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The Catholic Enlightenment in Europe, the Americas and Australia (1700-1840)

Balancing Loyalties between State, Nationality, Citizenship and the Global Church

The Center for Research on Global Catholicism (CRGC) at Saint Louis University, in partnership with the University of Notre Dame Australia, University of Münster, and Washington University in St. Louis, will host the conference — The Catholic Enlightenment in Europe, the Americas and Australia (1700-1840): Balancing Loyalties between State, Nationality, Citizenship, and the Global Church — Sept. 20-21, 2024, in St. Louis. 

logo for the Center for Research on Global Catholicism next to the name of the Center

SLU's Center for Research on Global Catholicism welcomes you to an international interdisciplinary conference co-sponsored by University of Notre Dame Australia, the University of Münster, and Washington University in St. Louis.

The Enlightenment, it has now been established, was as much a religious phenomenon as it was a secular one. This conference brings together leading scholars from around the world to interrogate the ways in which Catholics, in particular, interpreted and extended Enlightenment ideas to rethink and reform society, politics, the economy, education, science and the arts on a global scale.

Schedule and Information

Sessions on Friday, Sept. 20, take place in the Pere Marquette Gallery, DuBourg Hall, 221 N. Grand Blvd., St. Louis, MO, 63103 (Saint Louis University north campus). SLU's Campus Maps will help guide you through our easily walkable campus. Visitors may park in the Laclede Parking Garage, a short walk from DuBourg Hall, at 3602 Laclede Ave., or use on-street parking. 

Sessions on Saturday, Sept. 21, take place in the formal lounge of the Ann Whitney Olin Women's Building, Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, 63130 (Washington University Danforth campus). WUSTL's Campus Maps will help guide you through the campus and to visitor parking.

Please find the schedule outlined below. Details will be added leading up to the event.

Register for the Conference

Friday, September 20, 2024

Pere Marquette Gallery, DuBourg Hall, Saint Louis University

8:15-8:30 a.m. - Coffee
Coffee will be available for all attendees as they prepare for the first day of the conference.
8:30 a.m. - Opening Remarks 
Shaun Blanchard, Ph.D. (University of Notre Dame, Australia) will provide opening remarks.
9-10:30 a.m. - Session 1: Race and Indigeneity in the "Enlightened" Global Catholic World

Chair: TBD

Annemarie McLaren (University of Notre Dame, Australia), “Something mysterious and 'sacred': Catholic Baptism and Aboriginal People in Early Colonial New South Wales”

Maria Teresa Fattori (Università di Teramo), “‘Enslaved Neophytes from the New Worlds between Enlightenment's Debate and Traditional Catholic Position on Slavery: a Question of Race?”

Elena Deanda-Camacho (Washington College), TBD

The exploitative Empire-building age of Enlightenment, marked by colonialism and slavery, stands in paradoxical relationship to new emphases on universal human rights and emerging interests in anthropology and ethnography. The Catholic Church claimed universality and desired global spiritual hegemony, yet it was actually a polyphonic reality. Despite having a supreme leader in the pope, different actors within the church defended divergent interests and pursued different objectives in their missionary activities. As the influence and institutional power of the church became truly global — whether through conversion and contact, Catholic imperial projects, or on the back of the British Empire — the Indigenous peoples of Africa, the Americas and Australia entered a complex set of relationships to European peoples and the church.

10:30-11 a.m. - Break

There will be a short break before the second session.

11-12:30 p.m. - Session 2: Enlightened Catholics in Protestant Empires

Chair: Grant Kaplan (Saint Louis University)

 Jürgen Overhoff (University of Münster), “The Irish Catholic Enlightenment and the Beginnings of Roman Catholicism in Australia”

Andreas Oberdorf (University of Münster), "Enlightened Catholic Patriots in Prussia after 1806: The Legacy of the "Circle of Münster""

Shaun Blanchard (University of Notre Dame, Australia), “Between Rome and Westminster: 'Cisalpine' Catholicism and the Struggle for Toleration”

This session reconsiders the tensions that English- and German-speaking Catholics navigated between loyalty to their faith — a constitutive element of which was papal primary — and fealty to the Protestant states in which they lived. Similarities between the political and cultural pressures faced by German Catholics living under Prussian rule and American, British, Irish and Australian Catholics are illuminated alongside considerations of the distinct conditions in each land and polity. The struggle for religious toleration was deeply intertwined with narratives of ethnic/national history, interpretations of theology and ecclesiology, views of education and culture, irenicism, and even inchoate concepts of ecumenism. Consequently, studying Catholic articulations of faith and politics in Protestant imperial contexts yields unique insights on the relationship between Catholicism and enlightened thought and discourse.

12:30-2 p.m. - Lunch

Lunch will be provided for all attendees.

2:30-3:30 p.m. - Session 3: Catholic Enlightenment and Revolution

Chair: Jen Popiel (Saint Louis University)

Pamela Voekel (Dartmouth College), “Reform Catholicism and Revolution in the Atlantic World: Madrid, Mexico City, and Central America, 1750-1850”

Luis Ramos (New York University), “Between Reason and Revolution: Mexican Jesuits on New World History, Universal Rights and Spanish American Independence"

Glauco Schettini (Yale University), “The End of the Catholic Enlightenment”

The French Revolution of 1789 caused new divisions in the Catholic world and exacerbated existing ones. This session asks a number of provocative questions regarding the relationship between Catholicism, Enlightenment and revolution. Did the French Revolution and the violent anticlerical and counter-revolutionary forces it unleashed mark the end of the Catholic Enlightenment? Did an enlightened Catholicism survive within 19th-century "Reform Catholicism" and leave a positive mark on emerging nation-states across the Atlantic? How did Catholic republicans combine their commitment to a confessional understanding of society with the new secular language of universal rights, and what does this mean for our understanding of a plural, more broadly conceived "age of Revolutions"?

5:30-6 p.m. - Piano Performance

There will be a piano performance at Cupples House

Opening remarks: Nicholas Chong (Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University)

Hang Jing, Beethoven's sonata No. 14 in C Sharp Minor, Op. 27, no. 2, "Moonlight"

Kenneth Kramer, Beethoven's Sonata No. 21 in C major, Op. 53, "Waldstein," I, II; and Bagatelle in G Minor, Op. 119, no.1

6-7 p.m. - Reception
Attendees are invited to a networking reception at the end of the first day in the historic Samuel Cupples House. Refreshments will be available.

Saturday, September 21, 2024

Formal Lounge, Ann Whitney Olin Women's Building, Washington University in St. Louis

8:45-9 a.m. - Coffee
Coffee will be available for all attendees as they prepare for the conference's second day.
9-10:30 a.m. - Plenary Talk by David Sorkin (Yale University)

"Discovering the Catholic Enlightenment: a Personal Account"

Abstract: This talk explores how David Sorkin came to discover the Catholic Enlightenment as part of a larger project of reconceiving the nature of the Enlightenment. It traces his intellectual journey in the U.S. and England in the three decades from the 1980s to 2008. He will discuss the development of scholarship on the Catholic Enlightenment in that period and suggest directions for future research and teaching.

10:30-11 a.m.  - Break
There will be a short break before the first session of the day.
11-12:30 p.m. - Session 4: Entanglements between Secular and Catholic Enlightenments

Chair: Mark Valeri (Washington University)

Jeffrey Burson (Georgia Southern University), “The Long and Fading Shadow of Humanism and the Confessional Crises: Reflections on the Long and Entangled Emergence of Catholic Enlightenment”

Ulrich Lehner (University of Notre Dame), “‘The Limits of Doubt: Lodovico Muratori on Reason and Religion”

Rebecca Messbarger (Washington University), "A Genealogy of the Italian Enlightenment: From Benedict XIV's Janus-Faced Papacy to the Milanese Academy of the Fists"

This session takes stock of recent research that has led to a revitalization of interest in a "religious" stream of enlightenment thought that existed alongside the secular. While the distinction between religious and secular enlightenments can be helpful, these papers reconsider and problematize the relationship between them. What are the continuities and discontinuities between scholarly practices from 16th-century Humanism to the 18th-century Enlightenment? Could a Catholic truly be enlightened if doubt must accede to dogma? How did secret societies, especially Freemasonry, blur the line between secular and religious varieties of enlightenment? And can we see in some individual figures, like Habsburg sovereign Peter Leopold, a combination of the conservative Catholic Enlightenment with a more radical and secular Illuminismo?

12:30-2 p.m. - Lunch

Lunch will be provided for all attendees.

2-3:30 p.m. - Session 5: The Arts and Sciences in the Catholic Enlightenment

Chair:  Tili Boon Cuille (Washington University)

Nicolas Chong (Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University), "Beethoven and the Catholic Enlightenment: Rethinking Musical Modernity"

Massimo Mazzotti (University of California, Berkeley), "Catholic Enlightenment as a Tool for the History of Science"

Jeffrey Collins (Queen's University), "Seeing is Believing: St. Peter, Pallia, and the Jubilee"

Christina Ramos (Washington University), "The View from the Hospital: Religious Nursing and Catholic Reform in 18th Century New Spain"

Undoubtedly, modernity has seen philosophy and politics enter into a new relationship with religion. This session considers how 18th-century Catholics drove forward or impeded change in music, science, art and architecture, and nursing. Were Catholic efforts in these arenas of activity largely conservative bids to defend the legitimacy of tradition and authority, or was an enlightened Catholicism part of broader modernizing trends seen elsewhere in the 18th century? Can understandings of Catholic Enlightenment distinguish and/or reconcile regressive and progressive elements, and how can scrutiny of the arts and sciences help recover and interpret them?

3:30-4 p.m. - Break
There will be a break before the roundtable session.
4-5:30 p.m. Roundtable
Moderator: Jürgen Overhoff (University of Münster)
6 p.m. - Dinner Reception

Attendees will be invited to attend a dinner reception to celebrate the close of the conference.

About CRGC

Three members of the CRGC leadership team discuss the center, its mission, and why SLU is an ideal place to do this research.

The Center for Research on Global Catholicism (CRGC) supports scholarship at the nexus of Catholicism and culture, providing robust programming that promotes interdisciplinary research, collaboration, and methodological innovation.

Please contact with questions regarding this event.