Secularizing Traditional Catholicism: Laicism and Laïcité Articles uri icon



publication date

  • March 2010

start page

  • 365

end page

  • 380


  • 3-4


  • 36

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0191-4537

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1461-734X


  • Some cases of countries and cultures in which traditional Catholicism has played a major role in defining public culture are undergoing accelerated secularization processes; the result should be relevant for the diagnoses underlying contemporary post-secular proposals. It is argued, first, that in these countries (Spain has been taken as a main example), where the Catholic Church lost its institutional power, it is also losing its ethical hegemony. While public and political debates still retain the sense of symbolically laden, communal ethical accord, they are no longer understood with religious overtones. It is suggested, second, that laïcité — a non-aggressive stance concerning religion — could adequately describe this predicament, though it retains a trait of self-defence vis-à-vis the Church that is normally attached to the term 'laicism'. It is proposed, third, that secularization takes place at the ethical level, in which no sense of loss can be attached to the secular citizen. It is at this level, where the conflicts around meanings and values, which can be framed in religious or secularized terms, set the agenda for legal and political discussions, and where the equal standing of religious and secular interpretations should be assessed.