The Catholic Experience: An Interpretation of the History of American Catholicism

The Catholic Experience: An Interpretation of the History of American Catholicism

The Catholic Experience: An Interpretation of the History of American Catholicism

The Catholic Experience: An Interpretation of the History of American Catholicism

Excerpt

The present volume is to be considered an essay toward the sociological interpretation of the history of the Catholic Church in the United States. The principal reason for attempting such a mammoth task is that it needs to be done. As I have tried in recent years to understand and interpret the present condition of the American Church, it has become increasingly obvious to me that the present cannot be understood without knowing the past. Even if one chooses to reject the past as meaningless and a mistake (after some commentators on contemporary American Catholicism), it is still necessary to have a clear notion of precisely what one is rejecting. As I started to delve into the rather meager literature on the history of the American Church, two points became obvious: (1) While there are some excellent monographs in American Catholic history, there does not exist any single volume which attempts to tie the themes and threads of the last two hundred years of the Church in this country together into a unified interpretation. (2) Far from lacking impressive traditions, the American Catholic Church has a history filled with great men and profound ideas. Much of what the church universal has come to accept in the renewal of the Second Vatican Council was anticipated for at least one hundred years in the lives and teaching of the giants of the American Church.

Then it occurred to me that the general ignorance of this history both on the part of rank-and-file Catholics and on the part of those claiming to be intellectuals is astonishing. Only a handful of scholars are engaged in attempting to analyze . . .

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