Catholics in the American Century

Catholics in the American Century: Recasting Narratives of U.S. History

R. Scott Appleby
Kathleen Sprows Cummings
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Catholics in the American Century
    Book Description:

    Over the course of the twentieth century, Catholics, who make up a quarter of the population of the United States, made significant contributions to American culture, politics, and society. They built powerful political machines in Chicago, Boston, and New York; led influential labor unions; created the largest private school system in the nation; and established a vast network of hospitals, orphanages, and charitable organizations. Yet in both scholarly and popular works of history, the distinctive presence and agency of Catholics as Catholics is almost entirely absent.

    In this book, R. Scott Appleby and Kathleen Sprows Cummings bring together American historians of race, politics, social theory, labor, and gender to address this lacuna, detailing in cogent and wide-ranging essays how Catholics negotiated gender relations, raised children, thought about war and peace, navigated the workplace and the marketplace, and imagined their place in the national myth of origins and ends. A long overdue corrective, Catholics in the American Century restores Catholicism to its rightful place in the American story.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6564-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction: The American Catholic Century
    (pp. 1-10)
    John T. McGreevy

    Time magazine’s founding editor Henry Luce used to enjoy cocktails with his friend, the Jesuit priest John Courtney Murray. Almost exact contemporaries—Murray was born in 1896, Luce in 1898—the two men would relax at one of Luce’s residences in Manhattan, Connecticut, or Phoenix and assess the state of the world. The urbane Murray’s ease in this milieu—he once reportedly quipped that the Jesuit vow of poverty was “less a sacred promise than a regrettable fact”—made him a congenial house guest. Luce’s gratitude was also personal because Murray counseled Henry and his wife, Clare Boothe Luce, on...

  4. Chapter 1 U.S. Catholics between Memory and Modernity: How Catholics Are American
    (pp. 11-42)
    Robert A. Orsi

    By the 1960s and 1970s Catholics in the United States seemed to have become indistinguishable from their fellow Americans. By every measure—where they lived and whom they married, their levels of education, professional achievements (which included a Catholic president), how much money they made, and even, after the reforms mandated by the Second Vatican Council, how they worshipped—Catholics looked more like other Americans than their parents and grandparents had. They had “come of age” (a much-used phrase among Catholics in these years). Two prominent Catholic writers argued in a popular 1966 volume that this was the age of...

  5. Chapter 2 Re-viewing the Twentieth Century through an American Catholic Lens
    (pp. 43-60)
    Lizabeth Cohen

    I have two interrelated goals for this chapter: first, to appraise the state of the field of the history of the United States in the twentieth century with an eye to how historians might advance the field; second, to consider how these goals for future work might at least partly be addressed by studies of U.S. Catholicism. I will also issue two caveats. What follows is no gospel on “the state of the field” of twentieth-century U.S. history but rather a personal meditation on what I see as the challenges and opportunities facing historians in the United States in the...

  6. Chapter 3 The Catholic Encounter with the 1960s
    (pp. 61-80)
    Thomas J. Sugrue

    “What in the name of God is going on in the Catholic Church?” asked the National Review in 1964. Scholars, whether or not they share the conservative periodical’s alarm about the politics and theology of postconciliar Catholicism, agree that something profound changed in the American Catholic Church in the mid-1960s. Studies of the liturgy and devotional practices, the priesthood, Catholic education, family life, belief, and public opinion view the 1960s as the critical turning point in the history of the church in the United States. Historian Philip Gleason points to “the disintegrative impulses of changes in the post-conciliar years.”¹ Chicago...

  7. Chapter 4 Crossing the Catholic Divide: Gender, Sexuality, and Historiography
    (pp. 81-108)
    R. Marie Griffith

    In the historiography of American gender and sexuality, Catholics remain an uneasy fit. A breach continues to exist between scholarly work that takes Catholics as its primary subjects and an ostensibly broader mainstream narrative that, more often than not, tends to neglect them. This gap or divide persists whether the authors in the latter camp see their work as being about “secular” history or about religious history, perhaps because Protestantism has so often functioned as an unmarked category in secular studies of sex and gender. Notwithstanding the durability in U.S. history of Protestant anti-Catholicism, Catholics have long participated in all...

  8. Chapter 5 The New Turn in Chicano/Mexicano History: Integrating Religious Belief and Practice
    (pp. 109-134)
    David G. Gutiérrez

    Scholars who specialize in the study of religion and religiosity in the ethnic Mexican and pan-Latino populations of the United States have long lamented the fact that their work—and the theme of religion more generally—has not drawn more central attention from humanists and social scientists working in interdisciplinary Chicano and Latino studies.¹ They have a valid point. Although one could argue that a small number of notable religious studies titles have recently “crossed over” into the consciousness of Latino studies scholars whose own work generally does not focus on religious questions, it is equally clear that religion and...

  9. Chapter 6 The Catholic Moment in American Social Thought
    (pp. 135-156)
    Wilfred M. McClay

    It is a cliché by now to say that one of the central preoccupations of American historiography in the past several decades has been the effort to be more inclusive of strands and elements of our history that have normally been pushed to the margins, but its being a cliché does not make it any less true. Part of the challenge is to decide just how much inclusion is right and just. Inclusion can come in the form of copious sidebars, inset panels, appendixes, and other marginalia and add-ons that augment the basic story without quite entering into it decisively,...

  10. Conclusion: The Forgotten Americans?
    (pp. 157-170)
    R. Scott Appleby

    On first blush it seems odd, at best, to refer to Roman Catholics as “forgotten” Americans. How could any student of the United States in the twentieth century have overlooked the nation’s largest religious body, whose members constituted nearly one-quarter of the population? Catholics built powerful political machines in Chicago, Boston, and New York and wielded social, economic, and political influence in Philadelphia, Baltimore, New Orleans, San Francisco, Providence (Rhode Island), St. Paul (Minnesota), and many other American cities. By the century’s end there were more Catholics serving in the U.S. Congress than members of any other denomination.¹ During the...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 171-208)
  12. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 209-210)
    Scott Appleby and Kathleen Sprows Cummings
  13. Contributors
    (pp. 211-212)
  14. Index
    (pp. 213-218)