He wrote in the Preface to this 1992 book, "my main concern in this book was to focus... on the people and not just the prelates, on the experience of religion and not just the development of the institution. I wanted to look... from the bottom up... and write what I believe is a new history of Roman Catholicism in the United States. In writing this history I have sought to ask new questions of the past and to focus on themes often neglected in American Catholic history."
He notes, "Catholicism did not just survive in eighteenth-century Maryland, it prospered. For Maryland Quakers, the Protestant revolution of 1688-89 and the subsequent legal establishment of the Church of England proved to be a fatal blow to their future as a vibrant religious community. Catholics, however, adjusted more successfully to the religious and political revolts that turned Maryland into an Anglican citadel." (Pg. 90)
He observes, "Most historical images of the American Catholic people have focused on the stereotype of a poor, lower-class, immigrant community. By 1900 this was hardly the case. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the American Catholic community had a large middle class made up of American-born sons and daughters of Irish and German immigrants... Beneath this group were blue-collar working-class Catholics, people employed in skilled occupations, many of whom owned their own homes." (Pg. 147)
He states, "Over the course of the nineteenth century, the concept of a separate, parochial school system had been around for some time, but it was not until the 1840s ... that a school was viewed as normative for the parish community... By the 1884 Council, the parochial school had become the norm as far as the majority of bishops were concerned. But that is the key point: the MAJORITY favored it, not everyone." (Pg. 275)
He argues, "The ax fell in 1907, when the Pope issued his encyclical against modernism... In one fatal blow the Pope destroyed the buddnig renewal of Catholic theology... the Pope imposed an oath against modernism that all priests and candidates for the priesthood had to take. These actions ended the modernist crisis and cast a gloomy pall over Catholic intellectual life throughout the world. With some few, notable exceptions, Catholics accepted the decision of Pius X. But the church paid a heavy price." (Pg. 318-319)
This is an up-to-date, intellectually respectable, and highly informative history, that will be of great interest to anyone studying Catholic (or even American) history.
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I don't know much about this book, I may end up buying it, but I was very surprised to see this book cited on Wikipedia as saying Catholic Schools in the USA were inferior to the public schools. I assume they were referring to prior to 1911 based on the text. What I will say that I know personally Catholic schools didn't spend lots of money on things like a real apartment (one of my local public schools) when home economics classes could learn almost as well with scale paper cut-outs of furniture etc. Certainly multitudes of Catholic educated individuals have had enormous success in the political and business arena since the USA had Catholic schools.
This is exceptional resource for all to learn the mindset of American Catholics. Too often we assume they are back in the Reformation times, and they don't consider themselves there at all. Thus, to approach them this book is an invaluable source. Well written, historically accurate, this is insight into American Catholic ethos at its best!
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