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The Transformation of American Catholicism

The Pittsburgh Laity and the Second Vatican Council, 1950-1972

Timothy Kelly

Publication Year: 2009

Most scholars and media analysts have suggested that Vatican II revolutionized American Catholicism, with the changes it mandated filtering down from the Council to the church hierarchy to the laity. Timothy Kelly's book challenges this assumption, based on his careful tracing of Catholic lay practices in the Pittsburgh Diocese from the 1950s through the 1970s. The lay experience of American Catholics did change dramatically in the 1960s, but Kelly argues that the transformation began earlier, before the Council, and continued throughout the next decade. Kelly examines the discourse of Catholicism in the 1950s and compares this to actual lay behavior. He discusses critical changes introduced by Vatican II and follows the lay response for a decade after the last Council sessions to illuminate Catholic efforts to implement the changes in everyday practice. His individual chapters focus on devotional behavior, liturgical reforms, and broader social and cultural issues. Kelly's social history reveals that Vatican II was not a shock to a complaisant and unquestioning laity as much as a reform necessary to keep pace with changing religious, social, and cultural sensibilities. As Catholics rejected a heavily devotional religiosity, they sought instead practices that resonated more with their lived experiences. An emphasis on social justice grew, but lay Catholics had not yet charted a clear path by the end of the Council's last session, and by that time, church officials had begun to resist some of the Vatican II reforms. A fascinating study of the most profound transformation in American Catholicism in the last century, Kelly's work is an important contribution to Catholic history.

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-xii

IN THE AUTUMN OF FOUR YEARS BETWEEN 1962 AND 1965 ROMAN Catholic bishops from all over the world gathered in Rome for the Second Vatican Council. The decisions they made during those sessions proved so powerful that Catholics continue to see it as the primary historical divide of the past century. Yet we do not fully comprehend its impact, especially as it relates to ...

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pp. xiii-xvi

I WROTE THIS STUDY IN THREE PHASES AND OWE MANY THANKS TO a range of people in each of them. It began as a dissertation at Carnegie Mellon University, where a concentration of extraordinary social historians had joined to form an exhilarating environment for successive cohorts of graduate students. Peter Stearns,Mike Weber,Anne Rose, Joe Trotter, Kate Lynch, and especially John and Judy Modell ...

Part One. The Pre-Conciliar Church

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CHAPTER ONE Pittsburgh Catholics and the Materialist Crisis

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pp. 2-19

The city of Pittsburgh lies in the Appalachian Plateau, to the west of the northern reaches of the Appalachian Mountains. Geologists tell us that the Appalachian Mountains formed about 200 - 300 million years ago when North America collided with Africa, and the force of this continental crash pushed skyward what had until then been low-lying sedimentary rocks. These ranges’ once mighty ...

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CHAPTER TWO Anti-Communism and the Decline of Catholic Devotionalism

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pp. 20-59

THE SOLUTION TO THE MATERIALIST CRISIS THAT SO WORRIED Pittsburgh’s Catholics proved just as pervasive and complex as the problem itself. The crisis discourse urged Pittsburgh Catholics to fight materialism with three primary strategies, though these were not presented as a coherent three-pronged program. The first and most heavily emphasized strategy was a continued (and ...

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CHAPTER THREE Catholic Separatism and the Opening of the Catholic Ghetto

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pp. 60-107

IF CHURCH OFFICIALS PRESCRIBED DEVOTIONALISM TO COMBAT Communism and affirm society’s spiritual dimension, they also instructed Catholics to create a social and cultural world relatively safe from the forces in American culture that denied the spiritual realm. Catholics were to build and sustain a cultural ghetto that clearly separated them from others.Walls separating ...

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CHAPTER FOUR Social Justice and Reform

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pp. 108-161

IN MANY WAYS, THE CATHOLIC COMMITMENT TO SOCIAL JUSTICE represented a strategy for combating materialism very different from both devotionalism and the attempt to maintain the Catholic cultural and social ghetto. For the two latter approaches called Catholics out of the public realm (at least partially) and into the private sphere. In this way the Church could secure the ...

PART TWO. Aggiornamento Americano

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CHAPTER FIVE The Second Vatican Council in Rome and Pittsburgh, 1962-1965

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pp. 164-196

Bishops from all over the world met in Rome for the Second Vatican Council during four consecutive autumns to re-examine the Church in light of modern developments. They debated the very principles that undergird the Church and issued documents setting a new course for Catholicism.All Pittsburgh Catholics watched the deliberations carefully, but the Liturgical Commission members ...

PART THREE. The Post-Conciliar Church

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CHAPTER SIX The Diocesan Pastoral Council

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pp. 198-221

SHORTLY AFTER BISHOP WRIGHT RETURNED TO PITTSBURGH FROM Rome he began significant reform within the diocese. In addition, other members of the Pittsburgh diocese too began work inspired or at least emboldened by Vatican reforms. The diocesan activities represented the official implementation of the Second Vatican Council in the Pittsburgh Church. They lent official ...

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CHAPTER SEVEN Devotional Catholicism in the Wake of Vatican II

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pp. 222-241

THOUGH STRONG EVIDENCE POINTS TO LAYMEN AND LAYWOMEN’S increasing rejection of devotional behaviors in the 1950s,Church officials did not acknowledge any change until the mid-1960s. It is not clear whether Church officials did not see the decline before then or simply chose not to discuss it openly. But in the years after the Council they noted the decline with alarm, and sought ...

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CHAPTER EIGHT The Promise of a Democratic Church

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pp. 242-271

VATICAN II HAD ENDED, THE LITURGICAL REFORMS WERE WELL ON their way to implementation, the Diocesan Pastoral Council was up and running, but the diocese had yet to take stock and implement the reforms in a systematic and comprehensive way.Accordingly, Bishop Wright determined in 1968 that the diocese should have a synod to implement the Second Vatican ...

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CHAPTER NINE The Post-Conciliar Parishes

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pp. 272-295

THE DIOCESE SERVED AS THE MOST EXPLICIT AND DETERMINED interpreter of the Second Vatican Council reforms in Pittsburgh. It had the resources and the impetus to translate the reforms into official programs.Moreover, the Council had elevated the bishops’ stature and authority within the hierarchy, had made the bishops aware of the opportunity and responsibility to ...

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pp. 296-299

THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN AMERICA CHANGED DRAMATICALLY between 1950 and 1972, beginning almost a decade before the Second Vatican Council and continuing right through and beyond the Council. The laity began to move away from the devotional Catholicism that had so powerfully shaped their lives for a century by 1950, but it is not certain where they were headed. ...


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pp. 300-346


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pp. 347-353

E-ISBN-13: 9780268084547
E-ISBN-10: 0268084548
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268033194
Print-ISBN-10: 0268033196

Page Count: 376
Publication Year: 2009