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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a political trend aimed at gaining a leading role for the church and clergy in social, political, and cultural life. Clerical and, under certain conditions, theocratic strivings are in essence characteristic of all religious and church organizations of a society marked by class antagonism (Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, and Protestant, among others). The clergy and influential representatives of the ruling classes that are connected with the church are the proponents of clericalism. Catholic clericalism is one of the most active. Treaties between the Vatican and governments of several states serve as a most important means for securing a strong alliance between the Catholic Church and bourgeois states and for guaranteeing the church’s influence. Until the mid-19th century clericalism expressed primarily the interests of the feudal-aristocratic circles in Western Europe. Even today in the Orient it expresses, for the most part, these interests. In the epoch of imperialism, clericalism has become to a significant extent a tool of monopoly capital, and it bears a clearly expressed anticommunist tendency.

Clericalism employs toward its ends not only the extensive church apparatus but also various clerical organizations, clerical political parties, and trade union, youth, women’s, cultural, and other organizations created with the direct participation of the church. The church and its organizations in the majority of bourgeois countries interfere and exert influence in the political sphere. Many of their spokesmen take the side of the most reactionary forces; in particular, they try to muster support for these reactionary forces through the religious organizations in elections to parliaments and local government posts, exerting pressure on believers. In several bourgeois countries schools are under the influence of the church and Catholic organizations; the religious authority interferes in questions regarding the family, marriage, and upbringing of children (Italy, Spain, Israel, etc).

The world revolutionary process has weakened clericalism. The leadership of clerical organizations, which uses religion for reactionary political ends and in anticommunist propaganda, is encountering growing opposition from many believers, as well as from part of the clergy.


Velikovich, L. N. Religiia i politika v sovremennom kapitalisticheskom obshchestve. Moscow, 1970.
Sheinman, M. M. Sovremennyi klerikalizm. Moscow, 1964.
Maier, H. and P. Stier. Fashizm i politicheskii klerikalizm. Moscow, 1963. (Translated from German.)
Albrecht, E. Antikommunizm—ideologiia klerikal’nogo militarizma. Moscow, 1963. (Translated from German.)
Ellwein, Th. Klerikalismus in der deutschen Politik. Munich, 1955.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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