Between 1831 and 1855, the Liberal Catholic Movement, led by Compte de Montalembert, strived for a part in French politics with the password “Catholics first and foremost”. They sought visibility through the struggle for the freedom of secondary education in the 1840s. Nevertheless, and as before, their main arena of action was the press, where they could express demands targeting broader domains. This action revealed and emphasized internal contradictions which soon turned into public splits between men and between newspapers. The ambiguities and the brittleness of this Liberal Catholic Movement were exposed by the discords of the “Catholic party.” These included the difficulties for an autonomous secular voice and the intricate relations with Roman Church clergy, the various positions of the post-revolutionary society and, finally, the evolutions of the sensibilities of Catholics which heralded the debates of the second half of the 19th century.
By Sylvain Milbach