Catholic Modern: The Challenge of Totalitarianism and the Remaking of the Church

James Chappel
Harvard University Press
2018

In 1900 the Catholic Church stood staunchly against human rights, religious freedom, and the secular state. Yet by the 1960s, those positions were reversed. Chappel finds an answer in the shattering experiences of the 1930s. Faced with the rise of Nazism and Communism, European Catholics scrambled to rethink their Church and their faith. Simple opposition to modernity was no longer an option. The question was how to be modern. These were life and death questions as Catholics struggled to keep Church doors open without compromising their core values.

The author tells the story of how these radical ideas emerged in the 1930s and exercised enormous influence after World War II. Most remarkably, a group of modern Catholics planned and led a new political movement called Christian Democracy, which transformed European culture, social policy, and integration. Others emerged as left-wing dissidents, while yet others began to organize around issues of abortion and gay marriage. Catholics had come to accept modernity, but they still disagreed over its proper form.

Catholic Modern: The Challenge of Totalitarianism and the Remaking of the Church