In Search of an American Catholicism: A History of Religion and Culture in Tension

In Search of an American Catholicism: A History of Religion and Culture in Tension

In Search of an American Catholicism: A History of Religion and Culture in Tension

In Search of an American Catholicism: A History of Religion and Culture in Tension

Synopsis

For more than two hundred years American Catholics have struggled to reconcile their national and religious values. In this incisive and accessible account, distinguished Catholic historian Jay P. Dolan explores the way American Catholicism has taken its distinctive shape and follows how Catholics have met the challenges they have faced as New World followers of an Old World faith. Dolan argues that the ideals of democracy, and American culture in general, have deeply shaped Catholicism in the United States as far back as 1789, when the nation's first bishop was elected by the clergy (and the pope accepted their choice.) Dolan looks at the tension between democratic values and Catholic doctrine from the conservative reaction after the fall of Napoleon to the impact of the Second Vatican Council. Furthermore, he explores grassroots devotional life, the struggle against nativism, the impact and collision of different immigrant groups, and the disputed issue of gender. Today Dolan writes, the tensions remain, as we see signs of a resurgent traditionalism in the church in response to the liberalizing trend launched by John XXIII, and also a resistance to the conservatism of John Paul II. In this lucid account, the unfinished story of Catholicism in America emerges clearly and compellingly, illuminating the inner life of the church and of the nation. For more than two hundred years American Catholics have struggled to reconcile their national and religious values. In this incisive and accessible account, distinguished Catholic historian Jay P. Dolan explores the way American Catholicism has taken its distinctive shape and follows how Catholics have met the challenges they have faced as New World followers of an Old World faith. Dolan argues that the ideals of democracy, and American culture in general, have deeply shaped Catholicism in the United States as far back as 1789, when the nation's first bishop was elected by the clergy and approved by the pope. He also examines the tension between democratic values and Catholic doctrine from the conservative reaction after the fall of Napoleon to the impact of the Second Vatican Council. Dolan explores grassroots devotional life, the struggle against nativism, the impact and collision of different immigrant groups, and the disputed issue of gender. In this lucid account, the unfinished story of Catholicism in America emerges clearly and compellingly, illuminating the inner life of the church and of the nation.

Excerpt

The American revolution ushered in a new beginning for all Americans. It was the culmination of an ideological revolution that had turned American society on its head. the spirit of democracy unleashed by the Revolution inspired people to become involved in electioneering and constitution making. a new emphasis on equality repudiated a colonial society rooted in privilege and patronage. a spirit of independence, of rugged individualism, became idealized as genuinely American. Emerging from this revolution that took place in the minds and hearts of the American people was a radical restructuring of American religion. This was especially true for Catholics in the new nation.

Because of their religious beliefs, Catholics had lived as secondclass citizens for much of the eighteenth century, discriminated against politically, professionally, and socially. the Revolution changed all this. New laws and new constitutions gave them religious and political freedom. Enjoying the prerogatives of full–fledged citizenship, they became involved in politics at the county, state, and national levels. Catholics embraced the idea of democracy as enthusiastically as anyone else. Enlightenment ideals of religious toleration and the reasonableness of religion also took hold among many Catholics. Such ideals shaped the way Catholics thought about their religion in this age of reason. in examining the interaction between Catholicism and American culture during this era, it is clear that . . .

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