“Anti-clericalism: Opposition to organized religion, particularly the power and privileges of the Roman Catholic Church. Anti-clericalism, though not a coherent political doctrine, has a long history. In England it is traceable to the 14th century when Wyclif insisted that all men had a right to access to the scriptures. In Tudor times, anti-clericalism arose from a variety of motives ranging from greed to a desire to plunder the monasteries to a genuine dislike of priestly powers and abuses. Modern anti-clericalism was prevalent in revolutionary France and remained characteristic of French radicalism during the 19th century. Anti-clericalism has broken out sporadically in Spain (notably in 1873, 1909-13 and 1931-36) and in Latin America. In Germany there has been a long history of anti-clericalism stemming from the opposition to the territorial claims of the Pole and, more recently, over the Catholic Church’s attitude to divorce and contraception. In some communist states, anti-clericalism has risen from the government’s identification of the clergy with former fascist regimes and as part of an ideological battle for the loyalty of the masses.”
Excerpted from: Cook, Chris. Dictionary of Historical Terms. New York: Gramercy, 1998.