A Catholic Brain Trust: The History of the Catholic Commission on Intellectual and Cultural Affairs, 1945-1965

By Brennan, Patrick McKinley | The Catholic Historical Review, April 2012 | Go to article overview

A Catholic Brain Trust: The History of the Catholic Commission on Intellectual and Cultural Affairs, 1945-1965


Brennan, Patrick McKinley, The Catholic Historical Review


A Catholic Brain Trust: The History of the Catholic Commission on Intellectual and Cultural Affairs, 1945-1965. By Patrick J. Hayes. (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press. 201 1 . Pp. viii, 432. $75.00. ISBN 9780-268-03109-1.)

Founded in 1945 by (mostly American) Catholic intellectuals boldly to shape Catholic identity in the United States and beyond, and thus to influence the culture nationally and internationally, the Catholic Commission on Intellectual and Cultural Affairs (CCICA) met annually, formed committees, drafted policy statements, sent delegations, tried (unsuccessfully) to prepare a new Catholic encyclopedia, and recruited and vetted members who would "be representative of Catholic intellectual and cultural interests" (p. 40) until 2007, when it quietly dissolved itself. In A Catholic Brain Trust: The History of the Catholic Commission on Intellectual and Cultural Affairs, 1945-65, Patrick J. Hayes, assistant archivist for the Baltimore Province of the Redemptorists, tells the story of the CCICA's ambitious, uneven, and- in some cases- almost quaint activities during the first twenty years of its existence. This careful study of a little-known but stunningly ambitious effort on the part of American Catholic intellectuals to come of age is the history of American Catholicism in microcosm.

Although the CCICA's membership never exceeded 300 at any given time, its rolls have included Monsignor John Tracy Ellis, Jerome Kerwin, Yves Simon, Jacques Maritain,Vernon Burke, Clare Boothe Luce, Heinrich Rommen, Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, Daniel Berrigan, Corita Kent, Bernard Lonergan, Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, Stephan Kuttner, John T. Noonan Jr., Monsignor Robert Trisco, Lindy Boggs, and many others of comparable distinction and intellectual influence in varied quarters. Supreme Court Justices William Brennan and Antonin Scalia have been members. During the Second Vatican Council, eleven current and future CCICA members served as periti to the Council fathers. …

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