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Empowering the People of God: Catholic Action before and after Vatican II

Empowering the People of God: Catholic Action before and after Vatican II

Jeremy Bonner
Christopher D. Denny
Mary Beth Fraser Connolly
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 408
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  • Book Info
    Empowering the People of God: Catholic Action before and after Vatican II
    Book Description:

    The early 1960s were a heady time for Catholic laypeople. Pope Pius XII's assurance "You do not belong to the Church. You are the Church" emboldened the laity to challenge Church authority in ways previously considered unthinkable. Empowering the People of God offers a fresh look at the Catholic laity and its relationship with the hierarchy in the period immediately preceding the Second Vatican Council and in the turbulent era that followed. This collection of essays explores a diverse assortment of manifestations of Catholic action, ranging from genteel reform to radical activism, and an equally wide variety of locales, apostolates, and movements.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-5403-3
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    The early 1960s were a heady time for Catholic laypeople. Almost overnight, it seemed, the winds of change had begun to blow through the corridors of the Vatican, ruffling the feathers of its clerical doorkeepers, while at the same time conveying an assurance to lay leaders throughout the world that the shaping of the Church’s future was in their hands. By the close of the decade, a very different vista loomed. “Good” Pope John XXIII had died too soon, and the “progressive” legacy of the Second Vatican Council was repudiated by his “conservative” successor, Paul VI. Such representations—no matter...


    • 1 Catholic Action in the Archdiocese of New York: The Case of the Catholic Club of New York City
      (pp. 21-45)

      The roots of Catholic Action in the Archdiocese of New York are to be found in the long nineteenth century.¹ Though evident in some of the works of Pope Leo XIII and Pope Pius X, the parameters of Catholic Action are limned only in specific contexts. Because such early papal writings on the subject were intended largely for Italian audiences, there was no specific aspect of Catholic Action that took on a transalpine character or became universally binding, even among such lay-dominated initiatives as the European Jocist movement in the 1920s, which only gradually made a crossing to America in...

    • 2 The Liturgical Movement and Catholic Action: Women Living the Liturgical Life in the Lay Apostolate
      (pp. 46-75)

      At the first National Liturgical Week, held at the Cathedral of the Holy Name in Chicago in October 1940, a lively discussion followed Dom Roger Schoenbechler’s presentation, “The Priesthood of the Laity and Catholic Action.” Paul McGuire, popularlay lecturer and coeditor ofRestoring All Things: A Guide to Catholic Action(1938), came to the floor:

      It seems to me that this conference might very well be a turning point in the history of this country, that we might very well see here a beginning to awaken the Catholics of this country to their full responsibility as members of the Mystical...

    • 3 “The Priesthood of the Layman”: Catholic Action in the Archdiocese of San Francisco
      (pp. 76-106)

      “Catholic Action opens up a new world for the zeal of the faithful, a new world wherein they can share in the Apostolate of the Church and cooperate with their pastors and priests in spreading the Kingdom of Christ in individual souls, in families and in society.” San Francisco attorney Sylvester Andriano’s eager anticipation of a Catholicism revitalized by lay activism followed his return from Rome in September 1938. Cardinal Giuseppe Pizzardo had just approved the plans for Andriano’s proposed Catholic Action men’s organization, and Andriano shared his enthusiasm at an assembly of laity and clergy called by Archbishop John...

    • 4 From Participation to Community: John Courtney Murray’s American Justification for Catholic Action
      (pp. 107-122)

      Most of the essays in this current volume are written from the perspective of the grassroots, detailing the contrasting strategies that lay Catholics employed to sustain cultural identity, alleviate social problems, and strengthen parochial life in the decades before and after the Second Vatican Council. This chapter is different, for it is a theological portrait of Catholic Action as seen through the writings of a priest who was a member of the Catholic elite. John Courtney Murray (1904–67) was a Jesuit priest who is the consensus choice for the most influential theologian in American Catholic history. Murray is best...

    • 5 Azzione Cattolica in an American Setting: The Society of Saint Charles–Scalabrinians and Catholic Action
      (pp. 123-142)

      This chapter examines two postwar Catholic Action groups, which, though separated by distance, shared a common heritage. Established in parishes founded for Italian immigrants in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, respectively, they drew a significant portion of their membership from those Italians who migrated to the United States during the 1940s and 1950s and brought with them a familiarity with Catholic Action as practiced in Italy. The form of Catholic Action that they developed, however, was less a mechanism of lay empowerment than a means of sustaining an ethnic culture that had largely vanished from the Catholic Church...


    • 6 Relevant Transformations: The Young Women of the Extension Lay Volunteers, 1961–1971
      (pp. 145-170)

      In the oppressive heat of mid-August, 1968, in Chicago, just days before the opening of that year’s infamous Democratic National Convention, nearly one hundred twenty young American women finalized preparations for what would be a life-changing experience. In days they would be putting their training, education, and convictions to the test as they set forth to face some of the most pressing social concerns of the day and to manifest deeply held beliefs about social justice, social change, and the need to be part of something larger than themselves. Among these recent college graduates were Ruth Poochigian, a sociology and...

    • 7 Reaching Out to the People of God: The Implications of Renewal for the Sisters of Mercy in Parish Schools
      (pp. 171-196)

      In the spring of 1958, Father Thomas J. O’Brien, the pastor of St. Raymond Church in Mount Prospect, Illinois, wrote Mother Mary Regina Cunningham of the Sisters of Mercy, urging her to send him six additional sisters for the next school year, promising he would “never ask for more than twelve Nuns.” He further grimly prophesied that if the Mother Provincial failed to fulfill his request immediately, the following year “will be too late”:

      There is a time in the history of every parish and religious order, when if things are not done immediately, the parish and religious order when...

    • 8 “This Is Our Challenge! We Will Pursue It”: The National Council of Catholic Women, the Feminist Movement, and the Second Vatican Council, 1960–1975
      (pp. 197-221)

      In 2000 I began researching the history of the American Catholic feminist movement.¹ At the beginning of that project I knew very little about Catholic feminists or, indeed, Catholic women in the 1960s and 1970s. Quite early in my research I stumbled across a 1966 article about women and the Second Vatican Council. Its title, “The Buried Talents Symposium,” suggested that I might find some Catholic feminists in its pages, and I was not disappointed. The article featured the perspectives of a number of prominent Catholic women, including Margaret Mealey, identified as the executive director of the National Council of...

    • 9 Who Will Guard the Guardians? Church Government and the Ecclesiology of the People of God, 1965–1969
      (pp. 222-248)

      For a brief interval between 1965 and 1969, a vocal body of Catholic laypeople n the United States sought to apply the new theology of the People of God, articulated at the Second Vatican Council, to the sphere of Church governance. Where earlier forms of lay activism had accepted the necessary subordination of ecclesiastical structures to clerical leadership, those of the late 1960s frequently embraced what might be termed a democratic ecclesiology, which had particular resonance both in the former center of Catholic devotional life, the parish, and in the organizational nexus of the wider life of the Church, the...

    • 10 Empowering the People of God: John Cardinal Dearden’s Church of Tomorrow
      (pp. 249-273)

      Historians and Hollywood draw on these descriptors of the American 1960s to express the ambivalence and confusion over what most believe was a watershed period in the nation’s development. Historian William Chafe has cautioned only against using the term “‘watershed’ to describe a given moment” because it risks “oversimplifying the historical process.” It applies primarily to signify “an end to domination by one constellation of forces and the beginning of domination by another.”² In the scholarship of American Catholic history, “watershed” appropriately tags the 1960s as a period of unprecedented acculturation or, as some would argue, assimilation.³

      A singularly important...

    • 11 Christian Unity, Lay Authority, and the People of God: The Community of Christ Our Brother in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, 1967–1969
      (pp. 274-298)

      In 1967 the Archdiocese of Atlanta, under the leadership of Paul J. Hallinan, launched a bold experiment in parish organization. Rather than being defined by geographical boundaries, as Catholic parishes traditionally were, the new Community of Christ Our Brother would recruit its members from across the city, in the manner of the Protestant churches that dominated Atlanta’s religious landscape. The Community would seek to address social-justice problems, experiment with liturgical changes, and eventually explore avenues for ecumenical dialogue and cooperation. The accounts, given in earlier chapters, of the experiences of Cardinal Dearden in Detroit, Bishop Wright in Pittsburgh, and Bishop...

  7. Notes
    (pp. 299-380)
  8. List of Contributors
    (pp. 381-384)
  9. Index
    (pp. 385-390)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 391-394)