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Being Catholic and Being American

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 September 2014

Charles E. Curran*
Affiliation:
Catholic University of America

Extract

The story of Catholicism in the United States can best be understood in light of the struggle to be both Catholic and American. This question of being both Catholic and American is currently raised with great urgency in these days because of recent tensions between the Vatican and the Catholic Church in the United States.

History shows that Rome has always been suspicious and fearful that the American Catholic Church would become too American and in the process lose what is essential to its Roman Catholicism. Jay Dolan points out two historical periods in which attempts were made to incorporate more American approaches and understandings into the life of the church, but these attempts were ultimately unsuccessful.

In the late eighteenth century, the young Catholic Church in the United States attempted to appropriate many American ideas into its life. Recall that at this time the Catholic Church was a very small minority church. Dolan refers to this movement as a Republican Catholicism and links this understanding with the leading figure in the early American church, John Carroll. Carroll, before he was elected by the clergy as the first bishop in the United States in 1789, had asked Rome to grant to the church in the United States that ecclesiastical liberty which the temper of the age and of the people requires.

Type
Editorial Essays
Copyright
Copyright © The College Theology Society 1987

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References

1 Dolan, Jay P., “American Catholicism and Modernity,” Cross Currents 31 (Summer 1981), 150–62.Google Scholar See also Dolan, Jay P., The American Catholic Experience (Garden City: NY: Doubleday, 1985).Google Scholar

2 For the text of Cardinal Gibbons' letter to the pope see McAvoy, Thomas T., The Great Crisis in American Catholic History 1895-1900 (Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1957), p. 286.Google Scholar

3 Reher, Margaret M., “Leo XIII and ‘Americanism,’Theological Studies 34 (1973), 679–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

4 Leo, XIII, Testem Benevolentiae, in McAvoy, , pp. 379–91.Google Scholar The citations in the text are found on pp. 381-82 and 390.

5 Gannon, Michael V., “Before and After Modernism: The Intellectual Isolation of the American Priest” in Ellis, John Tracy, ed., The Catholic Priest in the United States: Historical Investigations (Collegeville, MN: St. John's University Press, 1971), pp. 293383.Google Scholar

6 Gleason, Philip, “In Search of Unity: American Catholic Thought, 1920-1960,” The Catholic Historical Review 65 (1979), 189.Google Scholar

7 New York Times, October 9, 1986, p. 10.Google Scholar

8 For recent histories of American Catholicism see Dolan, The American Catholic Experience; Fogarty, Gerald P., The Vatican and the American Hierarchy from 1870 to 1965 (Wilmington, DE: Michael Glazier, 1985);Google ScholarHennesey, James J., American Catholics: A History of the Roman Cathoiic Community in the United States (New York: Oxford University Press, 1981).Google Scholar

9 Pope John XXIII, Pacem in Terris, nn. 11-27, in O'Brien, David J. and Shannon, Thomas A., eds., Renewing the Earth: Catholic Documents on Peace, Justice, and Liberation (Garden City, NY: Doubleday Image, 1977), pp. 126–30.Google Scholar

10 Regan, Richard J., Conflict and Consensus: Religious Freedom and the Second Vatican Council (New York: Macmillan, 1967).Google Scholar

11 Synod of Bishops, Justice in the World in O'Brien, and Shannon, , p. 400.Google Scholar

12 Paul, Pope VI, Octogesima Adveniens, n. 22, in O'Brien, and Shannon, , p. 364.Google Scholar

13 Lonergan, Bernard, Method in Theology (New York: Herder and Herder, 1972), pp. 181ff.Google Scholar

14 Pius, Pope XI, Quadragesimo Anno (“On Reconstructing the Social Order”) in McLaughlin, Terence P., ed., The Church and the Reconstruction of the Modern World: The Social Encyclicals of Pius XI (Garden City, NY: Doubleday Image, 1957), pp. 219–78.Google Scholar

15 Paul, Pope VI, Octogesima Adveniens, n. 4, in O'Brien, and Shannon, , pp. 353, 354.Google Scholar

16 Pius, Pope XI, Quadragesimo Anno, nn. 79, 80, in McLaughlin, , pp. 246, 247;Google ScholarJohn, Pope XXIII, Mater et Magistra, nn. 51-58, in O'Brien, and Shannon, , pp. 6264.Google Scholar

17 Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal with Messori, Vittorio, The Ratzinger Report (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1985), pp. 5861.Google Scholar

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