A Study of El Censor: A New Perspective of the Catholic Church in the Spanish Enlightenment

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This dissertation investigates the role of El Censor, the essay periodical published in Spain from 1781 to 1787, in challenging government policies and church traditions during the Enlightenment. It argues that the editors and authors of the 167 discursos (essays) criticized social customs and institutions during the last two decades of the antiguo régimen while remaining firmly in their religious faith. The political and historical context of El Censor is presented against the backdrop of the absolutist policies of King Carlos III and the vigilance of the Spanish Inquisition. El Censor’s editors and publishers were Luis García Cañuelo and Luis Marcelino Pereira, who at first seemed enigmatic because of their political and religious views. Nevertheless, they and their contributors soon identified themselves as veritable enlightened men, who sought to modernize Spain and the Spanish Roman Catholic Church. In the weekly essays, they published their observations of everyday life and the iniquities that existed in the society of their time. Government authorities banned El Censor twice before shutting it down permanently. Afterwards, the Spanish Inquisition placed twenty-three of the discursos on the syllabus of forbidden books. This dissertation presents eight of the banned discursos with English translations and commentaries. More than two-hundred years after El Censor’s prohibition, the discursos continue to speak to twenty-first century readers about the absurdities and injustices of society and power. This dissertation gives credence to the study of the religious Enlightenment; it demonstrates that it was possible to be enlightened and a true Christian. It reveals that El Censor held onto idealist views and moral integrity while facing obstacles from government, church, and angry apologists. In the pages of the discursos, there are recognizable characters like Eusebio the pious hypocrite; Calixto the proud, lazy noble; Candido Zorrilla, the baroque fanatic; and Pedro Camueso y Machuca and el equívoco. This dissertation reveals several unexpected discoveries that challenge long-held notions about the Enlightenment, the Roman Catholic Church, and Spain.

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PHD in Theology

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Bradley, James E.

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Censor, Catholic Church, Spain, Controversial literature, Enlightenment


Missions and World Christianity


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