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Empowering the People of God

Catholic Action before and after Vatican II

Jeremy Bonner

Publication Year: 2013

The early 1960s were a heady time for Catholic laypeople. Pope Pius XII's assurance "You do not belong to the Church. You are the Church" emboldened the laity to challenge Church authority in ways previously considered unthinkable. Empowering the People of God offers a fresh look at the Catholic laity and its relationship with the hierarchy in the period immediately preceding the Second Vatican Council and in the turbulent era that followed. This collection of essays explores a diverse assortment of manifestations of Catholic action, ranging from genteel reform to radical activism, and an equally wide variety of locales, apostolates, and movements.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 1-8


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

Like all collaborative publications, this book stands at the endpoint of years of planning, evolution, and consensus in which many people and institutions had a part. Special thanks are due to the Sisters of Mercy of the former Chicago Regional Community (now West Midwest), and espe-cially its archivist, Joella Cunnane, R.S.M.; the reference and circulation ...

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pp. 1-18

The early 1960s were a heady time for Catholic laypeople. Almost over-night, it seemed, the winds of change had begun to blow through the corridors of the Vatican, ruffl ing the feathers of its clerical doorkeepers, while at the same time conveying an assurance to lay leaders throughout the world that the shaping of the Church’s future was in their hands. By ...

Part I: Catholic Action

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1. Catholic Action in the Archdiocese of New York

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pp. 21-45

The roots of Catholic Action in the Archdiocese of New York are to be found in the long nineteenth century.1 Though evident in some of the works of Pope Leo XIII and Pope Pius X, the parameters of Catholic Action are limned only in specific contexts. Because such early papal writings on the subject were intended largely for Italian audiences...

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2. The Liturgical Movement and Catholic Action

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pp. 46-75

At the first National Liturgical Week, held at the Cathedral of the Holy Name in Chicago in October 1940, a lively discussion followed Dom Roger Schoenbechler’s presentation, “The Priesthood of the Laity and Catholic Action.” Paul McGuire, popular lay lecturer and coeditor of...

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3. “The Priesthood of the Layman”

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pp. 76-106

“Catholic Action opens up a new world for the zeal of the faithful, a new world wherein they can share in the Apostolate of the Church and cooperate with their pastors and priests in spreading the Kingdom of Christ in individual souls, in families and in society.” San Francisco attorney...

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4. From Participation to Community

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pp. 107-122

Most of the essays in this current volume are written from the perspective of the grassroots, detailing the contrasting strategies that lay Catholics employed to sustain cultural identity, alleviate social problems, and strengthen parochial life in the decades before and after the Second Vatican Council. This chapter is different, for it is a theological portrait...

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5. Azzione Cattolica in anAmerican Setting

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pp. 123-142

This chapter examines two postwar Catholic Action groups, which, though separated by distance, shared a common heritage. Established in parishes founded for Italian immigrants in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, respectively, they drew a significant portion of their membership from those Italians who migrated to the United States...

Part II: The People of God

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6. Relevant Transformations

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pp. 145-170

In the oppressive heat of mid-August, 1968, in Chicago, just days before the opening of that year’s infamous Democratic National Convention, nearly one hundred twenty young American women finalized preparations for what would be a life- changing experience. In days they would be putting their training, education, and convictions to the test as they...

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7. Reaching Out to the People of God

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pp. 171-196

In the spring of 1958, Father Thomas J. O’Brien, the pastor of St. Raymond Church in Mount Prospect, Illinois, wrote Mother Mary Regina Cunningham of the Sisters of Mercy, urging her to send him six additional sisters for the next school year, promising he would “never ask for more...

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8. “This Is Our Challenge!We Will Pursue It”

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pp. 197-221

In 2000 I began researching the history of the American Catholic feminist movement.1 At the beginning of that project I knew very little about Catholic feminists or, indeed, Catholic women in the 1960s and 1970s. Quite early in my research I stumbled across a 1966 article about women and the Second Vatican Council. Its title, “The Buried Talents...

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9. Who Will Guard the Guardians?

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pp. 222-248

For a brief interval between 1965 and 1969, a vocal body of Catholic laypeople n the United States sought to apply the new theology of the People of God, articulated at the Second Vatican Council, to the sphere of Church governance. Where earlier forms of lay activism had accepted the necessary subordination of ecclesiastical structures to clerical leadership...

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10. Empowering the People of God

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pp. 249-273

Historians and Hollywood draw on these descriptors of the American 1960s to express the ambivalence and confusion over what most believe was a watershed period in the nation’s development. Historian William Chafe has cautioned only against using the term “ ‘watershed’ to describe a given moment” because it risks “oversimplifying the...

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11. Christian Unity, Lay Authority,and the People of God

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pp. 274-298

In 1967 the Archdiocese of Atlanta, under the leadership of Paul J. Hallinan, launched a bold experiment in parish organization. Rather than being defined by geographical boundaries, as Catholic parishes traditionally were, the new Community of Christ Our Brother would recruit its members from across the city, in the manner of the Protestant churches...


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pp. 299-380


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pp. 381-384


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pp. 385-389

Further Reading

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pp. 405-408

E-ISBN-13: 9780823254033
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823254002
Print-ISBN-10: 0823254003

Page Count: 408
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: Cloth