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Enlightened Monks investigates the social, cultural, philosophical, and theological challenges the German Benedictines had to face between 1740 and 1803, and how the Enlightenment process influenced the self-understanding and lifestyle of these religious communities. It had an impact on their forms of communication, their transfer of knowledge, their relationships to worldly authorities and to the academic world, and also their theology and philosophy. The multifaceted achievements of enlightened monks, which included a strong belief in individual freedom, tolerance, human rights, and non-violence, show that monasticism was on the way to becoming fully integrated into the Enlightenment. Ulrich L. Lehner refutes the widespread assumption that monks were reactionary enemies of Enlightenment ideas. On the contrary, he demonstrates that many Benedictines implemented the new ideas of the time into their own systems of thought. This revisionist account contributes to a better understanding not only of monastic culture in Central Europe, but also of Catholic religious culture in general.
Ulrich Lehner is Assistant Professor of Historical Theology and Church History at Marquette University. He is the author of Kant's Concept of Providence, and editor/co-editor of ten books, including Brill's Companion to the Catholic Enlightenment in Europe. He is a former member of the Princeton Institute of Advanced Study, and a former Fellow of the Institute for Comparative History of Religious Orders at the University of Eichstatt/Germany.