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Renaissance Catholicism and Contemporary Liberalism

Western Ideology on the Eve of the Reformation

Authors

  • David A. Hughes


David A. Hughes, Department of Political, Social, and International Studies, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ. David.A.Hughes@uea.ac.uk.

Abstract

Contemporary (post-1945) liberalism functions analogously to Roman Catholicism in the decades after 1443. Both ideologies, in their respective periods, represent the hegemonic ideology of Western civilization, despite the fact that both comprise a miscellany of competing belief systems. Both ideologies are dominated by a single hegemonic power—the United States and the Renaissance papacy, respectively—which strives for doctrinal stability. All who reject official “doctrine,” however, are rendered liable to violent suppression. In this, papal Catholicism and American liberalism display an ultra-conservative outlook; but they also evince a powerfully millenarian streak, as evidenced by their dual proclamations of the “end of history” and their zealous missionary responses to macro-historical events in the final decades of the fifteenth and twentieth centuries. For ideologues of both regimes, those events speak to an ultimate harmony of truth and value that only serves to entrench their own dogmatism. This, however, has dire consequences when it comes to war, as can be seen in the “crusading” character of contemporary liberal warfare. Ultimately, the Renaissance papacy proves unable to maintain its monopoly on Christian doctrine; and one has to wonder if a similar fate may befall America's perceived role as the champion of liberalism.

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