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Double Crossed: Uncovering the Catholic Church's Betrayal of American Nuns Hardcover – June 20, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday Religion; First Edition edition (June 20, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385516363
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385516365
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.9 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #594,285 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Briggs, a former New York Times religion editor, spent eight years researching and writing this report on the disappearance of Catholic nuns from the American church scene. During that time, some 25,000 sisters died and the number of American nuns fell to under 70,000, compared with 185,000 in 1965. In setting out to learn what happened to cause this marked decline, Briggs interviewed legions of nuns who lived through the cataclysmic Second Vatican Council of 1962–1965, which brought major reforms to the church and religious life. Although nuns were largely excluded from the council, Briggs suggests that it gave sisters a mandate to renew their communities and the freedom to determine how. But when bishops, priests and eventually the Vatican stood in their way, the sisters were "double-crossed." Briggs believes that had the sisters been allowed to interpret Vatican II as they understood it, their decline might not have been so sharp. However, he also points to cultural shifts and church politics as factors that affected the sisterhood's vitality. Moreover, he observes that the sisters may have contributed to their own demise by remaining loyal to church authority. Readers sympathetic to the cause of sisters who sought greater reform than was achieved will most appreciate Briggs's work on this important topic. (June 20)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Briggs revisits the pivotal Vatican II years in this compelling expose of the plight of American nuns. Since the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, the Roman Catholic Church in America has lost approximately 100,000 religious sisters. Although much of the decrease is because many older sisters retired from active duty and subsequently died, multiple cultural and political transformations also contributed to the shrinking of the ranks. Still, according to Briggs, the most significant factor was the promise of reform promulgated by Vatican II, a promise that never materialized on a practical level. Excluded from most of the doctrinal discussions, female religious leaders nevertheless understood they would be granted the freedom to review and reorganize their individual orders. That freedom was short-lived when the nuns were in fact double-crossed by the male church hierarchy. Disillusioned and betrayed, nuns left their convents and communities in record numbers, effectively devastating the most productive educational, medical, and social arm of the Catholic Church in America. Margaret Flanagan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Customer Reviews

Well researched and well written.
elaine
One reason... was that the defection of nuns to opportunities opening for women in secular employment had drained religious communities of feminist strength.
Steven H Propp
Would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in understanding women and/or church autority in our society.
J. Warren Day

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 4, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Being a woman religious and having lived through a good part of the research Mr. Briggs has done, I found what he had to say quite accurate. I found him redundant at times, but his findings are, sadly, true. He has done a very good job researching and telling facts that have needed to be told. I applaud him and I recommend this book to all who want to know about America nuns' experience these passed 40 plus years.

PS Don't let the cover put you off!
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49 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Anyechka on December 2, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I did personally feel that this book felt a bit academic at times, as opposed to giving us this fascinating information mainly through longer personal stories and remembrances, but writing style aside, it really gets the subject across. The fact that Mr. Briggs put 8 years into this book really shows, not only in the compelling material and telling personal stories, but also in his knowledge of Catholic history and theology in spite of not being Catholic himself. This book was interesting to me as a feminist, as one interested in Catholic history and nuns, and someone who, several times, thought semi-seriously about becoming a nun when younger (the religion I ended up choosing was not Catholicism, so the sisterhood was obviously ruled out for me).

The history of nuns in America is a very long and fascinating one, and the numbers of American sisters steadily grew over time, till their ranks were swelling in the decades just before Vatican II. Even though some sisters might not have considered themselves such (for various reasons that Mr. Briggs explains throughout the book), nuns really were the original feminists. They were liberated women ages before the ordinary secular American women were.
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86 of 102 people found the following review helpful By HistoryProf on June 30, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ken Briggs is worked on this book for 10 years--and it was worth waiting for. Based upon copious research and (especially) interviews with a large number of sisters, Briggs produced a book that demonstrates a depth of knowledge and insight that is rare in books of this sort. He clearly has a point of view--sympathy with the more progressive sisters about whom most of this book is written--but he also allows others to speak for themselves. What is especially remarkable is that the author is not only not a sister, he's not a Catholic. That might not be evident to those not aware of the fact; the book SEEMS to reflect a kind of cultural familiarity that one would expect mainly from a Catholic author. Briggs did a lot of research in both popular and scholarly literature, too. Needless to say, I highly recommend this book.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Ginny on November 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is a comprehensive and honest history of what happened at Vatican II. The outstanding leadership of many Sisters in standing up for their need to contribute to the Church and be accepted by the Church for all that they do is described in proper detail. I found myself reliving those days and discovered many aspects of what was going on that I either have forgotten or never knew. What a waste by the Church in not using to its fullest all the people of God.
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36 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Rita M. Yeasted on August 18, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is an extraordinary history of American Sisters and should be read not only by the many Sisters who lived through these critical years of renewal and loss but also by the many women who entered religious life during these decades from the 40s through the 80s and made the painful decision to leave their communities. I found many of the stories brought back memories of my own religious life, and I highly recommend this book. It will make you angry at times, but it should also be read because it is a history of visionary American women that should not be lost. I am grateful to Kenneth Briggs for bringing it to our consciousness.
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Beatrice Scalise on November 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I have lived thru many of the years descibed in this book & know that the messge is correct. The nuns have been the step-children of the Church. No respect or honor from the high clergy. They were/are worker-bees even today. W/out them to teach in the schools, the Church is failing its members. When Vatican II permitted their habits to be voluntary, the nuns were no longer visible thusly they doubly lost any hope of value or equality w/in the male dominated Church. But this tactic backfired since Catholic schools no longer exist for the most part w/out the visibility & inclusion of nuns into the lives of congregations. A young nun is rare. The nuns basically are old now to be sure & have no means of support except for begging & intelligent investments planned on their own. They also care for one another by inviting those Orders on the brink into larger & more successful & better planned ones. While the Church abandoned the nuns, their families & friends have been supportive. The Church itself, however, in the process, has lost its way.
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