Roman Catholicism in the United States: A Thematic History

By Margaret M. McGuinness; James T. Fisher | Go to book overview

EPILOGUE

Jeffrey M. Burns

This volume represents a coming-of-age for U.S. Catholic historiography. Many of the authors in this collection began their careers in the 1980s and 1990s, trained at nonCatholic universities, and have published significant monographs. The breadth and depth of their work reflect the depth and breadth of current U.S. Catholic studies. The studies in this volume are regionally diverse, covering the West, Southwest, South, Midwest, Northeast, and East; they examine rural, urban, and suburban life. The old focus on the East, Northeast, and Midwest, on immigrant working-class culture, is still present, but these studies move beyond that paradigm. These essays are multiracial, multicultural, interdisciplinary, and transnational and employ different methodologies and approaches that not only capture the richness and diversity of the U.S. Catholic past but reflect the richness and diversity of the current state of U.S. Catholic history.

The study of U.S. Catholic history has developed over the past century and a half and has generally mirrored the historic position in which the church found itself. The pioneer historians—John Gilmary Shea, Peter Guilday, and John Tracy Ellis—established the professional discipline of U.S. Catholic history, created the baseline for the U.S. Catholic narrative, and promoted the U.S. church as the institution and its people assimilated into American culture. They wrote in an era when Catholics perceived themselves as a besieged minority. Their approach focused on the institutional, episcopal, and intellectual; it was limited but necessary work. In a sense, it represented a church that was still in its building stage, a defensive minority attempting to define and claim its place in U.S. society. For the most part U.S. Catholic historians looked inward toward matters of importance to

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