Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Within the Market Strife: American Catholic Economic Thought from Rerum Novarum to Vatican II

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Within the Market Strife: American Catholic Economic Thought from Rerum Novarum to Vatican II

Article excerpt

Within the Market Strife: American Catholic Economic Thought from Rerum Novarum to Vatican II. By Kevin E. Schmiesing. [Studies in Ethics and Economics.] (Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books. 2004. Pp. xvi, 185. $75.00 clothbound; $19.95 paperback.)

In Within the Market Strife: American Catholic Economic Thought from Rerum Novarum to Vatican II, Kevin Schmiesing, a research fellow in history at the Acton Institute in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has provided scholars and others interested in American Catholicism a thorough, well organized, and adeptly written intellectual history of Catholic social thought on economic policy and systems during the first half of the twentieth century. This monograph fills a lacuna by its revisionist presentation of how American Catholic thinkers addressed problems and proposed solutions to the social question from the publication of Rerum Novarum (1891) to the beginning of Vatican Council II. The book in every way is a significant contribution to the literature.

Schmiesing initially presents his basic theme, that Catholics who wrote on economic issues between 1891 and 1962 did so, based not solely on strictly authentic Catholic social teaching, but rather on the same complex set of factors that informed the views of non-Catholics of the period. He well supports his thesis through an informative introduction, six chapters, and a conclusion that analyze in chronological order how American Catholic social thinkers have addressed economic issues during this seventy-year period. Starting in Colonial and early nineteenth-century America, Schmiesing shows how American Catholics made no reference to church documentation when addressing economic social issues of the day. During the age of reform, 1890 to 1940, the author demonstrates that various opinions on the meaning and application of Rerum Novarum were used by American Catholic social thinkers to show Catholicism's compatibility with the virtues of middle America. …

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