The Journal of Ecclesiastical History

Research Article

Rehabilitating a Radical Catholic: Pope Benedict XV and Marc Sangnier, 1914–1922


a1 Department of History, National University of Ireland, Galway, Galway, Republic of Ireland; e-mail:


Pope Benedict xv's gradual rehabilitation of the French Christian Democrat Marc Sangnier, whose Sillon movement stood condemned for social Modernism, demonstrated his desire to end the excesses of his predecessor's anti-Modernist crusade and to return to the policies of Leo xiii. Sangnier, unofficial emissary of the French republic to the Vatican, helped to prepare for the restoration of diplomatic relations in 1921. Perplexed, like most French Catholics, by papal neutrality on the war, he later campaigned for Franco-German reconciliation, adopting the Vatican critique of the Versailles settlement. Sangnier's pardon, like Benedict's cautious endorsement of the Popolari in Italy, highlights the paradoxical papalism of advanced Social Catholicism.