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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Information Superhighway Is Officialy Bumper-to-Bumper with Rusty Old Heaps

I am trying to find out some of the back-story to the encyclical Arcanum, published in 1880 by Leo XIII, responding to ongoing usurpation of the rights of the Church by secular powers regarding marriage. There are some things I know. For instance, Victor Emmanuel had recently unified Italy, conquering all the papal states on the peninsula except for the Vatican, which was pretty much defenseless when he stopped. Darwin, Marx, and Nietzsche were all in vogue, and Freud was waiting in the wings. Divorce laws were being liberalized.

But what was Pope Leo actually responding to? What specific events, what particular changes in civil law in what years, what exactly was the secular state doing? So I did what anyone living 130 years after Arcanum was issued, I googled it.

The results fall into just a few categories:
  • The actual text of the encyclical, either on the website itself, or linked to it residence on newadvent.org or the Vatican website (speaks only generally)
  • The text of the Catholic Encyclopedia (1917 edition) entry on the encyclical (not helpful to me)
  • Line-items on "this day in history"
  • Various other posts, entries, etc., linking to one or more of the above
  • References to some video game or something by the same name
If what I'm looking for is out there, then that information is stuck hours from its destination (namely, me) in traffic. Useless, relentless traffic. Anyone who's been on the Garden State Parkway northbound on a Sunday evening knows what I mean. Or what I'm looking for doesn't actually exist on the web. I cannot believe that no one on Planet Earth has written and posted an academically reasonable few paragraphs about what was going on to inspire Pope Leo to issue Arcanum. Even the Wikipedia entries on divorce (which includes a terribly thin section on its history) and Arcanum offer nothing of utility.

So, I gotta search another way. I'll try "19th-century secularism" or something. But then I'll have weed through the junk of that google search instead.

Or I'll just have to fake it in the project I'm working on for which I need this information. I just hope my dissertation director lets it slide.

Update:  The refined search led me to a large book on Scribd that fits the bill!

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