Renaissance Catholicism and contemporary liberalism: Western ideology on the eve of the Reformation

David Hughes

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    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.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)45-77
    Number of pages33
    JournalJournal of Religious Ethics
    Issue number1
    Early online date19 Jan 2014
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014


    • Liberalism
    • Renaissance Catholicism
    • US foreign policy
    • liberal wars
    • millenarianism
    • Reformation

    Cite this