Testing the Faith: The New Catholic Fiction in America

Testing the Faith: The New Catholic Fiction in America

Testing the Faith: The New Catholic Fiction in America

Testing the Faith: The New Catholic Fiction in America


Since 1965 there has been an explosion of fiction about being Catholic. This book, the first to consider post-Vatican II Catholic literature, provides an overview of fiction about the American Catholic experience. It considers emerging novelists such as Mary Gordon and Valerie Sayers, established writers like Paul Theroux, popular writers such as Andrew Greeley and William X. Keinzle, and the emergence of new, young writers such as Jeanne Schinto, Sheila O'Connor, and Philip Deaver. By analyzing patterns in their fiction, Gandolfo shows both the shared interest these writers have in the Catholic experience and their individual perspectives on that experience.


A very spirited conversation is going on these days among Americans of Catholic descent that may presage the future of the Church as much as anything happening in Rome.

Peter Occhiogrosso
Once a Catholic (1987)

When the Second Vatican Council officially ended in 1965, a new era began in Catholicism. After an initial period of adjustment for renewal, the Church entered a more lengthy time of transition, and, as Peter Occhiogrosso indicates, the "future of the Church" is still being debated. What began as renewal is now identified by historians and theologians as a major paradigm shift, a process of change more complex than was imagined little more than a quarter of a century ago when Pope John xxiii expressed a desire to "open the windows" of the Church. in this new age of Catholicism, it is not surprising that a new Catholic fiction has emerged, fiction that is central to the "very spirited conversation" to which Occhiogrosso alludes. That fiction is the subject of this book.

I hesitate to describe this as a study of "the Catholic novel," for that term has long been used to designate a tradition of subliterary parochial publication. As I explain in my first chapter, the classic "Catholic novel" in the United States is a product of the preconciliar Church, which measured the worth of fiction by its literary fidelity to doctrine and dogma and its value as an evangelizing force. Such prose was, ironically, inimical . . .

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