Pastoral Care as Political Counseling?

Religion, Power and Morality in Spain During the 19th Century

Britt Schlünz (completed PhD Project, 2021)

My dissertation project investigates the reconfiguration of the relationship of religion and politics in the aftermath of the Absolutist regime in Spain, that is, during the reign of Isabella II (1833-1868). By focusing on two clerical protagonists of the royal court, the royal confessor Antonio María Claret and the nun Sor Patrocinio, I aim to analyze the relation of re-spiritualization and politics during the liberal regime.

The study of 19th century Spain has been dominated by studies on anti-clerical movements and the associated violence. By contrast, this projects aims to shed light on the mechanisms of religious persistence during the time of political and ideological change. The activism of Claret and Sor Patrocinio depicted the effort to establish Catholic faith as a pre-political resource of morality between the first Carlist war and the revolution of 1868 (i.e., the abdication of Isabella II). While the political influence of the Catholic Church as an institution declined over the course of the 19th century, both these protagonists tried to establish areas of influence beyond conventional politics. These efforts were characterized by simultaneously making use of some hierarchies of the Church and refusing others. Examples of these efforts depict the missionary activities of Claret in Spain and overseas and the case of religious stigmatization of Sor Patrocinio.

By focusing on the royal confessor Claret and the nun Sor Patrocinio the gendered dimension of this spiritual re-organization can be analyzed with specific detail. Furthermore, this dimension gains particular importance with respect to the ongoing concurrent public debate about the gender of the Spanish monarch and her assumed deviant behavior.

My project adds to a European history of religious change during the 19th century, especially to the relation of the history of piety and gender. Furthermore, light will be shed on the problem of the persistence of monarchies throughout the 19th century.

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