Academic journal article Theological Studies

Divided Friends: Portraits of the Roman Catholic Modernist Crisis in the United States

Academic journal article Theological Studies

Divided Friends: Portraits of the Roman Catholic Modernist Crisis in the United States

Article excerpt

Divided Friends: Portraits of the Roman Catholic Modernist Crisis in the United States. By William L. Portier. Washington: Catholic University of America, 2013. Pp. 408. $39.95.

Roman Catholic Modernism was more than a number of intellectual and political tendencies that surfaced in the Church during the belle epoque and less than the consciously coordinated movement asserted by the Vatican condemnation in the encyclical Pascendi dominici gregis (1907). In Divided Friends, Portier notes that the term "Modernism" gained currency only with Pascendi; he prefers to speak of the "modernist crisis" in his account of four figures whose paired biographies give access to "the human complexities" of the crisis: Denis O'Connell and John Slattery on the one hand, and the Paulists Joseph McSorley and William Sullivan on the other. In each pair the former remains in the Church, the other leaves.

The relationship between O'Connell and Slattery illuminates the relationship between Americanism, with which O'Connell is closely identified, and Modernism. P. advances the revisionist challenge to the "phantom heresy" historiography of Americanism, arguing for a substantively theological dimension to the latter and showing connections between republican liberty and freedom of intellectual inquiry. P.'s narrative of the second relationship introduces with McSorley a figure who generally does not figure in studies of Modernism, making a case that his Sacrament of Duty (1909) represents a principled response to issues raised by both Americanism and Modernism. …

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