The Catholic Church in the Twentieth Century: Renewing and Reimaging the City of God

By Marlett, Jeffrey | The Catholic Historical Review, July 2001 | Go to article overview

The Catholic Church in the Twentieth Century: Renewing and Reimaging the City of God


Marlett, Jeffrey, The Catholic Historical Review


The Catholic Church in the Twentieth Century: Renewing and Reimaging the City of God. Edited by John Deedy. (Collegeville, Minnesota: A Michael Glazier. Book. The Liturgical Press. 2000. Pp. xvi, 244. $24.95.)

For how long must "the past" be the past before we study it? During the twentieth century significant changes certainly occurred within Roman Catholicism. In his introduction, John Deedy points specifically to two: the Second Vatican Council and the election of Pope John Paul II, the first non-Italian pope since 1522. Both transformed the Church; the Council did so by shedding the Church's dogmatic mustiness, and John Paul II has done so by contributing to Communism's downfall and "an ideological quickening of Catholic presence in the wider world" (p. x). Edited by Deedy, The Catholic Church in the Twentieth Century seeks to understand the century just past as a means for perceive ing the Church's future growth. "The book's essential purpose is to look back, to trace and to weigh the events and developments in the century just closed out" (p. xv). Many of Deedy's contributors either participated in, or contributed significant scholarship to, the history they describe. This lends a personal element to the book, and elevates it beyond simply blessing (or perhaps condemning) the immediate past.

The book focuses particularly on the Catholic Church in the United States. The opening essay, however, features an overview by Gerald Fogarty, SJ., of the papacy's transformation in the twentieth century (p. 1-20). Clergy and religious sisters and brothers receive attention in separate essays, as does the American Catholic family. Others consider the experiences of American Catholic women and Catholic youth, Catholic education, and ecumenism. John Cort, founder of the Association of Catholic Trade Unionists (pp. 149-168), writes the essay on Catholic social justice. "Church and culture" issues figure prominently toward the book's end, studying church and state issues, the Church's estrangement from the arts, and the Church's relationship with money. The last piece comes from Robert Morneau, auxiliary bishop of Green Bay, who studies "five witnesses of discipleship: Thomas Merton, Pope John XXIII, Dorothy Day, Flannery O'Connor, and John Courtney Murray" (p. …

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