussine, Catholicism and Democracy, 44–5.

30 See Maire, Catherine, “Quelques mots piégés en histoire religieuse moderne: jansénisme, jésuitisme, gallicanisme, ultramontanisme”, Annales de l’est, 1 (2007), 1343, for a useful historical definition of Ultramontanism and Gallicanism.

31 Gabbert, Mark A., “The Limits of French Catholic Liberalism: Mgr. Sibour and the Question of Ecclesiology”, French Historical Studies, 10/4 (1978), 641–63, 644.

32 Pope Gregory XVI favored monarchical sovereignty against national sovereignty. Indeed, the Pope was following the theories of French philosophical traditionalism of Bonald and the first Lamennais, who had evolved, like other French Catholics, to more nationalistic positions.

33 Paul, “In Quest of Kerygma”, 392–7.

34 Since then, Lamennais evolved towards democratic radicalism, clearly separated from Catholicism. See Berenson, Edward, Populist Religion and Left-Wing Politics in France, 1830–1852 (Princeton, 1984).

35 de Montalembert, Charles, Discours, vol. 1 (Paris, 1860), 59. However, he was more concerned about Catholic religious freedom, than about Polish national sovereignty. See Taillade, Nicole, “Montalembert, Rome et la Pologne (1833–1850)”, in Libéralisme chrétien et catholicisme libéral en Espagne, France et Italie dans la première moitié du XIXè siècle (Aix-en-Provence, 1989), 348–9.

36 Porter, Brian, “The Catholic Nation: Religion, Identity, and the Narratives of Polish History”, Slavic and East European Journal, 45/2 (2001), 294–6. In opposition to the historical evolution of the Polish Catholic nationalist movement, see James E. Bjork, “Beyond the Polak-Katolik: Catholicism, Nationalism, and Particularism in Modern Poland”, in Altermatt and Metzger, Religion und Nation, 97–117.

37 Charles de Montalembert, Discours, vol. 1, 92, 124, 144–5, 155–8, 161–2, 194.

38 Josep M. Fradera has described the Catalan conservative intellectual revival, formed of several schools in different subjects and disciplines. The Catalan apologetic school would be another one within the Romantic movement in Catalonia. Fradera, Josep M., Cultura nacional en una sociedad dividida. Cataluña, 1838–1868 (Madrid, 2003), 124.

39 As in France, Spain had religious democratic radicalism, unrelated to Catholicism, which had little interest in national identities. See Barnosell, Genís, “God and Freedom: Radical Liberalism, Republicanism, and Religion in Spain, 1808–1847”, International Review of Social History, 57 (2012), 3759.

40 Callahan, William J., The Catholic Church in Spain, 1875–1998 (Washington, 2000) 21–5, 31.

41 Quadrado, José M., Ensayos religiosos, políticos y literarios, vol. 2 (Palma, 1871), 221.

42 Ibid., 222.

43 Quadrado, José M., Ensayos religiosos, políticos y literarios, vol. 1 (Palma, 1853), 267–8.

44 Casanovas, Ignasi, Balmes. Su vida, sus obras y su tiempo (Barcelona, 1942), 137–48.

45 Payne, Stanley, Spanish Catholicism: An Historical Overview (Madison, 1984), 137.

46 Fradera, Josep M., Jaume Balmes: Els fonaments racionals d’una política catòlica (Vic, 1996), 59.

47 Jaume Balmes, “Cataluña”, in Balmes, Obras completas, vol. 13 (Barcelona, 1925), 99.

48 Jaume Balmes, “El protestantismo”, in Obras completas, vol. 8 (Barcelona, 1925), 24.

49 Ibid., 25; Balmes, “Cataluña”, 14.

50 Balmes, Jaume, “Consideraciones políticas sobre la situación de España”, in Obras completas, vol. 23 (Barcelona, 1925), 122.

51 Balmes, Jaume, “La monarquía y la unidad gubernativa en la sociedad española”, in Obras completas, vol. 25 (Barcelona, 1926), 121.

52 Balmes, Jaume, “La nación y los gobiernos”, in Obras completas, vol. 28 (Barcelona, 1926), 26–7.

53 Balmes, Jaume, “Pío IX”, in Obras completas, vol. 32 (Barcelona, 1926), 282.

54 Balmes, Jaume, “La religiosidad de la nación española”, in Obras completas, vol. 24 (Barcelona, 1925), 11.

55 Balmes, “Pío IX”, 282–5.

56 Ibid., 286.

57 Jaume Balmes, “El protestantismo”, in Obras completas, vol. 5 (Barcelona, 1925), 178–9, 183, 187, 191, 203–12; Balmes, “Impugnación de un artículo de ‘El Conservador’ titulado ‘Españoles-americanos’”, in Obras completas, vol. 23 (Barcelona, 1925), 258–64. Balmes's disdain towards the “Jewish state” is portrayed when he compares it with a plant without roots in Jaume Balmes, “Pensamientos sobre literatura, filosofía, política y religión”, in Obras completas, vol. 14 (Barcelona, 1925), 232.

58 Balmes, Jaume, “La influencia religiosa”, in Obras completas, vol. 4 (Barcelona, 1925), 199.

59 Casanovas, Balmes, 371. Later Pius IX had addressed a similar question to several theologians on 9 May. Martina, Pio IX, 248–9.

60 Batllori, Miquel, Balmes i Casanovas (Barcelona, 1959), 114.

61 Casanovas, Balmes, 308.

62 Chadwick, Owen, A History of the Popes 1830–1914 (Oxford, 1998), 72–3.

63 D’Agostino, Rome in America, 24.

64 Gioberti, Vincenzo, Del primato morale e civile degli Italiani (Napoli, 1864), 88–9.

65 Martina, Pio IX, 69–71.

66 Aubert, Roger, Le pontificat de Pie IX (1846–1878) (Paris: 1952), 1618.

67 Perreau-Saussine, Catholicism and Democracy, 58–69.

68 Aubert, Le pontificat de Pie IX, 51–5.

69 de Montalembert, Charles, Des intérêts catholiques au XIXe siècle (Paris, 1852), 38.

70 Ibid., 41.

71 See de Montalembert, Charles, Une nation en deuil: La Pologne en 1861 (Paris, 1861); and Montalembert, L’insurrection polonaise (Paris, 1863).

72 de Montalembert, Charles, Le Pape et la Pologne (Paris, 1864), 18. Chadwick, A History of the Popes, 422, vividly opposes this portrait of Pius IX and considers that his help towards Poles was clearly insufficient.

73 Charles de Montalembert showed his nationalist stances again in his La victoire du Nord aux États-Unis (Paris, 1865). Once more, he presented Pope Pius IX as a champion of the nation-state project.

74 de Saint-Bonnet, Antoine Blanc, De la restauration française (Paris, 1851), 260–63, 268–70.

75 See Gabbert, Mark A., “The Limits of French Catholic Liberalism: Mgr. Sibour and the Question of Ecclesiology”, French Historical Studies, 10/4 (1978), 644–7.

76 Dupanloup, Félix, La convention du 15 septembre et l’encyclique du 8 décembre (Paris, 1865), 137.

77 Ibid., 74; and Dupanloup, Félix, L’athéisme et le péril social (Paris, 1866), 182–5.

78 For a study of the importance of Dupanloup's work on Pius IX's Syllabus see O’Connell, Marvin R., “Ultramontanism and Dupanloup: The Compromise of 1865”, Church History, 53/2 (1984), 200–17. It is important to highlight that this list of errors had several origins in diocesan initiatives in Perugia (1849), under the pontificate of Mgr. Gioacchino Pecci, future Pope Leo XIII, and in Perpinyà (1860), under the pontificate of Mgr Philippe Gerbet.

79 See de Maeyer, Jan, “La belgique: Un élève modèle de l’école ultramontaine”, in Lamberts, Emiel, ed., The Black International, 1870–1878 (Brussel, 2002), 361–85; and Lamberts, Emiel, “Religion and National Identities in Belgium”, in Altermatt and Metzger, Religion und Nation, 3749.

80 Donoso Cortés (1809–53) was not interested in national identity; he devoted most of his works to political theology, and was a profound influence in the twentieth century, especially for German political theorist Carl Schmitt. See Ulmen, Gary L., “Carl Schmitt and Donoso Cortés”, Telos, 125 (2002), 6979.

81 Aparisi, Antonio, Obras de D. Antonio Aparisi y Guijarro, vol. 2 (Madrid, 1873), 40–2, 170–3, 322–6.

82 Aparisi, Antonio, Obras, vol. 4 (Madrid, 1874), 1215.

83 de Mattei, Roberto, Pio IX e la Rivoluzione italiana (Siena, 2012), 60.

84 Perreau-Saussine, Catholicism and Democracy, 63.

85 Veuillot, Louis, Paris pendant les deux sièges, vol. 1 (Paris, 1871), iv.

86 Crétineau-Joly, Jacques, L’église Romaine en face de la révolution (Paris, 1861), 7.

87 Veuillot, Paris, 16.

88 Keller, Emile, L’encyclique du 8 décembre 1864 et les principes de 1789 (Paris, 1866), 208, 220.

89 Keller, Emile, Histoire de France, vol. 1 (Paris, 1859), viiviii.

90 Lafuente, Modesto, Historia general de España desde los tiempos más remotos hasta nuestros días: Discurso Preliminar (Pamplona, 2002), 4.

91 Pasamar, Gonzalo, Apologia and Criticism: Historians and the History of Spain, 1500–2000 (Bern, 2010), 72.

92 Ibid., 5–9.

93 Gebhardt, Víctor, Historia general de España y de sus Indias (Barcelona, 1864), ivv.

94 Vincent Viaene, “The Roman Question: Catholic Mobilisation and Papal Diplomacy during the Pontificate of Pius IX (1846–1878)”, in Lamberts, The Black International, 133–78, 139.

95 Martina, Pio IX, 350–57; Chadwick, A History of the Popes, 132.

96 di Raulica, Gioacchino Ventura, Cartas sobre el movimiento anticatólico de Italia y legitimidad del poder espiritual y temporal del Sumo Pontífice (Madrid, 1861), 35–8.

97 Cantù, Cesare, Storia degli Italiani, vol. 6 (Torino, 1856), 675.

98 Ibid. 676–7, 682–3, 702.

99 Ibid. 817. Cantù, Cesare, Chiesa e Stato (Genova, 1867), 6062.

100 Cantù, Cesare, Gli eretici d’Italia (Torino, 1866), 639.

101 Cantù, Cesare, “Del diritto nella storia”, in Soltyk, R., La Polonia e sua rivoluzione nel 1380 (Milan, 1870), 5261.

102 Chadwick, A History of the Popes, 281–2.

103 See Emiel Lamberts, “L’Internationale noire: Une organisation secrète au service du Saint-Siège”, in Lamberts, The Black International, 15–101.

104 France and Spain had the strongest integrist groups. See Mayeur, Jean-Marie, “Catholicisme intransigeant, catholicisme social, démocratie chrétienne”, Annales: ESC, 27/2 (1972), 483–99; and Callahan, The Catholic Church in Spain, 33–58.

105 Sapientiæ Christianæ, §6.

106 Altermatt, Katholizismus und Nation, 23–31.

107 Viaene, “The Roman Question”, 177.

108 Gaudium et Spes, §75.

* I would like to thank the three anonymous readers; the editorial staff of Modern Intellectual History; and, above all, Samuel Moyn, Gregorio Alonso and James Chappel. An early version of this essay was presented at the University of Leeds “Sujetos frágiles” Research Group workshop.

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