Catholics in America: A History

Catholics in America: A History

Catholics in America: A History

Catholics in America: A History


"Beginning with a narrative history of Catholics and Catholicism in America, Patrick Carey brings the discussion through to current times, addressing the recent problems in the Church, women's roles, and responses to terrorism and war. He then goes on to include brief biographical sketches of important figures in the Church, and offers a chronology of important events. The result is one of the most comprehensive histories of Catholics in America available." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN CATHOLICISM, like its earlier forms, appears to many outside the tradition as a monolithic unity because of its centralized forms of government and its reliance on institutions as signs of its strength and authority. Yet within Catholicism there are movement and change, adaptation and renewal, a manifold and dizzying diversity, and an openness and freedom that challenge neat historical categories. Whether the historian focuses on the elite articulators and institutional implementations of the Catholic tradition or on the people's reception and the popular, or folk, amalgamative appropriations of that tradition, he or she is in constant danger of overlooking or minimizing something that is significant to the total historical experience. History is not an exact science, and that is nowhere more evident than in the attempts to describe religious traditions—and especially in my own attempts here to make sense of American Catholicism.

This text is divided into two sections, the first being a narrative of selected themes and the second a series of biographical essays. The narrative focuses on the themes of continuity and change, unity and diversity, growth and decline, alienation and reconciliation, as these recur in the institutional, intellectual, spiritual, ethnic, and political or social developments of the church. The first section analyzes in particular how the American experience itself (with its predominantly Protestant and republican culture) has influenced the reception and modification of the Catholic tradition.

The second section of this book contains a series of biographical sketches of significant ecclesiastical and lay leaders in American Catholicism. Because of the limits of space, I have selected only those deemed most important to the church's development. Most, although not all, of the individuals included in the biographical sketches are mentioned in the historical narrative, and where a name is first mentioned it is followed by an asterisk.

This volume also contains a basic chronology of the most important historical events in American Catholicism and a selected list of books for further reading and research.

I am indebted to my teachers Colman Barry, O.S.B., Gerald Fogarty, S.J., and Robert Handy in particular for introducing me to the study of the religious and specifically Catholic dimension of American life. Many other teachers and historians also have a share in this work, some are acknowledged in the notes, but many others remain unacknowledged simply because I have, over the years, appropriated so many of their interpretations that 1 no longer remember where . . .

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