Catholic Constitutionalism from the Americanist Controversy to Dignitatis Humanae
20 Pages Posted: 21 Jan 2016 Last revised: 26 Apr 2016
Date Written: January 18, 2016
This paper, written for a symposium on the 50th anniversary of Dignitatis Humanae or the Roman Catholic Church’s Declaration on Religious Freedom, traces a brief history of Catholic constitutionalism from the Americanist controversy of late nineteenth century up until the issuance of Dignitatis Humanae as part of the Second Vatican Council in 1965. It argues that the pluralist experiment enshrined in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was a crucial factor in shaping church attitudes towards religious freedom, not only in the years immediately preceding the revolutionary Second Vatican Council but ever since the late nineteenth century when Catholicism became a potent social force in the United States. This history offers an opportunity to reflect on what the new global geography of Catholicism portends in the future as well as the importance of law in shaping religious change.
Keywords: Religious Freedom, Vatican, History, United States, First Amendment
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