- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: The Crossroad Publishing Company; 2nd edition (October 1, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0824523628
- ISBN-13: 978-0824523626
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,399,377 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Anti-Catholicism in America: The Last Acceptable Prejudice Paperback – October 1, 2005
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Customers who bought this item also bought
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
From the Publisher
One of the most important books in contemporary religious publishing. This book explores the astonishing story of prejudice against Catholics and what it tells us about Catholic identity. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
Mark S. Massa
New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 2003; 2nd edition (October 1, 2005)
Review by Reverend Brian Van Hove, S.J.
Published in The Fellowship of Scholars Quarterly, vol. 27, no. 4 (Winter 2004): 39
This well-written work has two parts. The first is longer, and examines the anti-Catholic impulse in America. The second is an analysis of the crisis in American Catholicism, using the Boston sex scandals as the example.
Anti-Catholicism is a fact. It is both old and new, but it is not the only prejudice in America. The author balances every assertion with qualifiers and counter-assertions. The core idea is that two types of imagination and language inform the American culture. The dominant one is "dialectical" and has its origin in Calvinism and certain forms of medieval dialectical reasoning pre-dating Calvin. Dialectical minds distrust institutions and groups. The second mode is "analogical" and it is very different, stressing community and the sacramental order of history. Catholics are therefore "different" from the American mainstream, and they are destined never fully to fit in. While they may not be the only outsiders, they will never be anything but outsiders when true to their identity. They trust institutions and groups, particularly the church. Individualism and community, Calvinistic pessimism (whether of the religious type or secularized) and Catholic hopefulness are reconcilable only partially at best.
Father Massa's two heroes are Andrew Greeley and David Tracy. Greeley and Tracy provide the vocabulary of "dialectical" and "analogical" to study these social questions in America. What readers think of Greeley and Tracy may determine what they think about this book.
Crossroad Publishing prints a professional and classy product, complete with detailed endnotes and a useful index. M.'s English sparkles. At least passively endorsing the position of some of his sources, he seems to insert little liberal digs of his own on such points as the use of condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS (p. 43 and seems to imply that the Roman Curia is the problem in our church pp. 165-166). But he strives to include a variety of opinions and perspectives on complex matters, though Greeley and Tracy remain in charge of the interpretive machinery. For another approach, see Philip Jenkins on the same subject: The New Anti-Catholicism: The Last Acceptable Prejudice (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003).
Massa writes a wonderful work for gaining an overview of the history of anti-Catholicism in America. Part one leaves nothing out of this long story - of both "blue collar" and "white collar" anti-Catholicism. The reader may find distasteful the need "to go into gory detail" about the Geoghan case in Boston. Perhaps here the author self-indulgently falls in line with the continuing outrage directed at this offender, even after his murder in prison. People who are anti-Catholic use these public scandals to say "we told you so" and win converts to their anti-Catholic way of thinking. No doubt about that. Cardinal Law let considerable ammunition fall into the hands of enemies of the church.
If you have minimized the reality of anti-Catholicism in this country, this book will open your eyes. If you tend to exaggerate the amount of anti-Catholicism in America, this book will comfort you and calm you down. In either case, it is worth reading, if only to refresh your memory on the history of this phenomenon.
"The very randomness of these examples of what have termed Catholic-bashing - spanning the cultural spectrum from up-scale magazines of cultural comment and mass-market newspapers on the east coast to street theater in the Bay Area on the west coast - form a disturbing web of evidence. Some Catholic observers have argued that it is as though Catholic iconography, leadership, and sensibilities are somehow perceived by large sections of U.S. culture as fair game for attack, in ways that the beliefs and practices of other groups are not. Other Catholic commentators argue that this prejudice has been created by the problematic positions of the church itself on a number of social, sexual and political issues. But what both groups would agree on is that Catholicism somehow doesn't fit into North American cultural values and presuppositions.
But why?" (p. 45.)
Father Massa provides a fascinating account of the history of American anti-Catholicism. I knew about the Know - Nothings and Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s, but I had never heard of the Order of the Star Spangled Banner, which in 1854 was a potent political power, or the American Protective Association, which in the 1890s organized boycotts of Catholic businesses, organized anti-Catholic riots and claimed a half-million supporters. (p. 30.) Likewise, the revived Klan in the 1920s had created a three-million member strong invisible empire through slick sales techniques and had as one of its principle aims the extermination of Catholicism.
Father Massa's book came out too soon to include the San Francisco Board of Supervisors' Resolution that characterized the Catholic Church as both a foreign power and inimical to the values of San Francisco in refusing to accede to a legal demand to place adopted children in the households of homosexual couples. This example fits wonderfully into the historical survey whereby Catholicism is distrusted as a foreign power and suspected for its communitarian values.
After the initial history, Massa looks at various thematic issues in recent history, including Jack Chick's anti-Catholic comic book empire, which reaches more people than any church or theologian; and Jimmy Swaggert, who until his own implosion was the most popular Evangelical preacher of his age and virulently and explicitly anti-Catholic; and Norman Vincent Peale's effort to gin up anti-Catholic hatred in order to derail John F. Kennedy's presidential campaign; and an extensive academic program that assumed deficiencies in Catholic educational culture were caused by Catholicism without bothering to check out other possible explanations; and Paul Blanshard, whose 1949 book was endorsed by John Dewey and influentially made the argument that Catholics could never be good Americans.
These vignettes are well-told. Father Massa is an excellent writer with a gift for understatement and light humor. The factual stories he recounts are fascinating and read like mini-biographies of small players in history, such as, the enigmatic Jack Chick, John Courtney Murray, Paul Blanshard, Normal Vincent Peale, or Jimmy Swaggert, the musical preacher who started his career by touting his relationship to his cousins Jerry Lee Lewis and Mickey Gilley.
What ties the history and thematic elements together is the theory that Father Massa offers based on the views of a theologian named David Tracy. Tracy's theory is that even prior to doctrine and creed, a believer is raised up in a fundamental way of conceiving reality. For the Catholic that way of conceiving religion is "analogical." God is not a distant "other" who views the world as hateful sinners. Rather, for the Catholic, the world bears an analogical relationship with God. God is part of the world and particularly present in the sacraments. This worldview translates into sociology, with Catholicism tending to be more communal, defining individuals within society. An alternative worldview is "dialectical." Under this approach, God is a distant other who views the actual, fallen world as hateful and deserving of condemnation. Under this dialectical worldview, only those few individuals who individually form a personal relationship with Christ can hope to find salvation. This dialectical approach has sociological implications in loosening the sense of community and elevating the role of the individual in isolation as the basic constituent of society. [Incidentally, although he does not use the same terminology, Michael Allen Gillespie in The Theological Origins of Modernity covers much of the same territory.]
Protestantism is dialectical. America is a Protestant country, both in its origin and presently. Consequently, the cultural norms are dialectical, which means that there is a fundamental disconnect with people whose culturally "knitting" is analogical.
Father Massa ably points out the "dialectical imagination" in the context of Jimmy Swaggert and Jack Chick. Both seem to demonstrate a cultural context where religion is spirituality reduced literally to "me and Jesus," without any community, except to the limited extent that a preacher may preach the Word on television or the reader may find a 24 block comic book.
Father Massa is also very informative on the Catholic child abuse scandal that has been the recurrent subject of constant media coverage. Father Massa analyzes this issue as an example of a dysfunctional kind of analogical thinking. The scandal is an example of "mysterium iniquitatis" - the mystery of evil. The pedophiles were filthy and vile, but the bishops who re-assigned them were often very decent men and, often, on the "right side" of social issues, such as immigration and other issues. So, the mystery of evil is, "what could they have been thinking?" Father Massa cuts the bishops no slack - the bishops can be forgiven, but they cannot be excused. (p. 189.) But understanding is the first step to a reformation. Massa believes that what may have misfired was a misapplication of the analogical way of thinking whereby the Church, which to Catholics is the Body of Christ, was confused literally with the Body of Christ in the here and now. An answer, therefore, may be to become more dialectical and to realize that loyalty to the Church is not loyalty to Christ or the Gospel.
Father Massa concludes with an examination of whether modern anti-Catholicism is entirely new or a revival of the old anti-Catholicism. His conclusion is "yes and no." Anti-Catholicism is hardly the last prejudice. But anti-Catholicism does exist in modern America, and modern anti-Catholicism retains its Reformed Protestant roots with a dialectical critique of Catholicism. What is new is the coopting of these dialectical tropes by secular and anti-religious critics of Catholicism, which brings us back to the internet atheists I began this review with. Massa concludes with this sad, hopeful and realistic appraisal:
"Catholic citizens of the United States were and are, outsiders, "others" in a culture shaped and still powerfully influenced by Protestant language and presuppositions. This is neither a bad thing in itself, nor a retreat to victimization language. Religious outsiders have a revered place in North American religion, beginning with the New England Puritans themselves, then with their outsider saints like Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson, right down to Ralph Waldo Emerson. It is disingenuous for Catholics to feign surprise, anger, or grief to learn that they are not in the mainstream of their culture, or that they are perceived as such by a number of their fellow citizens who shape cultural tastes. Such has always been the (blessed) lot of the saints in every age. As St. Paul was at pains t remind them, "We have here no lasting city, but seek the one that is above." This in no way lessens the urgency of Jesus' command to be both wise and blameless in our age; but perhaps it offers some peace to those who are aware that Catholicism doesn't completely fit into the lively experiment that is the United States, and probably never will.
That's the good news." (p. 198.)
With the issues defined that way, we may hope he is right.
We don't seem to have much choice in the matter.