American Catholic:: The Saints and Sinners Who Built America's Most Powerful Church

Charles R. Morris, Author Crown Publishers $27.5 (511p) ISBN 978-0-8129-2049-9
Journalist Morris (Computer Wars) has here written a sound popular history of the American Catholic Church. Morris's story is the tale of how the religion of Irish immigrants in major urban areas came to dominate and form American Catholicism. In the 19th century, American Catholics faced a variety of prejudices. They were persecuted for being communists, anti-Christian and satanic. By the end of the 19th century, however, under the leadership of people like Bishop John Ireland, the Midwestern priest whose oratory emphasized the benefits of capitalism and Catholicism, and Cardinal James Gibbons, a moderate who pushed for both a Catholic labor organization and a papal university, American Catholicism grew to become the single largest American religious denomination by 1890. From the end of WWI until Vatican II, Morris writes, the American Catholic Church developed its own culture characterized by the virulent anti-communism of Joe McCarthy, the Index of Forbidden Books and Movies and the dogmatism of papal authority. For Morris, these years represent the triumph of the American Catholic Church. In a final section, Morris discusses the decline of American Catholicism after Vatican II, because of the issues regarding limits of authority and dissent, the role of women in the church and the future of ministry. This a splendidly written grand narrative of the rise, triumph and fall of an American religious denomination. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/28/1997
Release date: 05/01/1997
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