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Prophetic and Public

The Social Witness of U.S. Catholicism

Kristin E. Heyer

Publication Year: 2006

The United States was founded on a commitment to religious tolerance. Based on this commitment, it has become one of the most religiously diverse and religiously observant liberal democracies in the world. Inherent in this political reality is the question, "What is the appropriate relationship between religious beliefs and public life?" This is not a new question, but in contemporary U.S. politics it has become a particularly insistent one. In this intelligent, wide-ranging book, Kristin Heyer provides new and nuanced answers. Prophetic and Public employs the discourse of public theology to consider what constitutes appropriate religio-political engagement. According to Heyer, public theology connects religious faith, concepts, and practices to their public relevance for the wider society. Her use of public theology concepts to address the appropriate possibilities and limits for religio-political engagement in the United States is both useful and enlightening. Heyer approaches the relationship between public morality and religious commitment through the example of the Catholic Church. She looks at two prominent Catholics—Michael Baxter and Bryan Hehir—as a way of discussing norms for practice of public theology. Heyer also analyzes case studies of three U.S. Catholic advocacy groups: The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, NETWORK, and Pax Christi USA. Through her analysis she shows the various ways that the organizations' Catholic identity impacts their social and political efforts. From her investigations come norms that define possibilities and limits for political actions based on religious conviction. This deeply thoughtful book examines what is truly fundamental and inescapable about public life and private religious belief in the United States. In doing so, it makes skillful use of the tools of theology, philosophy, law, and advocacy to demonstrate that the Catholic Church reveals great diversity in its public theology, providing legitimate options for a faithful response to urgent political issues.The United States was founded on a commitment to religious tolerance. Based on this commitment, it has become one of the most religiously diverse and religiously observant liberal democracies in the world. Inherent in this political reality is the question, "What is the appropriate relationship between religious beliefs and public life?" This is not a new question, but in contemporary U.S. politics it has become a particularly insistent one. In this intelligent, wide-ranging book, Kristin Heyer provides new and nuanced answers. Prophetic and Public employs the discourse of public theology to consider what constitutes appropriate religio-political engagement. According to Heyer, public theology connects religious faith, concepts, and practices to their public relevance for the wider society. Her use of public theology concepts to address the appropriate possibilities and limits for religio-political engagement in the United States is both useful and enlightening. Heyer approaches the relationship between public morality and religious commitment through the example of the Catholic Church. She looks at two prominent Catholics—Michael Baxter and Bryan Hehir—as a way of discussing norms for practice of public theology. Heyer also analyzes case studies of three U.S. Catholic advocacy groups: The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, NETWORK, and Pax Christi USA. Through her analysis she shows the various ways that the organizations' Catholic identity impacts their social and political efforts. From her investigations come norms that define possibilities and limits for political actions based on religious conviction. This deeply thoughtful book examines what is truly fundamental and inescapable about public life and private religious belief in the United States. In doing so, it makes skillful use of the tools of theology, philosophy, law, and advocacy to demonstrate that the Catholic Church reveals great diversity in its public theology, providing legitimate options for a faithful response to urgent political issues.

Published by: Georgetown University Press

Title page copyright page

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pp. v-vi

Contents

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pp. ix-x

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xii

Although writing a book can be a solitary endeavor, I owe a debt of gratitude to many people for its completion. I am particularly grateful to David Hollenbach, S.J., Tom Massaro, S.J., and...

Abbreviations and Acronyms

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pp. xiii-

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Introduction

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pp. xv-xx

In a nation founded on religious tolerance that has become one of the most religiously diverse and religiously observant liberal democracies in the world, it is no surprise that the proper relationship between religion and public life has remained an open question. An even longer history of debate surrounds church-society and church-world questions...

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CHAPTER ONE

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pp. 1-26

Given the origins of the United States and the religious diversity that continues to characterize the nation, it is no surprise that the proper relationship between religion and public life in the United States has remained an open question. Despite evidence of the involvement of religion in public life and recent theological and sociological literature....

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CHAPTER TWO

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pp. 27-58

We have encountered an array of objections to public religious engagement on various secular grounds—yet secularists are not alone in avoiding public religious engagement. Many Christians protest that such engagement risks diminishing religious purity, and that the church’s primary task is to preach the gospel, not to become entangled in politics....

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CHAPTER THREE

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pp. 59-118

The conciliar and episcopal statements surveyed demonstrate that the official stance of the Catholic magisterium, as it has developed post–Vatican II, is one of church engaged with state and society. We have also encountered a certain ambivalence in such documents and the broader...

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CHAPTER FOUR

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pp. 119-176

The Catholic Church in the United States has maintained a presence in Washington since the National Catholic Welfare Conference was established just after World War I. Today, its successor, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), works in part to advocate...

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CHAPTER FIVE

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pp. 177-214

We have already alluded to some of the ways in which these case studies of Catholic political advocacy organizations shed light upon the theological foundations and theoretical distinctions that have emerged. In some instances, the cases serve to exemplify theological conceptions...

Bibliography of Primary Sources

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pp. 215-218

Index

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pp. 219-228


E-ISBN-13: 9781589013971
Print-ISBN-13: 9781589010826

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2006

Series Title: Moral Traditions
Series Editor Byline: James F. Keenan, SJ, series editor