Catholic Intellectual Life in America: A Historical Study of Persons and Movements (Bicentennial History of the Catholic in America)

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9780029259023: Catholic Intellectual Life in America: A Historical Study of Persons and Movements (Bicentennial History of the Catholic in America)
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Authorized by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, this series treats the history of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. Each volume is written or edited by a respected Catholic historian, and all are quite readable. They are also critical; those seeking a pious account will be disappointed. In Patterns of Episcopal Leadership , several eminent Catholic historians discuss key figures among the American bishops, beginning with John Carroll, consecrated bishop of Baltimore in 1789. While treating Church history in a traditional way, i.e., concentrating on the episcopacy, this book takes a critical approach, something unheard of even in the more recent past. One illustration will suffice: Edward R. Kantowicz sees as perhaps true A.E.P. Wall's assertion that Cardinal Cody was an agnostic interested only in the material, institutional aspect of the Church. There is certainly no hagiography here. In Living Stones , Chinnici traces the development of American Catholic spirituality, considering it in connection with the American situation generally. He connects the type of spiritual life popular at a given time (as exemplified by its most prominent ecclesiastical personages) with the prevailing political and economic situation--an approach that succeeds admirably. Thus, different experiences--that of immigrants, for instance--are shown to produce distinctive spiritualities. In Catholic Intellectual Life in America , Reher studies the intellectual leadership of the American Catholic Church over the last 200 years. After examining John Carroll's attempts to bring intellectual respectability to American Catholicism, Reher considers Orestes Brownson and Isaac Hecker, who probably did more than anyone to forge the identity of 19th-century Catholic intellectual life. She also considers the development of the Catholic University of America and the thought of Gustave Weigel, a Jesuit who did significant work in reconciling Roman Catholic thought and American democracy. Liptak's Immigrants and Their Church shows us immigrants trying to become Americans. She points out that the Irish, resisted by nativist Protestants, in turn resisted the immigrants who followed. While not ignoring the anti-Catholic prejudice that was widespread in America, Liptak concentrates more on the relationship among immigrant Catholics of different nationalities. While the animosity between the Irish and the Germans is rightly placed at center stage, the Italians, Poles, and French Canadians are also considered. Reher ends with some reflections on the future of black and Hispanic Catholicism. Holding that after two centuries the Catholic Church in America still does not have a clear understanding of its public role, O'Brien (history, Holy Cross Coll.) examines the interaction between the Church and society at large. He considers in turn "Republican Catholicism," "Immigrant Catholicism," "Liberal Catholicism," "Reform Catholicism," "Social Catholicism," and finally "American Catholicism." O'Brien sees Catholics' history in America as a struggle to balance their loyalties to Church and State. While not entirely neglected in the preceding volumes, women do not receive the coverage their role in American Catholic history warrants. American Catholic Women redresses the balance by offering essays on women religious as well as lay women. Topics covered include the Catholic home, women in the convent, and women in the labor force. Women are dealt with as individuals and as members of organizations, such as the Sisters of Mercy. As befits the solid treatment offered by the entire series, this volume ends with a balanced treatment of the impact of feminism on Catholic women.
- Augustine J. Curley, Newark Abbey, N.J.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Margaret Mary Reher
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