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Catholicism and American Freedom: A History Paperback – September 17, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
The interplay between the American Catholic Church and the United States has long been a source of tension for both church and state. McGreevy, an associate professor of history at the University of Notre Dame, examines the relationship between the two, beginning with the Eliot School Rebellion in Boston in 1859 and extending into the present day, when questions about abortion and human life dominate the church's engagement with American political life. The author begins by exploring efforts by some Catholics to counter the Protestant brand of Christianity being taught in the nation's public schools in the antebellum period, pointing out the sharp division that existed between Protestants and Catholics in the 19th century. He also discusses how Catholics dealt with slavery, then presents the church's stands on behalf of human life, most notably concerning abortion, a debate preceded and affected by an earlier battle over birth control. McGreevy's final chapter combines a discussion of the proposed "consistent life ethic" linking abortion, poverty, the arms race and the death penalty with a sparse treatment of the church's recent sexual abuse crisis. The author sees the scandal as further evidence of a fragile institution trying to distinguish "permanent truths from contingent applications." McGreevy's work is largely academic, and is presented in such a way that it will be of more interest to scholarly readers than ordinary Catholics. Still, it should be a valuable resource for students of modern church history.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
As the largest American religious denomination, Catholicism has directly and indirectly influenced intellectual and cultural life in this country. Though significant connections between Catholic ideals and American politics have been largely ignored by historians scrupulously separating church and state issues, there has nevertheless been considerable "interplay between Catholic and American ideas of freedom." McGreevy traces the evolution of this relationship from the mid-nineteenth century--when the tidal wave of Catholic European immigrants drastically altered the religious balance in the U.S.--to the present day. Controversial topics impacted by American Catholic thought and action include education, slavery, nationalism, social welfare policy, democracy, abortion, and sexual abuse. This thought-provoking combination of religious and social history provides a unique slant on the sizable role Catholicism has played upon the American stage. Margaret Flanagan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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There are a couple of threads to the book. One is the struggle of Catholics to gain acceptance as loyal Americans first from Protestant antagonism, which has ebbed and flowed over two centuries, to the attacks by secular liberalism, today. The book opens in 1859 with Protestants questioning Catholic motives because of the refusal of a Catholic child in a public school to recite the Protestant enumeration of the Ten Commandments. One hundred years later, in that same state (Massachusetts), Catholics were berated for inflicting their views of contraception on non-Catholics. In the mid-1800s, the Church saw slavery as an acceptable institution (though not in its form in the American South); by the late 1960s, the Church was a leader for racial equality. Also, since the early 1900s, the Church began leading the campaign for social justice in the US. Today, the Catholic Church finds itself aligned with conservative Protestants against secular liberals' insistence on legal abortion. The final chapter of the book is about the post-Vatican II Church's handling of internal problems, such as pederasty by priests, and its effect on the Church's mission in America. This section is weak, but the scenario is still being played out.
A second thread is the struggle by the institutional Church to come to grips with democracy, and with individual freedom, which is the hallmark of American democracy. In early American history, the Church was suspicious of democracy because of the persecution of Catholics and seizure of Church property by European democracies, and the Church favored governments that sponsored Catholicism as the state religion. Though it took over a century, the American experience was a major influence on changing the Church's thought to realize that freedom of religion is better for the Church and that individual freedom in a democracy is preferred over authoritarian rule.