‘The Apostolate of the Pen’: Mgr De Ségur and the mobilization of Catholic opinion in Second Empire France
Heywood, S. (2012) ‘The Apostolate of the Pen’: Mgr De Ségur and the mobilization of Catholic opinion in Second Empire France. French History, 26 (2). pp. 203-221. ISSN 1477-4542
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1093/fh/crs010
This article contends that the papacy and ultramontane Catholicism played a pivotal role in the democratization of culture in Second Empire France. Drawing upon recent scholarship, which argues that religion played an important role in the constitution of mass democracies in modern Europe, this article revisits the pamphlet campaign led by Mgr Gaston de Ségur at the height of the Italian question in February 1860. Ségur made the most of the freedom of expression enjoyed by the Catholic Church in France in an attempt to direct Catholic opinion, and place pressure on the French government over its diplomatic relations with the pope. New archive material, notably Ségur’s correspondence with the leading Catholic journalist of the time, Louis Veuillot, sheds further light on Rome’s interventions in French culture and politics and its consequences. The article demonstrates that one of the most important, if unintended, results of the ultramontane campaign was to trigger reforms to the cultural sphere, and the granting of freedoms to their political enemies: the Republicans and freethinkers.