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Posted August 4, 2005

Book: American Catholic Religious Thought: The Shaping of a Theological and Social Tradition
Edited by: Patrick W. Carey
Marquette University Press, Milwaukee, WI, pp.486

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

As American Catholics and other Americans move into the twenty-first century it might be helpful to re-assess American Catholic religious and social thought during the past two centuries. Have American Catholics produced any creative theological responses to the issues and forces that confronted them over the past two centuries? Have they added anything worthwhile to the classical European formulations? Have they developed some of their own traditions that need critiques in our own day? In his introduction to this collection of original writings, Patrick Carey argues that American Catholics, from John Carroll to John Courtney Murray, have exhibited a fresh, vigorous ability to engage the great religious and social questions of their time in creative continuity with their inherited tradition an sometimes in capitulation to the culture in which they lived. Whether they were responding to the Enlightenment or to the Romantic mood, to the slavery and capitalism, to Modernism, to Neo-Scholasticism, or to twentieth-century problems of social justice, Catholic Americans have produced a stimulating theological commentary that is worth re-examining.

An Excerpt from the Book:

The Neo-Thomistic synthesis was of short duration. American Catholics prior to the 1920s were almost totally unaffected by it. American Catholic history shows, if one concentrates upon the writings of its major opinion makers, that American Catholic thought prior to Vatican II cannot be put into some kind of intellectual straightjacket called Post-Tridentine Catholicism. A number of intellectual changes and shifts of emphases existed amidst the fundamental ecclesiastical, sacramental and devotional unities. By experience as well as by intellectual culture American Catholic thinkers were not entirely out of contact with the modern world. Their intellectual world was not a ghetto world, as some would have us believe.

Although American Catholic thinkers did indeed relate their understanding of Christianity t the larger currents of Western thought during the pre-Vatican II period, they developed few intellectual centers for a more systematic examination of their Catholic tradition within American society. Seminaries and the Graduate School of Theology at the Catholic University had been the primary source of theological education prior to Vatican II; gradually thereafter, the universities became the primary source for the theological education of lay men and women as well as clergy. Encouraged by the conciliar developments of Vatican II, greater contact with twentieth-century European, Catholic intellectual traditions, and the general mutations in American social consciousness, American Catholic thinkers began to establish graduate theological schools at their major universities (e.g., Marquette, Fordham, St. Louis, Notre Dame, Boston College).

Catholic laity and clergy, educated at these schools, the European Catholic schools of theology, and the American Protestant and secular universities began to establish or strengthen departments of theology and religious studies at various Catholic and secular universities. The diversity of professional theological education, among other things, led almost inevitably toward pluralism in theological perspectives in American Catholicism.

The Table of Contents:


Enlightenment Catholicism

Romantic Catholicism

Vatican I and Papal Authority


Modernism and Progressivism

Social justice

Neo-Thomism and Catholic culture

Part I: The Enlightenment
1. John England

Part II: Romantic Catholicism
2. Orestes A. Brownson
3. Isaac Thomas Hecker

Part III: Vatican I and Papal Authority
4. Martin John Spalding

Part IV Americanism
5. John Ireland

Part V. Modernism and Progressivism
6. John Montgomery Cooper

Part VI. Social Justice
7. John Hughes
8. Catholicism and Slavery
9. Edward McGlynn
10. John Augustine Ryan

Part VII: Neo-Thomism and Catholic Culture
11. John Stanislaus Zybura
12. Dorothy Day
13. Dom Virgil Michel
14. John Courtney Murray