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(Redirected from Anti-clerical)

Anti-clericalism is a historical movement that opposes religious (generally Catholic) institutional power and influence in all aspects of public and political life, and the encroachment of religion in the everyday life of the citizen. It suggests a more active and partisan role than mere lacit. The goal of anti-clericalism is to reduce religion to a purely private belief-system with no public profile or influence. Anti-clericalism has often been violent, leading to attacks and seizure of church property. Anti-clericalism has tended to be associated with the left of the political spectrum, and with middle and working class intellectuals.

Anti-clericalism in one form or another has existed through most of Christian history, and is considered to be one of the major popular forces underlying the 16th Century reformation. The philosophers of the enlightenment, including Voltaire, continually attacked the Catholic Church, its leadership and priests. These assaults led to the expulsion of the Jesuits from most Catholic countries by 1800, and played a major part in the wholesale attacks on the very existence of the Church during the French Revolution.



Anti-clericalism is particularly discussed in the context of the French Third Republic and its dissensions with the Catholic Church. To summarize, prior to 1905, the Catholic Church enjoyed preferential treatment from the French State (along with the Jewish, Lutheran and Calvinist minority religions). During the 19th century, priests were employed as teachers in public schools, and religion was taught in schools. The Church also appeared to support royalist opinions, and was involved in anti-semitic attacks such as the Dreyfus Affair.

As a consequence, many people, especially in the political left, sought the separation of Church and State and the imposition of lacit — that is, the separation of government and religion and the neutrality of government with respect to religious issues. Note that the division between "clericalists" and "anti-clericalists" does not exactly fit the boundaries of "believers" and "nonbelievers": on the one hand, some Christians felt the Church should not intervene in political life, on the other hand, some, like Charles Maurras, while they did not believe in God, supported the power of the Catholic Church, for they felt it was essential to national cohesion and their political goals (see also reactionary).

The 1905 Separation of Church and State was highly controversial. Most Catholic schools and educational foundtions were closed, and many religious orders were dissolved.


Following the Revolution of 1860, US-backed President Benito Jurez, issued a decree nationalizing church property, separating church and state, and suppressing religious orders.

Following the revolution of 1910, the new Mexican Constitution of 1917 contained further anti-clerical provisions. Article 3 called for secular education in the schools; Article 5 outlawed monastic orders; Article 24 forbade public worship outside the confines of churches; and Article 27 placed restrictions on the right of religious organizations to hold property. Most obnoxious to Catholics was Article 130, which deprived clergy members of basic political rights. Many of these laws were resisted, leading to the Cristero Rebellion of 1927 - 1929.


A first wave of anti-clericalism occurred in 1834 when under the government of Dom Pedro all convents and monasteries in Portugal were abolished, simultaneously closing most of Portugal's primary educational establishments. The fall of the Monarchy in the Republican revolution of 1910 led to another wave of anti-clerical persecutions. Church properties were put in secular control, and the church was not allowed to inherit property. The wearing of religious garb and religious instruction in schools were abolished.


In 1836 following the 1st Carlist War, the new regime abolished the major Spanish Convents and Monasteries. During the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s, many of the Republican forces were violently anti-clerical Anarchists and Communists, whose assaults included sacking and burning monasteries and churches and killing an estimated 6,000 priests, including 259 Claretians, 226 Franciscans, 204 Piarists, 176 Brothers of Mary, 165 Christian Brothers, 155 Augustinians, 132 Dominicans, and 114 Jesuits.


Most communist governments have been violently anti-clerical, abolishing religious holidays, teaching Atheism in schools, closing monasteries, church social and educational institutions and many churches. In Russia it is estimated that thousands of priests and monks were either executed or sent to forced labour camps to die during the Stalin era.

Nowadays, the interferences of the Catholic Church into public life are fairly reduced and traditional anti-clericalism seems pass. It's still a somewhat popular topic in some left-wing circles, or for instance for the newspaper Le Canard Enchan.

Current anti-clericalism often focuses on the most "backwards" aspects of Islam, especially its consideration of women as inferior beings. One may see the French law on secularity and conspicuous religious symbols in schools as a consequence of anti-clericalism.

See also

pl:Antyklerykalizm pt:Anticlericalismo uk:Антиклерикалізм


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