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34Historically Speaking · September/October 2004 ica. Yet the history presented in Catholicism andAmerican Freedom cannot bring itself to see "life" as an issue ofequivalent moral gravity . The power ofMcGreevy's earlier work, Parish Boundaries, derives from its dramatic presentation of the tragic confrontation between two goods: the struggle for racial justice and the integrity of local communities . For most of Catholicism and American Freedom, tragic conflict gives way to an evasive "tension." By the end of the discussion of "life" even this comparatively tame tension dissipates for lack of sufficient moral focus. The book ends with a whimper rather than a bang. This may indeed reflect the actual state ofAmerican Catholicism today. However , even Thomas Haskell would concede thatobjective historyinvolves the imposition ofsome inescapablymoral interpretive frameworkon the fluxofreality. McGreevy's straining after neutrality on "life" issues appears less a heroic achievement ofobjectivity than an abdication ofinterpretive responsibility. ChristopherShannon isassistantprofessorof history at Christendom College. His most recent book is A World Made Safe for Differences (Rowman andLittlefield, 2000). Response t? Ribuffo, McCarraher, and Shannon John T. McGreevy Leo Ribuffo challenges me to more fully integrate Catholic politicians and political activists into myaccount. Fair enough. In partmy explanation for the modest attention devoted to John Kennedy, Al Smith, and Joseph McCarthy is that I wrote an intellectual history not a political one, and I do discuss how Catholic and non-Catholic intellectuals understood the Smith campaign in 1928 and Kennedy's handling ofthe religious issue in 1960. What does seem notable byits absence in CAAF, in retrospect, is a thorough treatment ofreligion and politics at the local level, where the parallels between the neighborhood -based, male-dominated parish structure and the neighborhood-based, male-dominated ward structure deserve much closer attention. Ribuffo adds that more sustained treatment offigures such as Phyllis Schlafly (or, I might add, William F. Buckley) would have widened the scope of a narrative too concerned with Catholic responses to American liberals at the expense ofCatholic influence on the modern conservative movement. Again, a reasonable point. Still, fine books on the relationship between Catholics and modern conservatives do exist.1 And within the 100,000 words bequeathed me byWW. Norton I thought it more important to focus on the dominant Catholic intellectual tradition —suspicious ofliberalism, certainly, but dismissive (atleastuntil the 1980s) oíNational Review-style free market economics. Ribuffo also makes a broader claim: that I place too great an emphasis on "words" or more particularly "clergy and leading theologians " at the expense ofstudying the behavior oflay Catholics. CertainlyI do notintend to argue that all lay Catholics reflexively obeyed priests and bishops. (And some ofthe figures discussed at length in the book, including Orestes Brownson,James McMaster , andJacques Maritain, were not priests.) Or that all "Catholic" immigrants to the United States from Italy, Germany, Ireland, Mexico, or anywhere else were Catholic in a meaningful sense. What I can do is point to a subculture ofremarkable density and scope and askwhat ideas and practices sustained it. Thatall Catholics did notagreeupon or even care about the contours of those ideas and practices is unremarkable, and we should avoid placing upon Catholics a burden of coherence not impressed upon, say, followers ofJohn Dewey. Better simply to demonstrate that this subculture and its ideas had consequences. Three examples: 180,000 nuns worked in the United States by the 1960s, staffing the world's largestprivate school system and running the world's largestsystem ofprivate hospitals . And yet we have many more competent books onJane Addams and her circle at Hull House than on any aspect ofthe history ofwomen religious. Or again: in the last two weeks I received two books for review, one a biography of Peace Corps leader and vicepresidential candidate Sargent Shriver and one of 1968 presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy.2 Both books emphasize theimportance these men placed on Catholic social thought. McCarthy, in particular, was influenced by the work of French philosopher Jacques Maritain. But how many historians can spell Maritain? Or finally: I discuss at some length in CAAF the work ofJohn Ford, SJ. (not, sigh, the movie director). Ford was perhaps the most influential American Catholic moral theologianinthe two decades afterWorld War ?: advising bishops and cardinals on knotty ethical...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-6438
Print ISSN
1941-4188
Pages
pp. 34-36
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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