This article investigates how the concept of ‘conscience’ emerged as a battleground within the French Catholic Church and as a politicised concept with implications for ideas about rights. State-sponsored torture during the Algerian War (1954 -1962) prompted dissident Christians to pioneer the use of ‘individual conscience’ as a tool of resistance. The Christians of the anti-torture movement embraced the theologically-informed language of conscience alongside a French, secular tradition of rights drawn from the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. The way that Catholic dissidents thought about rights transcended the secular-religious divide; while recognizing a liberal concept of rights coming out of the French Revolution, these Catholics also insisted upon the spiritual function of individual conscience as a check upon the state. Intra-Catholic debates about conscience thus reveal the political and theological diversity within mid-twentieth century Christianity, long assumed to have been dominated by actors on the political right, as well as the multiplicity of co-existing ways of speaking about and interpreting rights.
|Tijdschrift||Past & Present|
|Status||Accepted/In press - mrt-2021|