What is ‘Catholic Enlightenment’?
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Recent research has demonstrated not only the existence of a variety of Enlightenments, but also the importance of the religious aspect to this worldwide process. In particular, special interest has been paid to the long-neglected Catholic Enlightenment, which entailed many strands of thought by Catholic intellectuals and political leaders who attempted to renew and reform Catholicism from the middle of the 18th to the early 19th century. This renewal was an apologetic endeavor designed to defend the essential dogmas of Catholic Christianity by explaining their rationality in modern terminology and by reconciling Catholicism with modern culture. The Catholic Enlightenment was in dialog with contemporary culture, not only by developing new hermeneutical approaches to the Council of Trent or to Jansenist ideas, but also by implementing some of the core values of the overall European Enlightenment process that tried to ‘renew’ and ‘reform’ the whole of society, and thus truly deserves the label Enlightenment.