The Transformation of Christian Politics in 20th-Century Europe: Italy and Beyond

Saturday, January 9, 2016: 3:10 PM
Grand Hall D (Hyatt Regency Atlanta)
Rosario Forlenza, Columbia University
Bjørn Thomassen, Roskilde University
This paper discusses how, from within Italian political and cultural life, Catholicism related to modernity and democracy from the birth of the national state (1861) onwards. It argues that Italian Catholicism went through a process of transformation that developed from radical rejection to critical co-articulation of the modern project—with the institutionalization of Christian Democracy after World War II playing a huge role in this process.  The Italian case is analyzed as emblematic for the larger European historical and political context, as Christian Democracy became the central forum for institutionalizing a link between Christianity and modern state politics. To some degree this development served to overcome the Catholic-Protestant divide, and also therefore played a significant role in the formation of the European Community.  At the theoretical level, the paper discusses how sets of religious ideas can be adapted to national and European politics in particular historical circumstances, thereby giving direction to multiple pathways towards the modern.