The 1870s, which is to say the final years of the long pontificate of Pius IX, were not a boom decade for the Catholic intellect. There was, of course, John Henry Newman, but after Newman virtually nobody who merits attention today. This broad retreat of Catholic art and philosophy had much to do with the state of siege, both political and intellectual, in which the Church found itself at the time. Although he began his pontificate as a “liberal,” Pius became increasingly disenchanted with the materialism and secularism of the late nineteenth century and spent his final two decades trying to barricade the Church against their onslaught. The locus classicus of this effort was the “Syllabus of Errors” of 1864, which condemned, among other propositions, the idea that “the Roman Pontiff can, and ought to, reconcile himself . . . with progress, liberalism and modern...

 

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