Roman Catholicism and the American Way of Life

By Thomas T. McAvoy | Go to book overview

Preface

This volume needs a brief introduction, partly to explain its title and partly to explain the purpose of the essays that have been here collected.

The title refers to the general problem faced by the Catholic minority in the United States during the second half of the twentieth century. This is not the place to argue whether minority is the proper characterization of the Roman Catholics in the United States. But whether one calls these Roman Catholics a minority or just a church they have a bond of unity that differentiates them from non-Roman Catholics. There have been times since Europeans and others came to that part of the North American continent which we now call the United States when the right of Roman Catholics to remain and to enjoy civic privileges has been questioned. I believe the time has come when these civic privileges are not only legally certain but generally granted. But the social arrangements and the religious relations between American citizens are generally not the subject of legislation. As a matter of fact the Constitution forbade the establishment of a religion in the United States. Consequently the social and religious position of Roman Catholics in the United States in this second half of the twentieth century will depend upon the natural sequence of events in the social and religious realms. These social and religious relationships do expand over into the political and economic spheres of American life, but these political and economic results of the religious life of American Catholics are the concern of this volume only by accident.

Most of the essays in this volume are the product of two symposia held at Notre Dame under the auspices of the Department of History and the Faculty Seminar in American Civilization. The essays in the

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