The U.S. Catholic Press on Central America: From Cold War Anticommunism to Social Justice

By Straub, Leslie Ellen | The Catholic Historical Review, October 2003 | Go to article overview

The U.S. Catholic Press on Central America: From Cold War Anticommunism to Social Justice


Straub, Leslie Ellen, The Catholic Historical Review


The U.S. Catholic Press on Central America: From Cold War Anticommunism to Social justice. By Edward T. Brett. (Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press. 2003. Pp. viii, 265. $45.00 clothbound; $22.00 paperback.)

Edward T. Brett asserts that during approximately the last sixty-five years, a remarkable transformation has taken place in the U.S. Catholic Church's attitude toward Central America and U.S. policy there, reflecting a shift from preoccupation with Communism to concern with poverty and injustice, and that this transformation has been diligently documented in the U.S. Catholic press (p. 1). Interspersing citations from U.S. Catholic popular periodicals with commentary and historical narrative, Brett documents the course and character of the transformation, and then concentrates on how that "largely transformed Catholic press" (p. 2) responded to the isthmian policy of the United States, which was still based on the Cold War model. In the "Conclusion" of the book, he attempts to place the Church's change toward Central America within the history of U.S. Catholicism. It is his hope that his "case study" (p. 2) will illuminate dynamics of the Church's post-Vatican Council II contribution to the search for global justice.

Brett worked with twenty-eight periodicals, among which America, Commonweal, National Catholic Reporter, and Our Sunday Visitor were highlighted because they contained the most articles on Central America. Others included such journals and newspapers as Extension, Maryknoll, The Catholic Worker, The National Catholic Register, The Wanderer, Social Justice Review, Origins, LADOC (Latin American Documentation), St. Anthony Messenger, Priest, Sisters, and U.S. Catholic. The periodicals ranged from what Brett describes as progressive to conservative (traditionalist).

The author records the trends of thinking in individual periodicals and differences of opinion both among writers and between levels of policy-making within the Church and in the secular arena. …

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