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Title: Lord Acton : the catholic and the moralist : a study of the development of his thought from 1850-1884
Authors: Murphy, Terence
Issue Date: 1977
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: No Catholic layman in modern times has played a greater part in ecclesiastical affairs than did Lord Acton. Although he was neither a theologian nor a man conspicuous for his spiritual insight, his relentless call for a reform of the Church and the brilliance with which he advocated a rapprochement between Catholicism and the modem world have earned him a place in history alongside the great churchmen and divines of the nineteenth century. Acton understood much more clearly than did most Catholics of his time that he lived in an increasingly secular age, the tendency of which was to regard the Church as an obstacle to human progress. This insight led him to believe that profane scholarship, and not merely theology, must be used as a means to defend religion; and he insisted that scientific history has an especially important contribution to make, because of the position which it occupied as the spearhead of an intellectual revolution. When he began his career in 1857, as an associate editor of the Rambler magazine, his foremost ambition was to communicate to English Catholics the ideas of the German Romantics, which he believed had already laid the groundwork for the recovery of religion. But the tragedy of his career was that his intentions were misunderstood by the mass of Catholics, largely because of his insistence on absolute candour, so that almost from the outset he found himself part of a resolute but small and loosely organised minority, whose views were never to triumph during his lifetime. He disputed endlessly with his co-religionists over the exigencies of the scientific method as applied to history, strenuously opposed the official position regarding the Pope’s Temporal Power, and finally conducted a vehement but hopeless struggle at the First Vatican Council against the proposed definition of papal infallibility.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Historical Studies

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