Catholics and Contraception: An American History (Cushwa Center Studies of Catholicism in Twentieth-Century America) 1st Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0801474941
ISBN-10: 0801474949
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"Readers of this critical study of American Catholics' reception of their church's doctrinal position on contraception will be astounded at the scope and depth of the author's analysis. . . . The American context, especially in the decades from 1870 to 1930, presents a number of special cultural difficulties, such as a desire to embrace scientific discovery about the body, upholding the primacy of human liberty, and a semi-puritanical disdain for public discussion of sex―all of which led mainline Protestant Americans toward private contraceptive practice. Catholics often publicly broke with such mores, but gradually capitulated, especially after the 1960s. Tentler's study does yeoman work in explaining why. Highly recommended."―Choice 42:10, June 2005

"In Catholics and Contraception: An American History, Leslie Woodcock Tentler treats American Catholic culture across the 20th century. . . . Tentler says, lay people today are exercising individual moral authority without communal shaping influences. . . . In her view, even Catholics who disagree with the Church's teaching on contraception want pastoral leadership and a corporate identity as Catholic, not just American. 'Desires like these,' Tentler concludes, 'ought to form the substance of ongoing communal reflection' of conversations that involve every constituency in the church. How ironic, not to say tragic, that birth control gets in the way."―Jenelle Williams Paris, Books and Culture, May/June 2005

"Tentler shows the larger forces of cultural change and the development of mores which would impact views of sex and sexuality beyond simply the contraception question/issue. Her work brings together an incredible amount of research into the archives of dioceses and religious orders, especially those who preached the once popular parish missions which were a bulwark of support for the Church's position on birth control. . . . This book deserves to be read not only by historians, but by all theology students, clergy, bishops, and everyone who wishes to have a better understanding of how the constant Tradition of the Church develops in this critical area."―James T. Bretzke, S.J., University of San Francisco, Catholic Books Review

"Catholics and Contraception is a welcome exploration of the Catholic discourse on birth control over the century leading up to 1968. Tentler's work is thorough, nuanced, and engaging. Her argument about the centrality of birth control practices in lay lives and the significance of Humane Vitae in the church's history is so persuasive and well supported that her work stands as a definitive history of contraception and a major contribution to our understanding of the broader American Catholic history in the twentieth century."―Journal of Social History

"Tentler's account is thoroughly researched, well written, and makes good use of clergy interviews and Catholic archives and publications."―Journal of Religion

"In Catholics and Contraception: An American History, Leslie Woodcock Tentler treats American Catholic culture across the 20th century. . . . Tentler says, lay people today are exercising individual moral authority without communal shaping influences. . . . In her view, even Catholics who disagree with the Church's teaching on contraception want pastoral leadership and a corporate identity as Catholic, not just American. 'Desires like these,' Tentler concludes, 'ought to form the substance of ongoing communal reflection'―of conversations that involve every constituency in the church. How ironic, not to say tragic, that birth control gets in the way."―Jenelle Williams Paris, Books and Culture, May/June 2005

"Leslie Woodcock Tentler brings great subtlety and a compassionate, mature discernment to the difficult history of American Catholicism's encounter with modernity. She has an extraordinary ability to represent the everyday lived experience of Catholics in vivid, textured detail which encompasses both clerical and popular practice and understanding. Catholics and Contraception is compelling, distinguished, brilliantly researched, and completely engaging."―Robert Orsi, Harvard Divinity School

"The Catholic Church is important to a large segment of the human race, yet it is in crisis because of issues relating to sex and reproduction. Leslie Woodcock Tentler's book takes a historical look at the Church's doctrines concerning contraception, how these have produced a serious divide between the Church and the Catholic laity, and how they have split the Catholic clergy. As we enter the twenty-first century, the importance of promoting responsibility in our sexual lives is greater than ever. Can the Catholic Church find a way to promote sexual responsibility and at the same time acknowledge the considerable benefits that responsible sex brings to Catholic men and women?"―John Bancroft, author of Human Sexuality and Its Problems and former director of The Kinsey Institute for Research on Sex, Gender, and Reproduction

From the Back Cover

"Leslie Woodcock Tentler brings great subtlety and a compassionate, mature discernment to the difficult history of American Catholicism's encounter with modernity. She has an extraordinary ability to represent the everyday lived experience of Catholics in vivid, textured detail which encompasses both clerical and popular practice and understanding. Catholics and Contraception is compelling, distinguished, brilliantly researched, and completely engaging."--Robert Orsi, Harvard Divinity School

"The Catholic Church is important to a large segment of the human race, yet it is in crisis because of issues relating to sex and reproduction. Leslie Woodcock Tentler's book takes a historical look at the Church's doctrines concerning contraception, how these have produced a serious divide between the Church and the Catholic laity, and how they have split the Catholic clergy. As we enter the twenty-first century, the importance of promoting responsibility in our sexual lives is greater than ever. Can the Catholic Church find a way to promote sexual responsibility and at the same time acknowledge the considerable benefits that responsible sex brings to Catholic men and women?"--John Bancroft, author of Human Sexuality and Its Problems and former director of The Kinsey Institute for Research on Sex, Gender, and Reproduction

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Product Details

  • Series: Cushwa Center Studies of Catholicism in Twentieth-Century America
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press; 1 edition (February 5, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801474949
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801474941
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,500,135 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By chelsea ebin on January 20, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An excellent and thorough history, which is well written and makes good use of archival documents.
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36 of 77 people found the following review helpful By Joseph P. Tevington on September 12, 2005
Format: Hardcover
While browsing through a college bookstore, I recently came across Catholic University of America (CUA) Professor Leslie Woodcock Tentler's "Catholics and Contraception: An American History" (Cornell University Press, 2004) - one of fourteen books from Notre Dame's Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism. In 335 pages covering 125 years, Tentler offers little evidence of appreciating modern methods of Natural Family Planning or Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body. She envisions NFP as repackaged "rhythm" and those who embrace it as likely to be unable to explain its theological rationale, as well as likely to abandon it with experience. Be that said, she does offer some thought-provoking history.

A "cafeteria" mindset is often noted to exist among misguided Catholics. Some have gotten the notion that the Church offers teaching on the sanctity of human life and marriage for "conservatives," while she alternately offers teaching on social concerns for "liberals." Authentic, seamless connections between teachings on the sanctity of human life, marriage and family, and social issues get lost. While no history of "Catholic Social Teaching" would be complete without an extensive discussion of Msgr. John A. Ryan, Ph.D, Msgr. Ryan kept Church teachings on human life, marriage and family, and social issues very much intact.

As director of the social justice department of the National Catholic Welfare Conference (now the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) and as a CUA professor, Ryan was the face of Catholic Social Teaching in the first part of the 20th century in the United States. Long before Humanae Vitae discussed the anti-family agendas of those promoting contraceptives, Ryan took on Planned Parenthood founder and eugenics pioneer Margaret Sanger.
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