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Roman Catholic theology


Subject Religion

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631198963.2005.x


With the beginning of the eighteenth century Roman Catholic theology showed no sign of vigour. In Protestant countries Roman Catholics were too preoccupied with consolidating their position in a still hostile environment to have much time for theology, apart from polemics, outside the seminaries. On the European continent Jansenism remained a powerful force, and its rigoristic morality, if not its dogmatic system, exerted a wider influence in English-speaking countries too. St Alphonsus Liguori's Moral Theology of 1753–5 presented a middle position between Jansenistic rigorism and what was regarded as the laxer Jesuit probabilism; his theory of ‘equiprobabilism’ taught that a person was free to choose between lines of conduct which enjoyed equal support from approved church authorities. As the century progressed the agenda was set by the need for the church to make out a case against the Enlightenment, such as the romantic poet Chateaubriand's Génie du christianisme , which expounded a Christian apologetic based on an appeal to the feelings. Beginning with the French Revolution and continuing with Bismarck's Kulturkampf in Germany, the church in Europe suffered frequent persecution. The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were a period when the papacy especially felt itself under attack from many sides. It had been humiliated from without under Napoleon. From within its teaching ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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