Contrary to what is usually reflected in the mass media, Christian thought has been highly relevant in the evolution from absolutism to democracy and its eventual struggle against totalitarianism. Alexis de Tocqueville in the 19th Century and Jacques Maritain in the 20th Century, through Leo XIII from the Holy See and the resulting Church Social Doctrine are notable exponents of the relevance of Christian teachings and their influence on democratic ideas. The following article offers an excellent analysis of this topic.
Frenchmen in America: How Alexis de Tocqueville and Jacques Maritain Discovered America
At first glance, Alexis de Tocqueville and Jacques Maritain would appear to have little in common. An aristocrat from one of France’s oldest families, Tocqueville had many doubts about the truth claims of Christianity, though we have good reason to believe that he returned to the Catholic faith on his deathbed. Tocqueville also wrote very much as what we would call political sociologist, even a type of political scientist. Though obviously familiar with Christian sources and thought – indeed, he never stopped attending Mass – it’s clear that he was as much influenced by reading Rousseau, Voltaire, and especially Montesquieu as he was by reading Augustine.
By contrast, our second figure, Jacques Maritain, was raised as a Protestant. For a time, he was an agnostic before converting to Catholicism in 1906. Aristotle and Aquinas were Maritain’s lodestones, and his thought forms part of that great revival of Thomas Aquinas’ thought occasioned by Leo XIII’s 1879 encyclical Aeterni Patris. A fierce critic of Voltaire and even more so of Rousseau, Maritain authored over 60 books, which focused on subjects ranging from metaphysics to the nature and role of the state. Maritain was also viewed as a type of representative of 20th century Catholic intellectuals. It was not a coincidence that Pope Paul VI presented his “Message to Men of Thought and of Science” at the end of Vatican II to Maritain.Add a comment Leer más...