Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

What They Wished For: American Catholics and American Presidents, 1960-2004

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

What They Wished For: American Catholics and American Presidents, 1960-2004

Article excerpt

What They Wished for: American Catholics and American Presidents, 1960-2004. By Lawrence J. McAndrews. (Athens: University of Georgia Press. 2014. Pp. xiv, 503. $49.95. ISBN 978-0-8203-4683-0.)

Historian Lawrence McAndrews provides a welcome addition to a growing body of scholarship that incorporates the Catholic experience more fully within U.S. history. McAndrews's experience-as the author of several books and articles on Catholic schools and education policy in the United States-provides gravitas to this work, which effectively navigates Catholicism's complexity. Scholars of post-1960 U.S. religion and politics will find this book a critical starting point for research.

One of the central questions confronted by McAndrews is: Who speaks for the Catholic Church in the United States? What They Wished for attempts to explain the varying degrees of weight represented by the international voices of popes and Vatican officials; the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; and individual priests, nuns, and Catholic laypersons of varying education level and political status. In seeking to identify the causal relationship between Catholic appeals and presidential decisions, McAndrews also demonstrates mastery of the chronology of recent U.S. history.

What They Wished for analyzes the impact of Catholic opinion on presidential policy in three areas-defined by McAndrews as war and peace, social justice, and life and death. Chapters are organized around presidential administrations beginning with John F. Kennedy and concluding with the first term of George W. Bush. The elections of 1960 and 2004 serve as useful bookends, because the former resulted in the election of the nation's first Catholic president, and the latter ended with the voters' rejection of John F. Kerry-another Catholic senator from Massachusetts with the initials JFK. At the dawn of the twenty-first century, McAndrews believes, Catholic viewpoints received much more consideration in presidential politics than at any other time in U.S. history.

Regarding war and peace, McAndrews's argument appears most persuasive. During Ronald Reagan's presidency, for example, U.S. Catholic bishops developed a powerful moral critique of the administration's plans to modernize and expand the U. …

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