The Catholic Church and the Nation-State

Comparative Perspectives

Paul Christopher Manuel, Lawrence C. Reardon, and Clyde Wilcox, Editors

"An excellent book that does what it sets out to do: give the reader a broader and yet in-depth understanding of the church's role in the political and transnational sphere. It is an excellent addition to theological and academic libraries."
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Presenting case studies from sixteen countries on five continents, The Catholic Church and the Nation-State paints a rich portrait of a complex and paradoxical institution whose political role has varied historically and geographically. In this integrated and synthetic collection of essays, outstanding scholars from the United States and abroad examine religious, diplomatic, and political actions—both admirable and regrettable—that shape our world. Kenneth R. Himes sets the context of the book by brilliantly describing the political influence of the church in the post-Vatican II era. There are many recent instances, the contributors assert, where the Church has acted as both a moral authority and a self-interested institution: in the United States it maintained unpopular moral positions on issues such as contraception and sexuality, yet at the same time it sought to cover up its own abuses; it was complicit in genocide in Rwanda but played an important role in ending the horrific civil war in Angola; and it has alternately embraced and suppressed nationalism by acting as the voice of resistance against communism in Poland, whereas in Chile it once supported opposition to Pinochet but now aligns with rightist parties.

With an in-depth exploration of the five primary challenges facing the Church—theology and politics, secularization, the transition from serving as a nationalist voice of opposition, questions of justice, and accommodation to sometimes hostile civil authorities—this book will be of interest to scholars and students in religion and politics as well as Catholic Church clergy and laity. By demonstrating how national churches vary considerably in the emphasis of their teachings and in the scope and nature of their political involvement, the analyses presented in this volume engender a deeper understanding of the role of the Roman Catholic Church in the world.

Table of Contents

Foreword: Faith and Culture in a Turbulent Age,
Thomas Massaro, SJ, and James Morone

Introduction: Theoretical Considerations on the Relationship between the Catholic Church and the Nation-State


1. Vatican II and Contemporary Politics
Kenneth R. Himes, OFM

2. The Vatican as a Transnational Actor
Lisa L. Ferrari


3. The Latin European Church: "Une Messe est Possible"
Paul Christopher Manuel and Margaret MacLeish Mott

4. The American Church: Of Being Catholic and American
Ted G. Jelen

5. The Chilean Church: Declining Hegemony?
William Lies, CSC and Mary Fran T. Malone


6. The Polish Church: Catholic Hierarchy and Polish Politics
Timothy A. Byrnes

7. The Catholic Church in Ireland and Northern Ireland: Nationalism, Identity, and Opposition
William Crotty

8. The East Timorese Church: From Oppression to Liberation
Alynna J. Lyon


9. The Brazilian Church: Reintegrating Ontology and Epistemology
Christine A. Kearney

10. The Rwandan Church: The Challenge of Reconciliation
Elisée Rutagambwa, SJ

11. The Angolan Church: The Prophetic Tradition, Politics, and the State
Linda Heywood


12. The Indian Church: Catholicism and Indian Nationhood
Mathew N. Schmalz

13. The Chinese Catholic Church: Obstacles to Reconciliation
Lawrence C. Reardon

14. The Congolese Church: Ecclesial Community within the Political Community
Yvon C. Elenga, SJ


A. Vatican Documents with Relevance to Church-State Issues

B. Religious Concentration of the Countries Considered in this Volume

C. Timeline of Significant Events in the Life of the Roman Catholic Church, 1800 to the Present

D. World Values Survey: How Important Is Religion in Your Life?




"This book is a valuable part of the research and literature on the role of the church in contemporary society and politics. It is recommended for serious study and discussion among those in academic, religious and policy circles and is also an important read for anyone trying to gain a better understanding of the challenges facing the church today."—Conscience

"An excellent book that does what it sets out to do: give the reader a broader and yet in-depth understanding of the church's role in the political and transnational sphere. It is an excellent addition to theological and academic libraries."—Catholic Library World

"Exactly how the Catholic Church relates to contemporary states and how these relationships vary over time and between countries are important questions for students of religion and politics. This book is one of the most significant recent contributions to a growing literature that addresses these issues in a truly comparative fashion."—Politics and Religion

"Worthwhile reading for anyone interested in the myriad ways in which the Vatican interacts with governments and political parties throughout the world."—Historians of Women Religious of Britain and Ireland

"A book that astutely crosses the theology-political science divide to probe the relation between faith and culture. The authors capture multiple tensions and ambiguities as the Catholic Church faces challenges of secularization, nationalism, and democracy across the globe."—Clarke E. Cochran, Covenant Health System

"Manuel, Reardon, and Wilcox have assembled a superb group of scholars to discuss the global challenges to the Catholic Church. Organized thematically and covering all corners of the world, this work should become an essential read for anybody interested in Catholicism or religion more generally."—Anthony Gill, author of Rendering Unto Caesar: The Catholic Church and the State in Latin America


Timothy A. Byrnes William Crotty Yvon C. Elenga, SJ Lisa L. Ferrari Linda Heywood Kenneth Himes, OFM Ted G. Jelen Christine A. Kearney William M. Lies, CSC Alynna J. Lyon Mary Fran T. Malone Paul Christopher Manuel Thomas Massaro, SJ James Morone Margaret MacLeish Mott Lawrence C. Reardon Elisée Rutagambwa, SJ Mathew N. Schmalz Clyde Wilcox

Supplemental Materials


About the Author

Paul Christopher Manuel is a professor of political science at Mount St. Mary’s University and a research fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University.

Lawrence C. Reardon is a research associate at the John King Fairbanks Center for East Asian Studies at Harvard University and an associate professor of political science and coordinator of Asian studies at the University of New Hampshire.

Clyde Wilcox is professor of government at Georgetown University.

298 pp., 6 x 9

ISBN: 978-1-58901-114-4
Aug 2006

298 pp., 6 x 9

ISBN: 978-1-58901-115-1
Aug 2006

298 pp.

ISBN: 978-1-58901-724-5
Aug 2006

Religion and Politics series
John C. Green, Ted G. Jelen, and Mark J. Rozell, series editors

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