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The Other Catholics: Remaking America's Largest Religion Hardcover – May 24, 2016
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Julie Byrne's well researched book, The Other Catholics, shows that there are major communities of Christians who understand themselves as Catholics but not Roman Catholics. These Christians are creating vibrant communities of believers and are elevating women to leadership, including ordination as priests and bishops. This broader reality of world Catholicism can now be better understood, thanks to Byrne's excellent work. (Rosemary Ruether, author of Catholic Does Not Equal the Vatican: A Vision for Progressive Catholicism)
This beautifully written study illuminates the range of groups that exist across the whole Catholic spectrum. Linked, despite their diversity, by a shared identification as Catholic and common emphasis on succession, sacrament, and saints, Byrne surfaces the complex, often unnoticed interactions between independent Catholics, Roman Catholics, and numerous religious traditions. This fresh approach opens a provocative window through which to view the meaning and making of Catholicity. (Ann Taves, coeditor of What Matters? Ethnographies of Value in a Not So Secular Age)
Byrne's intrepid research and vivid prose brings to light a subterranean realm of 'Other Catholics,' an utterly fascinating world of colorful characters and inventive approaches to authority. Just as Protestantism cannot be reduced to, say, Presbyterians, this book makes it increasingly difficult to equate 'Catholicism' merely with the Roman Catholic church. (Randall Balmer, coeditor of Mormonism and American Politics)
The growing phenomenon of Independent Catholicism is notoriously difficult to capture. Its varied forms defy easy categorization, and it generally makes its home in the ever-shifting margins of church and culture. Julie Byrne's years of research and extensive fieldwork have yielded this immensely valuable guide to the "Other Catholics." This book will doubtless open a window onto the "independent movement" for both scholars and interested people of faith. Byrne's choice to focus on two significant communities results in an engaging and sympathetic narrative, but never fails to be clear-eyed and critically informed. Any reader interested in the American religious landscape will be captivated. (John Plummer, author of The Many Paths of the Independent Sacramental Movement: A National Study of Its Liturgy, Doctrine, and Leadership)
I could not put The Other Catholics down. It is an excellent book, one that will make important contributions to the fields of Catholic studies, American studies, and American religious history. Moreover, the focus on gender and the dynamics of power and privilege will be of special interest to scholars of gender, women's studies, and sexuality. Byrne's historical, sociological, and anthropological research is at once original and rock solid, and her findings are compelling. Most important, her clear and approachable writing style will make this book appealing to a wide swath of readers. (Kristy Nabhan-Warren, author of The Cursillo Movement in America: Catholics, Protestants, and Fourth-Day Spirituality)
The growing field of ethnographic history will never be the same after The Other Catholics is published. Without question, this work will be considered a significant contribution to the fields of American Catholic studies and American religious history. There hasn't been a finer study of alternative forms of Catholic identity since James Fisher's The Catholic Counterculture in America. The Other Catholics is unique for its careful consideration of the role of women and LGBTQ people in the life of American Catholicism. Byrne's lucid and accessible writing style only adds to the book's value and usability in undergraduate courses. (Michael Pasquier, editor of Gods of the Mississippi)
[A] probing study.... Byrne's enlightening research and analysis will undoubtedly raise awareness of these little-known Catholic denominations. (Publishers Weekly)
[A] landmark new book. (Nathan Schneider America Magazine)
Byrne's book is an excellent study of churches on the fringe that incubate new ideas and shed new light on mainstream religion. Through her storytelling, Byrne documents the multiple claims to be Catholic and recognizes that in the very writing of her book she, too, is producing Catholicism. (Jane Shaw Times Higher Education)
Byrne's fresh approach opens a window through which to explore the meaning and making of Catholocism. Any reader interested in the American faith landscape will be captivated. (Washington Review of Books)
In The Other Catholics, Julie Byrne shares the remarkable history and current activity of independent Catholics, who number at least two hundred communities and a million members across the United States. She focuses on the Church of Antioch, one of the first Catholic groups to ordain women in modern times. Byrne tells the story of the surprising influence of these understudied churches, which change the narrative arc and total shape of modern Catholicism.
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The book and my observations can be summarized as follows:
1. The independent catholic movement is VERY fragmented. It is like a conception of life, where the cells keep dividing, but never seem to coalesce to form one body. However, maybe one body is not necessary. Having all bodies that respect the sacramental ministrations all other bodies is probably more tenable and ought to be explored and effectuated.
2. While there are a few large parishes, most independent catholic churches are very small. Attendance of less than 20 people at services is common. Very few undertake conscious efforts at church growth. A few own their own buildings, but most rent space from other churches or meet in private homes. Few independent catholic clergy are full time, or support themselves solely on what they earn from ministry. Nearly all have secular employment. A very few work full time in ministry supported by investment or retirement income.
3. Many have become independent catholics to be ordained, myself included, when the avenues in established churches were closed to them, often because of church politics, gender, age, marital status, or sexual orientation. Thus, the accusation has been leveled that independent catholics have too many clergy in relation to the number of laity. While this may be true numerically, it’s unfair to judge the situation in that way. Far more important is the ministry these clergy are actually doing. Many work as chaplains, counsellors, teachers, scholars, authors, in a variety of occupations serving the poor and oppressed, and in liturgical performing/graphic arts, all of which are valid ministries.
4. The independent catholic movement is VERY diverse as to both doctrine and liturgy. Nearly all, however, practice the seven sacraments, ordain in the apostolic succession, and are devoted to saints. While most of the independent catholic movement is progressive, it does have conservative factions as well. Some parts of the movement exhibit a heavy tinge of mysticism, metaphysics, and off-the-wall spiritualities, some of which are quite foreign to even the most progressive Catholic Christians. To be quite honest, some of that stuff makes me uncomfortable. Some independent groups operate on very narrow ecclesiological or doctrinal principles in a style similar to the Roman Church, while others are more accepting of differing views and practices.
5. Members of the Roman Church interact with independent catholics in many different ways, some positive some negative. Often, members of an independent catholic community also claim membership in the Roman Church simultaneously, and attend Mass in both. The reverse is also true, particularly when Roman Catholics desire sacramental ministries their church is unable to provide. Many independent catholic clergy have good relations with Roman clergy and receive referrals from them.
6. I learned everything I ever wanted to know about the independent Church of Antioch and/or Ascension Alliance, established in one way or another over a long period of time and thus an appropriate subject for scholarly research. However, reality is there are probably over 1,000 independent catholic jurisdictions in the United States alone and many more elsewhere. These ought to be covered in a follow-up volume.
The only improvements I’d like to see are translations of French and other foreign language phrases for those of us who are not fluent in other languages and need to keep using Google Translate; interspersing the notes as footnotes in the text rather than end-notes at the end of the book; and a bibliography.
All, in all, a great job, Professor Julie! May we see sequel after sequel on the same subject.
I am glad that I read the book and just want more. Perhaps Byrne's research has gone on and she can do another opus to supplement what is lacking here.
In this book she presents the most objective and thoughtful view of some of independent Catholicism’s most notable leaders. I particularly liked her presentation of Patriarch Herman Spruit’s history, influence, and charism he brought to the scene when he founded and led the Catholic Apostolic Church of Antioch.
There are few written portrayals of the vast landscape of independent Catholicism available today. This is partly due to how rapidly jurisdictions come and go. What does exist lacks the objectivity and thoughtfulness with which this book was written. The other books have shown little regard for how the Holy Spirit has worked through these independent jurisdictions serving God’s children through their ministries and celebrating the sacraments to influence little by little all the other major sacramental Christian churches like Julie Byrne has shown in this book.
I would highly recommend this book for those seeking to make their Catholic faith and spirituality — be it Roman or otherwise — more relevant to today’s world. Rather than getting bogged down fretting and worrying about the current state of affairs politically and religiously speaking, spark a light of hope and optimism and positive change in consciousness in your journey by learning about these “Other Catholics”. Professor Byrne perhaps sums up the influence of independent Catholics best when she writes in her Conclusion chapter, “While most modern Catholic apocalypticism describes a harrowing end of time and final judgment… the apocalypticism of Antioch and Ascension forecasts a glorious global revolution of consciousness.”
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Sets a new standard for historical/sociological books on the OC Movement.