Trying Times: Essays on Catholic Higher Education in the 20th Century

By Rury, John L. | The Catholic Historical Review, October 2000 | Go to article overview

Trying Times: Essays on Catholic Higher Education in the 20th Century


Rury, John L., The Catholic Historical Review


Trying Times: Essays on Catholic Higher Education in the 20tb Century. Edited by William M. Shea with Daniel Van Slyke. [South Florida-Rochester-- Saint Louis Studies on Religion and the Social Order.] (Atlanta: Scholars Press. 1999. Pp. xx, 264. $39.95.)

This volume brings together nine essays written for a year-long seminar and a conference funded by the Lilly Foundation and held at Saint Louis University during the 1996-97 academic year. Each deals with a different question in the recent history of Catholic higher education in the United States, ranging from legal issues to philosophical explorations of its evolving role and status in American society. It is not a book for readers new to the subject, although few chapters assume much prior knowledge and the caliber of writing is generally good. Rather, it seems intended for specialists, or readers familiar with the growing body of work on religion and higher education.

As often is the case in books of this type, the quality of the essays is variable, and there is little apparent method in their sequence of presentation. Each is concerned with a discrete subject, and they make no reference to one another. Consequently, there is little sense of dialogue and exchange between the authors, even though it is clear that their views on certain issues are quite different. While the book's introduction does provide a commentary on the topics covered, the opportunity for a wider and perhaps livelier discussion is left unfulfilled.

Some of the essays provide detailed accounts of events not available in more general histories. This is the case with Charles Wilson's description of legal cases that have shaped federal policies toward Catholic and other religiously affiliated institutions. Other essays have a somewhat narrower focus. Paul J. Shore looks at the story of Father Claude Heithaus, an early critic of racial discrimination at Saint Louis University, who was silenced by his superiors. Along the same fines, Michael D. Barber, Sj., examines the case of Teilhard de Chardin, who was removed from a teaching post and sent to China for suggesting that he supported the theory of evolution. Regarding scholarship on Catholic campuses, Patrick W Carey examines the evolution of theology and religious studies programs, and William M. Shea discusses the Macelwane Report on Jesuit scholarship in the 1930's. …

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