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September/October 2004 Historically Speaking 25 Catholicism and American Freedom: A Forum IN THE LAST ISSUE o/Historically Speaking, wefeatured aforum onJonathan Edwards's place in the American history narrative. In this issue we turn the spotlight to the largestAmerican denomination, Roman Catholicism, in an effort to explore its impact on the nation'spoliticalandintellectual life. As with theforum onJonathan Edwards, we again debate whether the standard narrative ofAmerican history adequately encompasses religious experience and thought. And we also touch on the more controversial notion ofrewriting American historyfrom distinctive religiousperspectives. Our guide will be University ofNotre Dame historianJohn T. McGreevy, whose Catholicism and American Freedom was publishedlastyear byW.W. Norton. On May 7, 2004, the HistoricalSociety andthe IntercollegiateStudies Institute co-hosteda forum on McGreevy's book at ISI's headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware. McGreevy openedwith a briefsynopsis ofCatholicism and American Freedom, after which Leo Ribuffo, Christopher Shannon, and Eugene McGarraherprovided commentary and then McGreevy responded. Edited versions oftheparticipants' comments appear below. Catholicism and American Freedom John T. McGreevy Catholicism andAmerican Freedom [CAAF] sketches the interplay between Catholic andAmerican ideas offreedom, beginningin the 1840s when an unprecedented wave of European immigrants made Catholicism the single largest religious denomination in the United States. Many of these immigrants helped create what historians now describe as the 19th-century Catholic revival.1 The revival affected large regions ofFrance, Belgium , Germany, and Italy, and swept across Ireland and into the United States, Canada, parts of Latin America, and Australia. Mass attendance became more regular, and religious vocations (especially among young women) grew steadily. Ultramontanism, the term most associated with the revival, is shorthand for a cluster ofshifts that included a Vatican-fostered move to Thomistic philosophy , a more intense experiential piety centered on miracles and Vatican-approved devotions such as the Sacred Heart, an international outlook suspicious ofnational variations within Catholicism, and a heightened respect for church authorities ranging from the pope to parish priests. All this was nurtured in the world of Catholic parishes, schools, and associations, whose members often understood themselves as arrayed The Reverend Mother Claudia at the plate. St Bernedette's School, Dearborn, Michigan, ca. 1 950s.© Bettmann/CORBIS. against the wider society. 2 What this revival and its intellectual legacy meant for the history of the United States is my subject. The story moves from 19th-century debates over education, slavery, and nationalism to 20th- and 2 lst-century discussions of social welfare policy, democracy , birth control, abortion, and sexual abuse. Questions asked include: Why did so few Catholics urge the abolition of slavery and whywere so manyabolitionists anti-Catholic? Why did anti-Catholicism so powerfully shape American political and intellectual life in the late 19th century (as it did in much of Europe and Latin America)? How did Catholic ideas ofthe economy coalesce with those ofthe Democratic Party in the 1930s? How did Catholic ideas about human sexualityand human life split apart from leaders in thatpartyin the 1960s? And finally, how can historians ofthe United States place what is arguably the central religious event of the 20th century, the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), into the narrative ofAmerican history ? A guiding assumption is that the interplaybetween Catholic and American remains poorly understood. In part this is because manyinfluential modern Catholic thinkers— Jaime Balmes from Spain, Joseph Kleutgen, Heinrich Pesch, Karl Rahner, and Bernard Häring from Germany, Matteo Liberatore from Italy,John HenryNewman from England , Charles Montalembert, Jacques Maritain , Yves Congar, Marie-Dominique Chenu, and Henri de Lubac from France, Bernard 26Historically Speaking September/October 2004 Lonergan from Canada, Gustavo Gutiérrez from Peru, and Karol Wojtyla (John Paul II) from Poland—did not always (or ever) write in English or workin the United States. At the same time, historians ofthe United States seem to have agreed with an 1861 New York Times editorial announcing that "intelligent minds in every country" thought Catholic beliefa "fast-vanishing quality."5 In contrast to colleagues studying Europe and Latin America, historians ofthe United States have evinced little interest in the ideas sustaining Catholic institutions (thousands of churches, the world's largest private school system, the nation's largest social welfare agencies, the world's largest chain ofprivate hospitals) and communicants. Mosthistorians of the...


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