The Church Confronts Modernity

The Church Confronts Modernity: Catholicism since 1950 in the United States, Ireland, and Quebec

Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    The Church Confronts Modernity
    Book Description:

    The Church Confronts Modernity assesses the history of Roman Catholicism since 1950 in the United States, the Republic of Ireland, and the Canadian province of Quebec

    eISBN: 978-0-8132-2097-0
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    The March 2003 conference at the Catholic University of America that gave rise to the essays in this book coincided almost exactly with the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The city of Washington was awash in rumors of an impending terrorist attack. The eight invited speakers, four of whom were coming from outside the United States, gamely agreed to show up anyway, for which I remain profoundly grateful. But would they address an empty hall? I had already had a stream of cancellations from out-of-towners who thought it prudent to remain at home. I can still remember the anxiety-laced drive to...

  5. Quebec
    • 1. The Trajectory of Catholicism in Twentieth-Century Quebec
      (pp. 21-61)

      In the space of little more than fifty years, between the end of the Second World War and the close of the twentieth century, the Canadian province of Quebec went from being one of the most socially traditional, politically conservative, and religiously devout regions of the developed world to one of the least.

      Existing explanations for these sweeping changes, for both their breadth and their abruptness, are many and varied. They indict a panoply of variables, some marked with the impersonality of large-scale social differentiation and others with the intimacy of individual crises of commitment. But almost all of the...

    • 2. “They Are Not of Our Generation”: Youth, Gender, Catholicism, and Quebec’s Dechristianization, 1950–1970
      (pp. 62-90)

      One of the most compelling problems of postwar Canadian history was the devastating evisceration of Quebec’s Catholic identity in the space of one short decade between 1961 and 1971. In 1961 fewer than 6,500 Quebecers (less than 1 percent) declared themselves to be unbelievers, and Sunday observance, even in the highly urbanized region of Montreal, stood at 61 percent. However, by 1971, Sunday attendance in Montreal had fallen catastrophically to only 30 percent, and more troubling still was the fact that it stood at 12–15 percent for young adults aged twenty to thirty-four, raising the prospect that the Church...

  6. Ireland
    • 3. The Catholic Church in Ireland since the 1950s
      (pp. 93-149)

      In the fifty years between 1950 and the twenty-first century, Ireland has undergone the most profound and historic changes. From a country of mass emigration in the 1950s, it was in the early 2000s a receiving nation. Those coming to the island were not only returning Irish forced by economic circumstances to leave decades before for the United States, Britain, or other industrial destinations. The migrant workers of the 1990s and early twenty-first century come from the European Union, particularly the Eastern European countries, and from Africa, Asia, India, and Latin America. Thus, the Catholic Church in Ireland today is...

    • 4. Crisis of Faith or Collapse of Empire?
      (pp. 150-174)

      The bleak institution remembered by cafeteria worker Dolores sounds like the now infamous industrial schools, where Irish children suffered abuse and many other forms of cruelty at the hands of religious orders. But she is describing the Irish National Seminary at St. Patrick’s Pontifical University at Maynooth, a kind of officers training school for a militantly Catholic Ireland. And not so very many years ago, in the early ’70s. The black costume she mentions was a soutane—the seminarians’ garb from dawn to dusk, as they listened, queued, studied, and walked the well-groomed and ordered neo-Gothic corridors and yards. Up...

  7. United States
    • 5. The Catholic Church in the United States: 1950 to the Present
      (pp. 177-207)

      According to the brochure for the conference for which this paper was originally written, “The United States, the Republic of Ireland, and the Canadian province of Quebec were in many respects quite dissimilar places in 1950. But the Catholic Church in all three places enjoyed an apparently high degree of institutional vigor, particularly when compared to the Church in Western Europe.” A lot has changed since then. The Church in all three locales has experienced very broad and very deep changes. The purpose of this conference was to assess these changes in two respects. In the words of the organizers,...

    • 6. Decline or Relocation? The Catholic Presence in Church and Society, 1950–2000
      (pp. 208-236)

      Comparison across national boundaries is a difficult challenge. Historians, idolaters of the particular, are not natural comparativists. In 1992 the Journal of American History announced the internationalization of its board and issued a call to comparative history. Forty-six issues later, there is scant evidence of anything like a movement in the direction of sustained comparisons of social phenomena, political cultures, or material culture, much less the formation of religious identity, across national boundaries. The Harvard intellectual historian James Kloppenberg attributes this failure to, among other things, the increasing impossibility of mastering one’s own subfield within American history, given the access...

  8. Comparative Perspectives
    • 7. Decline and Continuity: Catholicism since 1950 in the United States, Ireland, and Quebec
      (pp. 239-267)

      The selection of the United States, Quebec, and the Republic of Ireland as the focus for a comparative analysis of Catholicism may strike some readers as an odd choice. What could possibly be learned from comparing the world’s only superpower with one of the smallest and until recently one of the poorest countries in Western Europe? What could possibly be adduced by introducing a Canadian province into the mix? The answer of course is that it makes sense to compare these three societies because the Catholic Church has a strong presence in each. The results of the charge presented in...

    • 8. Comparing Post–World War II Catholicism in Quebec, Ireland, and the United States
      (pp. 268-296)

      The title of the conference for which these papers were originally prepared, “Decline and Fall?” suggests a general disappointment with the Catholic Church and an intellectual climate of doom. Paradoxically, at this very time, I am grateful to the Catholic Church (and the other churches in the United States and Canada) for having adopted a critical stance toward the military policies of President George W. Bush. After September 11, 2001, the U.S. churches recommended caution: they demanded that the terrorists be caught and brought to trial, but warned against the use of military violence.¹ They also recommended that the government...

  9. Contributors
    (pp. 297-298)
  10. Index
    (pp. 299-302)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 303-303)