Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Founding Father: John J. Wynne, S.J. and the Inculturation of American Catholicism in the Progressive Era

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Founding Father: John J. Wynne, S.J. and the Inculturation of American Catholicism in the Progressive Era

Article excerpt

Founding Father: John J. Wynne, S.J. and the Inculturation of American Catholicism in the Progressive Era. By Michael F. Lombardo. [Jesuit Studies, Volume 9.] (Leiden: Brill. 2017. Pp. xvi, 359. $157.00. ISBN 978-90-04-30114-6.)

Mercurial even for those who carry the label "polyglot," Jesuit Father John Wynne (1859-1948) taught, edited, served as a shrine director, chaplain, vice-postulator or promotor of saints' causes, and founder or organizer of numerous American Catholic organizations (including the American Catholic Historical Association) between 1882 and 1948. Not since 1926, when he was feted for his fiftieth jubilee as a Jesuit, has there been any sustained attention given to the legacy left by this enterprising Catholic.

The present study is Lombardo's 2014 University of Dayton dissertation (now an open-access document), presented with only minor revision. It places Wynne in the thick of debates raging in the Progressive Era, but we see little of him in the years that follow. The book's biographical element trails off by the end of the 1920s. The focus is instead on Wynne's major projects: development of Catholic literacy as a hedge against unbridled liberalism; editorship of America magazine as a religious antidote to secular society; and the co-editorship of the Catholic Encyclopedia. Rather than capitulate to the age, during which many progressives were openly hostile to the Catholic Church, Wynne sought to make a space for Catholic engagement in public affairs even while promoting a well-defined separation between Church and state.

The author's somewhat meandering first chapters detail the very concept of progressivism and its implementation and relation to the Church between 1890 and the 1920s. A phenomenon in which Wynne lent his intellectual prowess, he defied its antireligious sentiments in print, especially its pragmatism and its wholesale embrace of modernity, as well as the muting of Catholic interests on questions of public policy. Among the latter was the American government's control of the Philippines and the problem of revising laws that adversely affected the Church. On the other hand, Lombardo urges, Wynne did not remain "isolated in an American Catholic 'ghetto'" (p. 14). By extension, he argues that "American Catholic intellectual life was not dormant during the first two decades of the twentieth century" (p. …

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