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Roman Catholicism in America Paperback – May 15, 2000

ISBN-13: 978-0231108713 ISBN-10: 0231108710

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Product Details

  • Series: Columbia Contemporary American Religion Series
  • Paperback: 366 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (May 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231108710
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231108713
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #668,319 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this new study, Gillis (Pluralism: A New Paradigm for Theology) provides a broad overview of the history and practice of Catholicism in America at the end of the 20th century. He attempts to offer an explanation of Roman Catholicism and its rites and practices for an American public for whom, he says, Roman Catholicism's doctrine and polity remain a mystery. In addition, the author examines the tensions between Roman Catholicism's universality (its doctrines, dogmas and papal encyclicals that are the same worldwide) and its particularity (the ways in which the American Church interprets these universal principles for its particular context). In his opening chapter, Gillis combines sociological analysis and case studies to answer the question "Who are American Catholics?" He offers five categories that describe the variety of contemporary Catholics: "By the Rules Catholics," "Bend and Break the Rules Catholics," "Ignore the Rules Catholics," "Rules Don't Pertain to Me Catholics," and "Don't Know the Rules Catholics." Gillis then provides a historical overview of the development of the Catholic Church in America from colonial times to the present, including brief glimpses of the popes and other religious leaders who played significant roles in shaping that history. Final sections explore specific Catholic teachings and beliefs, ranging from the infallibility of the pope to the Sacraments and the ways in which American Catholics incorporate these beliefs into their practice. One appendix includes brief profiles of selected American Catholics from the late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin to film star Martin Sheen. Another offers a time line highlighting events in American Catholic history from 1634 to the present. Gillis's inviting prose and discerning insights make this a fine introduction to American Catholicism. (July)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

This new series, written by leading scholars for students and general readers, portrays the diversity and complexity of religious life in America, focusing on the influence of Western society as a major challenge that religious groups will face in the 21st century. Both works contain profiles of noteworthy individuals, suggestions for further reading, glossaries, chronologies, and a list of web sites. Gillis (theology and Catholic studies, Georgetown Univ.) provides an excellent survey. In the chapter "Who Are the American Catholics?" for example, he breaks down types of Catholics by geography, ethnic background, and income; charts and informative statistics supplement the text without becoming tedious. This title includes a detailed synopsis of the history of Catholicism, with special emphasis on Vatican II and the tensions between Rome and AmericaApartially due to issues such as women's ordination, birth control, and abortion rights. Smith (Islamic studies, Hartford Seminary) writes a general introduction to Islam as practiced by American Muslims. Islam in America outlines the influences of a secular and materialistic Western culture, the keenly felt prejudices on the part of non-Muslims, and the misunderstandings between Muslims that often arise when they try to balance cultural expectations with the value system of the conservative Middle East. Of special interest is the chapter on African American Muslims and other smaller groups. Highly recommended for academic and public libraries. [For more on Islam, see "Bridging the Gap: Islam in America," LJ 10/1/98, p. 59-63.AEd.]AMichael W. Ellis, Ellenville P.L., N.
-AMichael W. Ellis, Ellenville P.L., NY
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 18, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Chester Gillis has favored us with an engrossing account of one of the world's leading religions with this account of Catholicism, yesterday and today, in America. Using reader-friendly text, suitable for the general public, he delineates the history of American Catholics, their beliefs and practices, over the last four centuries. Yet the account is by no means sterile or dry; instead, the author uses anecdotes, letters, and attributed quotes to give the text an immediacy and relevance which is most refreshing. Gillis covers such disparate topics as the Black Experience in the Catholic Church,Hispanics and their influences, ethnic groups of all kinds; controversies surrounding abortion, homosexuality, women's rights--including ordination, clerical misconduct, academic freedom, etc. In all, he is thorough and insightful. He traces the rise and fall of parish life in metropolitan areas and the state of religious life among vowed and unvowed members of the church. In fact, it is impossible to think of an area he hasn't covered. Photographs, charts, and graphs strengthen the statistical data; notes containing bibliographical material serve for further research or corroboration; a valuable glossary of terms, an impeccable index, and an offering of modern Internet sources will satisfy students or curious readers desirous of more information about specific topics. This book is suitable for Christians and non-Christians alike, for it presents a valuable insight into the lives and beliefs of a people who continue to influence the world and shape the policies of nations.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 16, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This is the kind of book ordinary people will like. It is complete, but not so detailed that the reader would lose the main thought. Mr. Gillis poses questions the "man or woman in the street" has pondered, but never had answered before; and he doesn't try to evade or white-wash problems or controversies. He gives credit to the simple, ordinary people who try to live their lives in accord with the laws of God, in simple faith and in caring service to their neighbors. The book makes me feel good about all the truly good people out there--people who work and struggle to find meaning in their lives. Mr. Gillis has done us all a great favor in showing the difficulties others have gone through, yet still kept trying.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on March 5, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Roman Catholicism in America is an essential text for any thorough study of Roman Catholicism: it examines the religion within the context of American culture, with scholar Gillis examining the major religious concepts, individuals, and principles of Roman Catholics. An interdisciplinary approach allows for the consideration of various Catholic experiences and influences.
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Format: Hardcover
Is there a Catholic equivalent of a Pulitzer Prize? If so, I nominate Chester Gillis' book for serious consideration. Gillis has done a masterful and complete study of his subject, offering a wealth of detail, with inside information and insights which could be given only by one thoroughly at home with his topic. Personal glimpses of the powerful and the not-so-powerful people in the church flesh out the statistical data, making the account as real, as vital, as conversations with Catholic neighbors down the block. The author explains religious doctrines and practices in a clear, concise style; he has a no-nonsense approach to even debatable matters; and his logic, rhetoric,and organization are impeccable. Any pastors, pastoral ministers, or directors of Adult Study Groups take notice: if you disregard this excellent book, you miss an opportunity for an enriching, unparallelled experience!
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By K. Kriesel on February 21, 2010
Format: Paperback
I read this to gain a better understanding of my strict Catholic upbringing; Gillis went above and beyond my expectations! Because I can now understand the empty traditions, hostility, and control exerted by the staff, administration and clergy, I'm one step closer to forgiving them.

The fact that this was written before Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (who, as recanted in this book, is a destructive slimbebal) became Pope Benedict and before the pedophilic scandals came to their worst point is actually a strength. It's easy to read the book from this point and see how the Catholic church does change drastically over time whether it wants to or not
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