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The Catholic Studies Reader

James T. Fisher

Publication Year: 2011

The Catholic Studies Reader is a rare book in an emerging field that has neither a documented history nor a consensus as to what should be a normative methodology. Dividing this volume into five interrelated themes central to the practice and theory of Catholic Studies-Sources and Contexts,Traditions and Methods, Pedagogy and Practice, Ethnicity, Race, and Catholic Studies, and The Catholic Imagination-the editors provide readers with the opportunity to understand the great diversity within this area of study. Readers will find informative essays on the Catholic intellectual tradition and Catholic social teaching, as well as reflections on the arts and literature. This provocative and enriching collection is valuable not only for scholars but also for lay and religious Catholics working in Catholic education in universities, high schools, and parish schools.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-x

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Introduction: The Need for Catholic Studies

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pp. 1-16

Margaret McGuinness was a graduate student at Union Theological Seminary (New York) when Father James J. Hennesey’s A History of the Roman Catholic Community in the United States was published in 1981, even as James Fisher was studying American cultural history down the New Jersey Turnpike at Rutgers. Although other scholars, including...

Part I: Sources and Contexts

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1. ‘‘The Story Is What Saves Us’’: American Catholic Memoirs

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pp. 19-42

Autobiographical works such as Augustine’s Confessions are the very foundation of Catholic Studies.1 Even a cursory look at the footnotes in the comprehensive histories of American Catholicism published since the 1950s reveals how deeply our understanding of the evolution of Catholic life in North America is grounded in life-writings, an elastic term for personal narratives presented in a variety of genres and formats...

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2. The Catholic Intellectual Tradition: A Classification and a Calling

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pp. 43-67

‘‘Just as we reject the principle of divorcing faith and works, so we reject the principle and the practice of divorcing the life of faith and the life of study,’’ wrote Father Leo Ward of the University of Notre Dame in 1961.1 Describing the ideal for the Catholic school, Ward’s rejection invites reflection on Catholic intellectual life. However, this comment, which might galvanize Catholic professors who perceive...

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3. Passing on the Faith: Training the Next Generation of American Practicing Catholics

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pp. 68-91

How to pass on ‘‘the faith’’? We certainly are not the first generation— and I hope not the last—to ask this question. One can find evidence of such concerns, sometimes oblique, other times explicit, in Paul’s letters, among the earliest extant Christian writings. A host of difficult questions came early to those communities that the first apostles founded. What does it mean to believe in the name of Jesus Christ...

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4. The (Catholic) Politics of Catholic Studies

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pp. 92-110

Catholic Studies, the interdisciplinary study of Catholicism, seems a simple idea, and a useful one. Yet support for reflective intelligence about Catholicism has proven controversial in the Church and in the academy, even in academies sponsored by the Church. This volume describes the emergence of interest in Catholic Studies, including initiatives to establish Catholic Studies centers and academic programs in...

Part II: Traditions and Methods

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5. Catholic Studies and Religious Studies: Reflections on the Concept of Tradition

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pp. 113-128

Although most of the chairs and programs established in Catholic Studies in recent years have been established in Catholic colleges and universities, an increasing number are appearing in non-Catholic institutions both private and public. Some of the latter have been established as interdisciplinary chairs or programs without any special relationship...

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6. A Definition of Catholic: Toward a Cosmopolitan Vision

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pp. 129-147

Catholic Studies emerges in the North American context precisely at a time when the boundaries for identifying ‘‘Catholic’’ are contested. Under conditions of globalization when persons shift in and out of a variety of local and transnational affiliations, the identifier is not as clear as perhaps it once was. In earlier periods, in so-called Catholic countries, the category ‘‘Catholic’’ encompassed the whole of society...

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7. Method and Conversion in Catholic Studies

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pp. 148-168

A former editor of the prestigious theological journal Theological Studies is reported to have remarked that Bernard Lonergan’s work was the most frequently cited in that journal. Whether accurate or not, as Lonergan’s former student in Rome in the 1960s, and as someone who owes him an immense debt of gratitude, I can testify to the great...

Part III: Pedagogy and Practice

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8. Catholic Studies in the Spirit of ‘‘Do Whatever He Tells You’’

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pp. 171-192

During a celebration of the University of Dayton’s sesquicentennial in the year 2000, the singer-songwriter alumnus who headed the university’s Center for Social Concern performed a song he had written for the occasion, ‘‘Do Whatever He Tells You.’’ At the reception after the celebration, a colleague still fairly new to the university, personally...

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9. Afflicting the Comfortable: The Role of Catholic Social Teaching in Catholic Studies Programs

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pp. 193-210

Faculty members involved in Catholic Studies programs at Catholic colleges and universities throughout the United States (and their deans, provosts, and presidents) should pay careful attention to a recent report released by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life detailing the religious landscape of the modern United States. Based on interviews with 35,000 Americans over the age of eighteen, the study...

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10. Teaching About Women, Gender, and American Catholicism

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pp. 211-234

On the first day of my ‘‘Women and American Catholicism’’ class one year, a student announced that she had enrolled in the course simply out of curiosity: ‘‘I am dying to know,’’ she said, ‘‘how a course on Women and Catholicism can last any longer than two weeks.’’ Given women’s exclusion from leadership structures within the Roman Catholic Church, she wondered, what could we possibly find to talk about...

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11. Visual Literacy and Catholic Studies

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pp. 235-256

In the late sixth century, Pope Gregory the Great wrote one of his bishops a letter on the question of iconoclasm that has reverberated down almost to the present day, frequently quoted to justify the use of images in Christian worship and later cited by scholars to explain the role of pictures in the Middle Ages. Gregory argued...

Part IV: Ethnicity, Race, and Catholic Studies

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12 We Have Been Believers: Black Catholic Studies

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pp. 259-281

On a typical sizzling New Orleans afternoon, C. Vanessa White and her classmates were socializing just minutes before their first class in Introduction to Black Theology at the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University. Amid the chatter, in stomped an unkempt black man screaming, ‘‘Somebody stole all my stuff!’’1 He turned, slammed the door, and repeated, ‘‘Somebody stole all my stuff.’’ Angrily...

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13. Asian American Catholic Experience and Catholic Studies

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pp. 282-308

A standard narrative of American religious history has relied on the Puritan sense of a common purpose. John Winthrop’s famous ‘‘City on a Hill’’ speech to the Pilgrims is emblematic of this. This narrative of election and purpose has shaped the way other religions have been measured. But in doing so it has neglected the voice of...

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14. Working Toward an Inclusive Narrative: A Call for Interdisciplinarity and Ethnographic Reflexivity in Catholic Studies

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pp. 309-328

I am a non-Catholic anthropologist of religion who, until recently, has worked primarily within Mexican American Catholic communities in the Southwest, West, and Midwest. In this essay, I raise some questions and concerns that have come up for me as an ethnographer who focuses on lived Christianities in the United States...

Part V: The Catholic Imagination

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15. Seeing Catholicly: Poetry and the Catholic Imagination

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pp. 331-351

In her poem ‘‘The Robin’s My Criterion for Tune,’’ Emily Dickinson attempts to describe the peculiar vision that powers her imagination and informs her poetry. With typical deftness, she states simply, ‘‘I see—New Englandly.’’ Anyone who has read even a few of Dickinson’s poems—each sparse and spare, yet offering up food for the soul even...

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16. Cultural Studies Between Heaven and Earth: Beyond the Puritan Pedagogy of The Scarlet Letter

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pp. 352-371

When the North American Studies section of the American Academy of Religion asked me to respond, in November 2005, to Robert A. Orsi’s book Between Heaven and Earth: The Religious Worlds People Make and the Scholars Who Study Them, I cast about for a way of revealing, in concentrated but also prismatic form, what is at issue in Orsi’s work for American Studies at large.1 Surely, Orsi has succeeded in...

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17. Catholic Studies and the Sacramental Imaginary: New Directions in Catholic Humanism

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pp. 372-394

Coming of age as a Catholic in metropolitan Philadelphia in the 1980s and 1990s, I was desensitized to the unjust reality of urban poverty at an early age. I simply assumed that trash and graffiti, abandoned cars, blocks of blighted row homes, schools that looked more like prisons, and massive stone churches that used to be Catholic were...


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pp. 395-434


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pp. 435-438


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pp. 439-452

E-ISBN-13: 9780823249244
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823234103
Print-ISBN-10: 082323410X

Page Count: 350
Publication Year: 2011