The following is adapted from the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church

ULTRAMONTANISM. The name widely given to a tendency in the RC Church which favours the centralization of authority and influence in the Papal Curia, as opposed to national or diocesan independence. The word is found as early as the 11th cent., but opinions differ as to whether it was used in an ecclesiastical as distinguished from a geographical sense before the rise of Gallicanism in France in the 17th cent. In this century and the next, Ultramontanism became a definite point of view which gained more and more power as national and centrifugal movements such as Gallicanism, Jansenism, and Josephinism became discredited either as involved in definite heresy or as lending countenance to the new liberal and anti-Christian movements of which the French Revolution of 1789 was the logical and most systematic expression. The 19th cent., therefore, saw the triumph of the Ultramontane cause, since there rallied to it all those elements in the RC Church which were most opposed to the rising theological liberalism of the age. In France the Gallican party was overpowered by the reproach of having conformed to the Revolution; in Germany the Ultramontanes seized the part of defenders of the Church against the interference of the State in spiritual affairs; in England the new missionary element among the RCs, little hampered by national traditions of the past, had every inducement, in spite of opposition from the hereditary RC families, to support to the utmost the policy of the Curia. The stages of the triumph of Ultramontanism were roughly as follows:

1814. The revival of the Jesuit Order, which was always the mainstay of curial as opposed to local authority.

1864. The issuing by Pius IX of the Syllabus, in which Catholicism and any form of liberalism were held to be incompatible.

1870. The declaration by the First Vatican Council that the Pope is infallible when he makes, by virtue of his office, a solemn pronouncement on faith or morals. This declaration, though not conceding the claim of administrative infallibility which many Ultramontanes would have wished, marked a substantial triumph for their point of view.

F. Nielsen, Pavedommet i den nittende Hundredaar (2 vols., 1876; 2nd edn. rev., 1895–8; Eng. tr., The History of the Papacy in the XIXth Century, 2 vols., 1906); J. B. Bury, History of the Papacy in the Nineteenth Century (1930); J. D. Holmes, The Triumph of the Holy See: A Short History of the Papacy in the Nineteenth Century (1978). A. Gough, Rome and Paris: The Gallican Church and the Ultramontane Campaign 1848–1853 (Oxford, 1986). H. Linn, Ultramontanismus in Köln (Studien zur Kölner Kirchengeschichte, 22; Siegburg, 1987); E. Garhammer, Seminaridee und Klerusbildung bei Karl August Graf von Reisach: Eine pastoralgeschichtliche Studie zum Ultramontanismus des 19. Jahrhunderts (Münchener Kirchenhistorische Studien, 5 [1990]). J. von Arx, SJ (ed.), Varieties of Ultramontanism (Washington, DC [1998]). R. Aubert in Fliche and Martin, 21 (1952), pp. 262–310, with bibl.


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