The Social Mission of the U.S. Catholic Church
A Theological Perspective
Publication Year: 2011
How does the Church function in the world? What is it called to do, and what does it actually do? Charles E. Curran explores the social mission of the U.S. Catholic Church from a theological perspective, analyzing and assessing four asp
Published by: Georgetown University Press
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This book deals with the social mission of the U.S. Catholic Church from a theological perspective, and treats four significant aspects of that mission—its importance, who carries it out, how it is carried out, and the roles that the Church and individual Catholics play in supporting it. Post–Vatican II theology has insisted on the importance of the social missionof the Church as a constitutive dimension of the Gospel and the Church’s mission. Simply stated, without a social mission there is no Church...
1. Early Historical Context and Taking Care of Our Own
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An overview of the social mission of the Catholic Church in the United States before the Second Vatican Council (1962–65) will provide important building blocks for developing a contemporary systematic understanding of the social mission of the Church. Three factors heavily influence the social mission of the Church—the understanding of the Church (ecclesiology), the changing sociological relationship of the Catholic Church to U.S.society and ethos, and the changing circumstances affecting life in the United...
2. The Social Mission of the Church in the First Part of the Twentieth Century
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The concerns of the immigrant Church in the nineteenth century left little place for the social mission of the Church in the broader U.S. society. American Catholics assimilated into American society as immigration declined and they could pay more theoretical and practical attention to the social mission of the Church. The writings of John A. Ryan and the bishops’ 1919 ‘‘Program of Social Reconstruction’’ illustrate the first attempts by the U.S. Catholic Church to develop its social mission...
3. The Understanding of the Church after Vatican II
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The previous two chapters show how the U.S. Catholic Church structured its social mission before Vatican II. Theological understanding of the Church and different Catholic cultural and social situations in this country greatly influenced how the Church carried out its social mission...
4. Vatican II and a New Understanding of the Social Mission
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In the pre–Vatican II period the social mission of the Church was twofold—divinization and humanization. Divinization was the work of sanctifying God’s people, whereas humanization was the mission of working for the betterment of the world...
5. Post–Vatican II Development of Three Earlier Instances of the Social Mission
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The preceding chapters treat the changed understanding of the Churchand the social mission of the Church together with the assimilation of Catholics into the U.S. cultural mainstream. This chapter considers three earlier initiatives of the social mission in light of the developments discussed in the previous chapters. Catholic health care facilities and Catholic Charities continue to exist with the same basic purpose of caring for the sick and the needy, but they have changed dramatically...
6. Three Significant Issues in the Post–Vatican II Church
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Catholic social action sometimes takes the form of organized and concerted efforts targeting particular issues. This chapter discusses three such issues in the post–Vatican II Church that occasioned this type of action. Abortion became the most significant issue for the Church following the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision in 1973, and has remained so ever since...
7. Roles of the Church in Supporting the Social Mission
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What role should the Church and its members play in trying to achieve its social mission? This chapter presupposes all that has been said about the understanding of the Church and its social mission today as well as the sociological understanding of the Church and Catholics in United States culture and society. Particular instances of the social involvement of the Church at times have been quite contentious, as illustrated by the U.S. abortion law debate in the last few decades...
8. U.S. Bishops and Abortion Law
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In the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, U.S. bishops as a national body and as individual heads of dioceses have devoted more time, energy, and money to abortion than to any other single issue. The media has given great attention to the role of the U.S. bishops on the abortion issue. This chapter describes bishop involvement and offers analysis and criticism of their approach...
Conclusions: Looking Backward and Forward
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Three significant factors have influenced the understanding and structuring of the social mission of the U.S. Catholic Church. The first is the theological understanding of the Church and its social mission. Here Vatican II theology has posited an approach that culminated in a recognition that action on behalf of justice and the transformation of the world is a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel and the mission of the Church...
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Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2011
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