The Catholic Historical Review 88.4 (2002) 801-803
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Encyclopedia of California's Catholic Heritage, 1769-1999. By Francis J. Weber. (Mission Hills, California, and Spokane, Washington: St. Francis Historical Society and The Arthur H. Clark Company. 2001. Pp. 1148.)
The reverend archivist of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles has gathered some 1600 of his own brief accounts of people, places, and events in the Golden State and woven them into a reference work on Catholicism in California. The editors of the Catholic Encyclopedia need not worry that a rival publication has come on the market. Theirs is still the place to look for definitive information about sacraments, saints, creeds, and heresies. This volume instead is a compendium of the immigrants who brought Catholicism to California and the ways in which they "passed that precious jewel to new generations." [End Page 801]
The basic arrangement is topical: the missions, the hierarchy, the laity, and the secular clergy. Within each section the organization is generally alphabetical, but readers are advised to make liberal use of the eighteen-page index. Even with the help of the index, it is possible to miss some gems of encyclopedic information: the murders at Mission San Miguel (page 67); Cardinal McIntyre and the UFOs (page 290); the ghost in the cathedral at Monterey (page 584). Some topics overlap, and in a few cases the treatment is uneven. One section has to do with "Friars," while another discusses "Religious Men and Women." Under the heading "Ecclesial Institutions" there are twenty pages devoted to the Archival Center, of which the author is director. The remaining fifty pages explain the history of the various churches, chapels, schools, and universities not covered in other sections of the volume.
In discussing individuals Monsignor Weber saves his assessments for those who are safely dead. He admired Francis Cardinal McIntyre, "a man principled enough to have opponents, but Christlike enough to have no enemies." Admitting that Timothy Cardinal Manning was seen by some as "passive and unresponsive," the author instead found that Manning "epitomized a totally different approach, one that paralleled and extolled the relationship of Jesus with His apostles." Both men have gone to their reward, but Roger Cardinal Mahony has not. His two-page biography contains not a single word describing the archbishop's personal qualities, positive or otherwise.
Some of the entries have only a vague connection with California. Bishop Frederic Baraga of northern Michigan was apparently included because of his close friendship with Bishop Thaddeus Amat (or perhaps because the city of Pasadena took its name from Baraga's Dictionary of the Ojibway Language). Some, such as Joseph Cardinal Mindszenty, Raphael Cardinal Merry del Val, and Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli (Pope Pius XII) are there because of souvenirs and relics in the museum at the Archival Center. On the other hand, Karol Cardinal Wojtyla earned an entry by visiting the archdiocese of Los Angeles in 1976, then coming once more as Pope John Paul II. Among lay visitors who merited biographies were Henry Ward Beecher, who was not Catholic, and Hilaire Belloc, who was. California residents include Dorothy Day, who lived in Berkeley and Oakland as a child and became a Catholic as an adult. Herbert Eugene Bolton lived in Berkeley as an adult. Archbishop Hanna once said of him that he hoped the man never became a Catholic. "He does more outside the Church to vindicate the work of the missionaries than he would ever do within." A similar remark was made of George Wharton James, described by a priest-friend as "that most catholic non-Catholic admirer of the missions and friend of the Indians." These people are exceptions. Most of the biographical sketches are of Catholic men and women, starting with Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, who brought the first Catholic visitors in 1541.
If the encyclopedia has a special value for readers and students, it probably lies in the two major sections dealing with mission history. The entries covering individual missions and missionaries occupy nearly three hundred pages, distilled [End Page 802] from the author's...