December 3, 2008
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v2.1 Reference

Maurice Blondel, Social Catholicism, and Action Francaise

The Clash over the Church's Role in Society during the Modernist Era

How does the Church realize its public mission? How do different theological and philosophical commitments influence the conception of the Church's role in the public square? This work casts light on contemporary arguments over social Catholicism and the believer's role in society by illuminating a similar dispute among French Catholics during the Modernist Crisis (1909-1914).

In the first decades of the twentieth century French Catholics were sharply divided over what strategy the Church should adopt to re-Christianize society. This conflict of mentalities found expression in a po-lemical exchange between lay philosopher Maurice Blondel and Jesuit Pedro Descoqs that occurred at the height of the Modernist crisis. On the one hand, Descoqs offered a defense of a Catholic alliance with the proto-fascist, monarchist Action Française. On the other hand, Blondel defended the democratic, social Catholics against the charge of social modernism in his "Testis" essays. Blondel's trenchant analysis of the integralist mentality that he found in Action Française Catholics has been described as "the most penetrating analysis of this phenomenon of Catholic integralism that . . . represents an ever recurrent temptation for militant Catholics."

Peter J. Bernardi's study presents a thorough exposition and analysis of this significant controversy. While highly sensitive to historical context, Bernardi primarily highlights the philosophical and theologi-cal positions involved. He maintains throughout the book that political allegiances and orientations col-ored theological arguments and makes clear that the issues at stake then are still relevant in understanding ecclesial tensions today. As eminent historical theologian Joseph Komonchak notes in the foreword, "the controversy analyzed and described addressed issues so basic in importance and so broad in implication that the work will also be read with profit by others outside of the historical guild."

"There are other books on modernism, but they do not address the controversies of social modernism as this one does. Bernardi has carved out and brought attention to neglected areas of Blondel's thought and of the modernist crisis. Bernardi is a reliable and careful guide to the nuanced and complex maneuvering of Blondel."—John Sullivan, professor of Christian Education, Liverpool Hope University


Peter J. Bernardi, S.J., is associate professor of religious studies at Loyola University, New Orleans.


"Bernardi's book has at least two great, and related, values. First he attempts to do justice to Descoq's position. . . . Second, Bernardi concludes by applying the insights of both Blondel and Descoqs to contemporary debates. The result is a helpful contribution to historical theology." — Harvey Hill, Catholic Historical Review

"Bernardi succeeds both as a historical theologian and as a storyteller. Ideas and labels invert themselves; sympathies and oppositions change sides; and dry old doctrinal bones receive new life. His work surprises, unnerves, and even disturbs." — Stephen Schloesser, Journal of Church and State

"Bernardi expertly leads the reader through a set of disputes rich in implications for contemporary Catholic thought and commitments. . . . It adds an invaluable scholarly resource for understanding the many sides of French Catholic thought and life from the fin-de-siecle to the early 1920s and provides French-less readers faithful and insightful summaries and assessments of some of Blondel's yet-untranslated "middle period" works. . . . Bernardi's book could be a model for scholarship in the history of ideas." — Gregory B. Sadler, International Philosophical Quarterly

The Catholic University of America Press

9780813215426 : maurice-blondel-social-catholicism-and-action-francaise-bernardi
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