The Irony of Modern Catholic History

How the Church Rediscovered Itself and Challenged the Modern World to Reform

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A powerful new interpretation of Catholicism's dramatic encounter with modernity, by one of America's leading intellectuals

Throughout much of the nineteenth century, both secular and Catholic leaders assumed that the Church and the modern world were locked in a battle to the death. The triumph of modernity would not only finish the Church as a consequential player in world history; it would also lead to the death of religious conviction. But today, the Catholic Church is far more vital and consequential than it was 150 years ago. Ironically, in confronting modernity, the Catholic Church rediscovered its evangelical essence. In the process, Catholicism developed intellectual tools capable of rescuing the imperiled modern project.

A richly rendered, deeply learned, and powerfully argued account of two centuries of profound change in the church and the world, The Irony of Modern Catholic Historyreveals how Catholicism offers twenty-first century essential truths for our survival and flourishing.

George Weigel

George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington's Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies. He is the New York Times bestselling author of two dozen books, including the two volumes of his internationally acclaimed biography of Saint John Paul II, Witness to Hope and The End and the Beginning.

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A richly rendered, deeply learned, and powerfully argued account of two centuries of profound change in the church and the world, The Irony of Modern Catholic Historyreveals how Catholicism offers twenty-first century essential truths for our survival and flourishing.

"Weigel has an eye for a good story. Whether discussing the affairs of popes and princes, of conclaves and concordats, he seems always to come up with a telling anecdote or witty utterance to brighten the historical account. For a lively and informative overview from the 18th century to the present, The Irony of Modern CatholicHistory is the book to read."
Robert Louis Wilken, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor Emeritus of the History of Christianity at the University of Virginia

"This deeply learned and crisply written book reaffirms George Weigel's status as the preeminent American Catholic intellectual of our time. Weigel recasts recent history to show how we owe much of what is best and most noble in modernity to Catholicism and why, even in this season of ecclesial despair, Catholics have sound reasons to be hopeful."
Sohrab Ahmari, author of From Fire, By Water: My Journey to the Catholic Faith

"George Weigel is deeply learned and passionately engaged -- one of the important intellectual assets of the 21st century Catholic Church. His book is fascinating and visionary."
Lance Morrow

"George Weigel's sweeping account of 150 years of Catholic history challenges the long-held assumption made by traditionalists, progressives, many historians, and mainstream media that secular modernity has always been the prime mover, forcing the Church to either resist or accommodate it. In reframing the narrative with the church as the creative protagonist in this drama, Weigel describes how the encounter with modernity led to the renewal of the church's gospel-centered mission in its third millennium, and suggests that the church might redirect -- indeed, redeem--the modern project itself."
Kathleen Sprows Cummings, Director of the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism, University of Notre Dame

"The Irony of Modern Catholic History advances a bold new interpretation of the Church and modernity with characteristic authority, deep erudition, and literary panache. It is the latest reminder among many that George Weigel is unrivaled not only as a Catholic intellectual, but as an intellectual, period."
Mary Eberstadt, senior research fellow, Faith and Reason Institute, and author of Primal Screams: How the Sexual Revolution Created Identity Politics

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