- Series: Religion and American Culture
- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: Columbia University Press (December 5, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0231131879
- ISBN-13: 978-0231131872
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 10 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #669,928 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Church Confronts Modernity: Catholic Intellectuals and the Progressive Era (Religion and American Culture)
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Precociously wise... magnificent. (Paul Gottfried The American Conservative)
A lucid and accessible book (Eugene McCarraher A Christian Review)
This book will be a valuable resource...Highly recommended. (P. J. Hayes Choice)
The Church Confronts Modernity is provocative, well-written, and deserves to be read. (Margaret Mary Reher Catholic Historical Review)
It is written with great clarity and fluency, making the complex philosophical and theological concepts approachable... This is a very important book which will be indispensable reading for scholars interested in the history of religion. (Frank Lennon Journal of American Studies)
It moves briskly and gracefully through the thorny issues confronting the Church during the first two decades of the 20th century... An effective and detailed examination of Catholic intellectual life during a little studied period. (Thomas G. Guarino Theological Studies)
This book is well worth reading. It is well written, well researched, and the thesis put forth is well argued. (Patrick W. Carey Journal of American History)
Provocative... Woods thoughtful study casts new light on the Catholic response to the culture of progressivism. (Michael J. Lacey American Catholic Studies)
Well written... Worthwhile contributions to the literature. (Deirdre Moloney American Historical Review)
At the beginning of the twentieth century, American intellectuals grew increasingly sympathetic to Pragmatism and empirical methods in the social sciences, which challenged the dogma and "absolute truth" of the church. Defenders of the faith opposed this new public philosophy, instead insisting on the uniqueness of the Catholic Church and a sound philosophy of humanity. Neither capitulating to the new creed nor retreating into self-righteous isolation, they formed an economic and political philosophy based on natural law, appropriated what good they could find in progressivism, and encouraged Americans to embrace Catholicism. Thomas E. Woods's provocative study shows how American Catholics attempted to retain their identity in an age of pluralism and laid the groundwork for a half-century of intellectual vitality.
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On p. one, Woods notes that for him, modernity begins with the turn away from objectivity, toward subjectivity, in the thought of Rene Descartes and all his intellectual descendants to the present. But Woods concentrates on the period around the turn of the century, from the 19th to the 20th, after the wholesale condemnations of Pius IX, to the more narrow 'Modernist' crisis of c. 1900.
The book then concentrates on how this duel played out in the United States, but i thought the book could have used a more extended foundation of analysis of european modern thought and its influence on the US, a la The Closing of the American mind by Allan Bloom. Woods effectively shows the deleterious effects of the writings of William James and John Dewey on the Church and American culture. On p. 90, Woods describes how Dewey was surprisingly candid in condemning a Catholic school system as reactionary and inimical to democracy. Woods writes: "To Dewey's insistence that 'the child is for democracy,' Catholics answered 'the child is for God.'
Woods debunks groups such as the Ethical Culture Society, whose mantra was "Deed, not Creed," that there is always a hidden, if denied 'creed' behind the actions of any group.
This book will convince most readers that there is a fundamental chasm between orthodox Christianity and 'orthodox' modern progressivism, despite the fact that both borrow from each other at the margins. The first and most important stage of fighting a culture war is to identify the enemy despite his/her disguises.
To be technically correct, in THE CHURCH CONFRONTS MODERNITY, hereafter referred to as CCM, Woods not only tells it like it is, but how it used to be, and, if the Church is going to survive as a viable institution in serving as the world's repository of Perfect Truth, Who is a Someone, not a something for salvations sake, which is the only reason for the Church's existence, how it must be again. Woods is right to persuasively insist that looking back to how Catholic giants in America confronted the modernists in the progressive era in combating the work of the devil is our only hope of escaping the modern catacombs in order to convert the world to the one true faith, per Christ's admonition to His disciples in the last paragraph of the Gospel of Matthew. THE problem, as Woods so clearly points out, is that "how it used to be," in reference to the Church in America, was orders-of-magnitude better than "how it is now" with the prospects for "how it will be" no better, if the lessons from the past are not learned.
The focus for Woods is on the Catholic intellectual critique of modernity during the period immediately before and after the turn of the twentieth century where defenders of the faith were plentiful because they understood what it meant to be Catholic in more than name only. This is to be contrasted with an institutional Catholic Church today that, for all practical purposes, is unrecognizable as Catholic, as a direct result of the dissenters being given carte blanche to destroy it from within with impunity. Woods is talking about a Progressive Era where Catholics knew their faith well enough to use what good they could find in Progressivism for the greater Glory of God, in particular, the Church that He founded upon the Rock that is Peter. Catholics at the beginning of the twentieth century understood that discipline is one of the highest, if not the highest forms of love, which is something parents must come immediately to grips with; else, they cease to be responsible parents. Similarly, the Church under Pius IX, Leo XIII, and Saint Pius X, understood this seminal Catholic Truth, which is a Someone, not a something. This was directly reflected in orthodox catechesis which helped formed the consciences of a generation of Catholic leaders like Thomas Shields, William Kirby, and Edward Pace, who fought the good fight against the likes of James Dewey, and other representatives of Pragmatism as it played out in ethics, education, and nationalism. These were not the unencumbered autonomous consciences of Kant but rather those of an economic and political philosophy rooted in the natural law as articulated by Catholic giants like Thomas Aquinas, consciences which were informed in accord with the infallible teaching Magisterium of Holy Mother Church on faith and morals, consciences which understood that faith and reason are married, not divorced, with faith enabling a reason, which, in turn, reinforced faith.
Woods in The Church Confronts Modernity describes how decidedly nonpluralistic Catholicism responded to the modernist assault on faith and reason, and, moreover, must continue to respond, to an increasingly hostile pluralistic intellectual environment. Catholicism insisted on the uniqueness of the Church and the need for making value judgments based on what it considered a sound philosophy of humanity.
Woods recognizes that the reason Catholics no longer know their faith is that the prime catechetical tool for teaching it to them, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, has been watered down such that many of the immutable truths of the faith are no longer a part of that sacred liturgy. Woods concurs in his Epilogue that Lex credendi, lex orandi, is more than just a pithy phrase. It is a foundational axiom for survival of the faith.
I highly recommend THE CHURCH CONFRONTS MODERNITY- Catholic Intellectuals & the Progressive Era, by Thomas E. Woods Jr. as a necessary addition to any Catholic library. - Gary L. Morella