Cover image for Roman Catholicism in America
Roman Catholicism in America
Gillis, Chester, 1951-
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Publication Information:
New York : Columbia University Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
x, 365 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.

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BX1406.2 .G45 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Who are American Catholics and what do they believe and practice? What is distinctive about the expression of Catholicism in America and how have Catholics influenced and been influenced by American culture and society? What different types of Catholics make up the church today? Chester Gillis offers a cogent survey of U.S. Catholic history, emphasizing the post-Vatican II era, and goes on to explore the various roles and missions of the church in education, health care, charity, and more.

One of the themes running through the narrative is the persistent tension between Rome and the American church, which is shaped by a thoroughly modern, dynamic, and secular culture. Also discussed is the changing role of authority and how Catholic notions of authority have changed over the past forty years and why.

Author Notes

Chester Gillis is associate professor of Theology and Catholic Studies at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this new study, Gillis (Pluralism: A New Paradigm for Theology) provides a broad overview of the history and practice of Catholicism in America at the end of the 20th century. He attempts to offer an explanation of Roman Catholicism and its rites and practices for an American public for whom, he says, Roman Catholicism's doctrine and polity remain a mystery. In addition, the author examines the tensions between Roman Catholicism's universality (its doctrines, dogmas and papal encyclicals that are the same worldwide) and its particularity (the ways in which the American Church interprets these universal principles for its particular context). In his opening chapter, Gillis combines sociological analysis and case studies to answer the question "Who are American Catholics?" He offers five categories that describe the variety of contemporary Catholics: "By the Rules Catholics," "Bend and Break the Rules Catholics," "Ignore the Rules Catholics," "Rules Don't Pertain to Me Catholics," and "Don't Know the Rules Catholics." Gillis then provides a historical overview of the development of the Catholic Church in America from colonial times to the present, including brief glimpses of the popes and other religious leaders who played significant roles in shaping that history. Final sections explore specific Catholic teachings and beliefs, ranging from the infallibility of the pope to the Sacraments and the ways in which American Catholics incorporate these beliefs into their practice. One appendix includes brief profiles of selected American Catholics from the late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin to film star Martin Sheen. Another offers a time line highlighting events in American Catholic history from 1634 to the present. Gillis's inviting prose and discerning insights make this a fine introduction to American Catholicism. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This new series, written by leading scholars for students and general readers, portrays the diversity and complexity of religious life in America, focusing on the influence of Western society as a major challenge that religious groups will face in the 21st century. Both works contain profiles of noteworthy individuals, suggestions for further reading, glossaries, chronologies, and a list of web sites. Gillis (theology and Catholic studies, Georgetown Univ.) provides an excellent survey. In the chapter "Who Are the American Catholics?" for example, he breaks down types of Catholics by geography, ethnic background, and income; charts and informative statistics supplement the text without becoming tedious. This title includes a detailed synopsis of the history of Catholicism, with special emphasis on Vatican II and the tensions between Rome and AmericaÄpartially due to issues such as women's ordination, birth control, and abortion rights. Smith (Islamic studies, Hartford Seminary) writes a general introduction to Islam as practiced by American Muslims. Islam in America outlines the influences of a secular and materialistic Western culture, the keenly felt prejudices on the part of non-Muslims, and the misunderstandings between Muslims that often arise when they try to balance cultural expectations with the value system of the conservative Middle East. Of special interest is the chapter on African American Muslims and other smaller groups. Highly recommended for academic and public libraries. [For more on Islam, see "Bridging the Gap: Islam in America," LJ 10/1/98, p. 59-63.ÄEd.]ÄMichael W. Ellis, Ellenville P.L., NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Here we have two important and incisive books on the general theme of American Roman Catholicism by well-respected academics in the sociology of religion. Gillis (theology and Catholic studies, Georgetown Univ.) writes as an authentic insider, focussing on American Catholic identity and community and addressing an audience that specifically includes non-Catholics who are searching for what it is that distinguishes Catholics from their American culture. Zoller (political sociology and director of the Center of American Studies, Bayreuth Univ.) is a judicious outsider who follows in the spirit of 1830s French literary journeyman Alexis de Tocqueville: he comes to America and "brown bags" it as his own way of testing his developing views on the relationship between Catholicism and the American setting. Gillis initiates Columbia's new "Contemporary American Religion Series" and maintains that there is simply no singular experience of American Catholicism, that "for all its traditions, this is a changing church." Zoller, previously a visiting professor at Notre Dame, concedes that American Catholicism is a "cultural improbability," that American Catholics gravitate to the center and remain "fundamentally loyal and opposed to all extreme positions." Both writers flesh out a concise and sympathetic portrait of the history of American Catholicism to the present day, with special emphasis on the post-Vatican II era. Gillis singles out "selective Catholics"--sometimes panned as "cafeteria Catholics"--who simply "take what they like and leave the rest go." Zoller counters with his newly educated class of "church mice" Catholics who are on the cutting edge of social activism and ecumenical pioneering. Both books are welcome additions for undergraduates and faculty. If one has to make the unfortunate and difficult choice of one over both, this reviewer would opt for Gillis because of his "insider's approach." With his appendixes of "Select Prominent American Catholics" and a helpful time line, Gillis provides an added dimension on contemporary Catholic social issues that include poverty, the role of women, sexual ethics, and abortion. D. W. Ferm Colby College



Chapter One Who Are American Catholics? The American church is sometimes criticized by the media, by outsiders, and by Catholics themselves. Yet for all of the controversies that swirl around this ancient institution, 60 million people find a spiritual home within it. The National Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., is filled to capacity at three o'clock on a Saturday afternoon in May with married couples of all ages celebrating their wedding anniversaries by renewing their wedding vows. At Holy Cross parish in Batavia, Illinois, Father Stephen St. Jules and a team of volunteers lead a teenage retreat called a "Lock-in" in which the retreatants literally lock themselves in the parish hall for a weekend of talks, prayer, skits, fun, music, confession, and Eucharist, much of which is prepared and presented by the teenagers themselves. In a poor neighborhood in St. Louis, Catholic volunteers stand side-by-side with people of other religions, cooking and serving meals for the homeless in a soup kitchen. After mass in a parish in New York City, a Right to Life group gathers signatures to send Congress urging them to pass a partial-birth abortion restriction. At Gethsemane Monastery in Kentucky a handful of Catholics visit the monastery for a retreat during which they join the monks in chapel for prayer in the middle of the night. In a nursing home in Idaho, shut-ins attend mass in the nursing home all-purpose room. In a hospital in Las Vegas, Father Gerard McNulty of the Veteran's Administration administers the sacrament of the sick to a patient weakened by cancer. In Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, at ten o'clock on a Sunday morning tour buses park next to St. Andrew's Church as people dressed in vacation-wear stream into the church for mass. At the Motherhouse of the Racine Dominicans in Wisconsin, "retired" sisters in their 80s and 90s knit, crochet, and sew clothes for the poor--their arthritic fingers fashioning colorful garments, in an attempt to bring beauty to the lives of the homeless and disenfranchised. Keeping the sisters in touch with modernity, Sisters Therese Rotarius and Mary Fisher teach computer skills to community members. On Saturday afternoon at five o'clock, theologian David Tracy celebrates Eucharist with the community at Calvert House, the Catholic student center at the University of Chicago. In the U.S. penitentiary at Lompoc, California, Father Michael Kirkness, a federal prison chaplain, counsels an inmate. In Burlington, Vermont, the Knights of Columbus host a communion beakfast. None of these events will be noted in the media, but they are part of the everyday realities of Catholicism in America. A Community that Worships In the still of an early April night, as spring crowds out winter and darkness overcomes the dying light of day, several hundred people gather outside the entrance to Saint Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland. A small fire struggles against the wind in a charcoal grill. A few people distribute candles to the crowd. Cars pass by in the background. It is eight o'clock, and it is already dark. The Easter Vigil is about to begin. The murmur and shuffling subside as the presider, a priest, Father Robert Duggan, dressed in a plain white robe covered by a cream-colored outer vestment and stole with gold embroidered threads enhancing their simple beauty, begins the ceremony with the words: Dear friends in Christ, on this most holy night, when Our Lord Jesus Christ passed from death to life, the church invites her children throughout the world to come together in vigil and prayer. This is the passover of the Lord: if we honor the memory of his death and resurrection by hearing his word and celebrating his mysteries, then we may be confident that we shall share his victory over death and live with him for ever in God.     The priest, assisted by another white-robed man, a deacon, Rev. Mr. James McCann, blesses the new fire. The deacon holds a thick white candle about three feet long while the priest inscribes a cross on it and places the first letter of the Greek alphabet (alpha) above the cross and the last letter (omega) below it, symbolizing that Christ is the beginning and the end of all creation. He also places numeral figures of the current year in the arms of the cross, and five grains of incense symbolizing the five wounds of Christ. Then the priest lights the candle from the fire.     The congregation funnels into the church, which is shrouded in darkness. When they are situated in their places, the deacon, preceded by the priest and several altar servers (girls and boys, men and women), raises the lighted candle high and chants "Light of Christ," to which the people sing in response "Thanks be to God." Then the deacon lowers the candle while two of the servers light their small candles from the large one. They, in turn, light the candles of the other servers, who begin to light the candles of each person standing at the ends of the rows. The procession continues to the middle of the church where the deacon raises the Paschal Candle a second time and repeats the chant, to which the people respond again in simple song. As the procession advances to the altar, the entire church is aglow in soft candlelight. A third time the ritual elevation of the candle is repeated, and when the congregation has responded, the deacon goes to a holder prominently placed in the sanctuary, and gently places in it the candle, which he circles, swinging a censer that releases the smoke of incense rising in reverence to the Paschal Candle.     Then the deacon, or in some parishes a designated member of the congregation, stands at the lectern (technically, an ambo) in the sanctuary and sings the Easter proclamation that recalls the meaning of this sacred night. After this dramatic exultation, the people assume their seats, extinguish their candles, and listen to the history of salvation as recounted in nine Bible readings proclaimed by members of the community.     The readings begin with the first book of the Bible, Genesis, that recounts the story of creation. The readings move through several other Old Testament accounts of God's interaction with humanity ranging from Abraham's near sacrifice of his son Isaac, through to the parting of the Red Sea, to the salvation offered in the Messiah. Communal responses follow each Old Testament reading. Then readers proclaim from a letter of Paul and one of the gospels in the New Testament.     This is the richest ceremony in the church's liturgical calendar. The Easter Vigil is a special celebration that often brings the most active Catholics in the parish together on the Saturday night before Easter. Many Catholics, however, have never attended the Easter Vigil. Routinely, they will go to mass on Sunday morning, or at the regular Saturday evening mass that fulfills Sunday mass obligation. In most parishes on any given Sunday, many masses are offered to accommodate the varying schedules of the parishioners.     The priest's invitation to prayer at the beginning of the ceremony and his introduction to the readings reveal many of the essentials of the Catholic faith. He addresses the assembled community as "friends in Christ." It is because of their common bond in Christ that they are together. They believe that Jesus Christ is God's own Son, and that his message is God's word for humanity. Because they are baptized Christians, they are no longer strangers, but are related to one another as children of God--brothers and sisters of Christ and one another. By virtue of their baptism and membership in the church, they are also "children" of the church, a part of a world community as well as this local community of Catholics. When the priest invites the people to listen to the "word of God," he is speaking about the scriptures. These are texts from the Bible, which the Catholic Church believes are God's revelation to humankind of who God is for us, how God has interacted with us, and what God expects of us and what we can confidently expect of God. The ceremony recalls how God has saved his people throughout history. Christianity is an historical religion; not only by virtue of its own two-millennia history, but also because Catholic Christians believe that God has acted in human history to lead people to God and to their eternal salvation. A central belief for Catholic Christians is that God sent Christ who by his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead saved humanity from sin. Thus, he is the "Redeemer."      The ceremony, interwoven with symbols, continues with the rite of initiation into formal membership in the church, the sacrament of baptism. Normally the church baptizes infants and young children; however, on this occasion adults receive baptism as well as children. In many American parishes, the Easter Vigil is the culmination of a months-long process of preparation for adults to become Roman Catholic Christians. Called "The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults" (RCIA), this program prepares non-Christian candidates for baptism, and baptized persons who are joining Roman Catholicism for membership in (called "full communion with") the church. Often led by Directors of Religious Education in parishes, this rite within a rite merits careful description. Roman Catholic practice recognizes seven sacraments, the first and most important of which is baptism. Baptism was practiced before the formation of the church, as attested in the New Testament as in the event of Jesus's baptism by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. The central symbol is water; for Catholics, who believe in original sin, water symbolizes the cleansing from sin. Original sin can be explained in various ways. Earlier in this century often popularly characterized as a stain on the soul, it is not a physical mark but the human condition of moral imperfection that every person is heir to at birth. We inherit that which our forebears give us. The theologian Monika Hellwig reminds us that the "human community in which we are rooted ... is out of focus and estranged from its end and purpose in God."     Baptism is a public initiation into the Roman Catholic Church; thus it is fitting that the community should be present to recognize, welcome, and encourage its new members. The priest blesses the water of the baptismal font (in this case a pool of water into which the newly baptized will be immersed), asking God to welcome those "reborn" in this sacrament as God's own children. Calling upon the assistance of those faithful and holy ones who have lived an exemplary Christian life before us, the cantor sings a litany of the saints, praying for the intercession of well known saints like Mary the mother of Jesus, Michael the Archangel, and Joseph, as well as saints known to the local community because of ethnic connections or the namesake of the local church community, and also the saints after whom the baptized are named (if indeed they are named after saints). Traditionally Catholics received only saints' names. Today the tradition is not adhered to strictly, although it remains the preferred mode of the institutional church. The other symbolic elements used in baptism are oil and light (represented by a small baptismal candle lighted from the larger Paschal Candle). The oil, called chrism, is used to consecrate the person as a follower of Christ. The local bishop blesses the oil at the liturgy called the Chrism Mass celebrated three days earlier on Holy Thursday. The candle represents the light of Christ.     During the rite of baptism, the priest questions the candidates as to their intentions, motives, and commitment (a ritualized, symbolic questioning which represents the more-detailed, personal interviews that had been conducted earlier). The priest asks the candidates, along with the assembled community, to reject sin, to believe in Christ, and to follow the beliefs and practices of the church. The priest immerses (in other parishes pours water over the heads of) the candidates, baptizing them while saying the Trinitarian formula: "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."     There are three sacraments of initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist. Normally the bishop confers Confirmation annually in the parish in a separate ceremony and children receive their first communion (Eucharist) at another special liturgy, but at the Easter Vigil the priest may confirm the newly baptized and they will receive their first Eucharist later in this elaborate ceremony.     The ritual continues with prayers for the church and the world, songs and the celebration of the Eucharist during which the priest consecrates bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. Members of the congregation receive the Eucharist under the forms of bread and wine distributed by the priest, deacon, and several lay members of the congregation designated Eucharistic ministers. The Easter Vigil as described above and celebrated in a parish church is one way in which Catholics worship, but it is not the only way. The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe The Sanchez family of Anaheim, California gets up at four o'clock on the morning of December 12. Today they celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe at their parish church, Saint Boniface. The church schedules the major liturgy of the day for 5 A.M. Getting up in the dark and leaving so early is part of the sacrifice that makes this day special. The 7 P.M. mass that night, for those who simply cannot make the pre-dawn celebration, will not even be full. The day before a group of volunteers began decorating the church--a project the mass-goers will complete by bringing flowers and large candles in glass holders and placing them in the sanctuary before the large framed painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe.     The Sanchez family drives the short distance to the church. Those nearby walk. A sizable crowd is already waiting outside the church at 4:45 A.M. At five o'clock the church doors open and the crowd of men, women, and children from infants to school age, streams in and quickly fills all the pews. Those too far back in the line end up standing along the walls, exceeding the 1,100 seat capacity.     Many of the children are dressed like Juan Diego, pencil-drawn mustaches on the boys in imitation of the favored young Mexican boy to whom the Blessed Virgin appeared at Tepeyac, Mexico, in 1531. Everything must be done reverently and joyfully, but also quickly because the faithful must go to work as usual.     The mass begins when the mariachis band, attired in smart black outfits with silver-buttoned jackets, strikes up the spirited music for the processional song "Las Mañanitas" (The Lovely Morning) to greet the dawn. The sound of their violins, bass, and trumpets fills the entire church and brings the sleepy crowd to life. Three priests and a permanent deacon process into the sanctuary. The pastor, Monsignor Wilbur Davis, understands the significance of this day. The parish of 4,700 registered households has many ethnic celebrations during the liturgical year for its English-, Spanish-, and Vietnamese-speaking members. Father Wil, as the people call him, worked with the Maryknoll Missionaries for five years in Chile. He enjoys the Latin culture and loves the people. Today, in Spanish, he leads the community in prayer honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary. But the people make the celebration. Father Wil, wearing a colorful serape in place of a chasuble, invites the children to join the priests, and they quickly fill the floor of the sanctuary. Members of the congregation proclaim the scriptures. Mexican teenage girls in white dresses with different-colored sashes around their waists, dance while bringing the gifts of bread and wine to the altar during the offertory of the mass. The mariachis band plays lively but reverent music and everyone sings. The liturgy reminds the Sanchez family of their homeland, but their lives, religious and secular, are now securely rooted in California.     After mass families wait their turn to take pictures of each other in front of the now flower- and candle-laden picture of the Virgin. Today, the picture is set up in the main sanctuary of the church but nearby, in the converted baptistery, is a special chapel dedicated to Our Lady where people come daily from 6 A.M. to 10 P.M. to place lighted candles and pray in front of the many representations of Mary, which include one each from Mexico, Cuba, Bolivia, and other Latin American countries. This church is never locked during the day and the chapel has worshipers all the time. Hurriedly, the Guadalupe crowd retreats to the parish hall to continue the celebration with a Mexican breakfast of menudo (soup), pan dulce (sweet rolls), and hot chocolate. A Liturgy and a Protest On another night, a different group is also celebrating a liturgy, but this celebration differs dramatically from the formality of the Easter Vigil and the ethnic flavor of the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It constitutes at the same time a prayer and a protest. In a living room in Denver, Colorado, a group of women gathers, as they regularly have since 1990, around a table draped with a linen cloth, decorated with fresh flowers and displaying a crystal goblet to be used as a chalice for their celebration of the Eucharist. They read, discuss, and interpret the scriptures they have chosen for the ceremony. They pray for themselves and for others, bless and break bread, share it and the one cup of wine after they "consecrate" them with either the words of the mass "this is my body, this is my blood" or similar words indicating that they participate in this meal in memory of Jesus who broke bread and shared a cup with his disciples at the Last Supper.     Many of these women do not consider themselves radicals and in many respects they are indistinguishable from other Catholics. At other times, they go to church to participate in masses presided over by ordained males. However, in addition to their ordinary participation in the Eucharist celebrated in church, they meet regularly, often in homes, to conduct Eucharistic liturgies by themselves, without an ordained priest as a presider. They find the patriarchy in the church oppressive, unjust, and insensitive. What began for many as a gesture of protest against this patriarchy, evolved into a spiritually sustaining and liberating regular practice.     They are part of a larger movement, called WomenEucharist, that exists in groups all over the United States as well as other countries. The movement includes nuns and other lay pastoral leaders. After one such celebration, one woman, Sheila Durkin Dierks of Boulder, Colorado, who hosted the liturgy in her home, reflected: "What in the name of God were we doing? The church's official position is that we were breaking the law, but the wisest people I knew were joining me. If you're told that you always have to pray with a male priest and then do it for yourself, it's revolutionary. We discovered our power to pray and found other women who, in secret, had found it too." In certain dioceses, if their participation became known, women who work in the church suffered repercussions, losing their positions. In other dioceses they have been left alone, with church officials rationalizing that according to canon law these "liturgies" do not constitute Eucharist since that requires that an ordained person preside and none of these women hold that qualification. Types of Catholics The heart of the church in America is the parish. This is the place where people gather regularly to worship, where they come to be known by name, where they find a sense of identity and belonging. There are variations of the parish where people worship together on college campuses, in hospitals, monasteries, convents, military bases, and chapels designed to serve a variety of communities. But the parish constitutes one community that is part of the local diocese and the universal church. The parish is the central structure through which Catholics experience, nurture, and act out their faith. It is a community of a particular people living in a particular society as part of an international church.... It is a vehicle for both experiencing the faith and for motivating Catholics to relate to the broader community and to shape it according to Gospel [Jesus' teaching] values.     Many Catholics do not have regular contact with a local parish, which most likely means that they do not participate fully in the life of the church. Recent statistics indicate that one third of Americans who identify themselves as Catholics, approximately 20 million Catholics, do not belong to parishes. So clearly, these Catholics who remain uncommitted to a specific parish can also skew statistical results when attempting to ascertain the views of faithful Catholics on a number of issues, since studies indicate that "Catholics without parishes have very different social characteristics and quite different orientations towards faith and morals." Church leaders question whether this group should be included in national statistical surveys that measure behaviors and attitudes of Catholics.     The contemporary church includes a variety of Catholics who might be characterized under five categories or types.     1. By the Rules Catholics : The first type attends mass weekly, listens to and obeys the teachings of the church as articulated by the pope and bishops, and while they may have questions about some aspects of church life and teaching, give the benefit of the doubt to church authorities, cooperate with the mission of the church, and look to the church for direction. These are loyal Catholics whose dedication may be attributed to any number of factors, among which are complete agreement with the institutional church; fear that disagreement will have far-reaching consequences spiritually (may not go to heaven) or socially (unwelcome in family or circle of friends); or (less likely but possible) an inability to think for oneself. The numbers of this type of Catholic have declined in the post-Vatican II era, although the church continues to count on them to support even unpopular positions.     2. Bend and Break the Rules Catholics : The second type also attends mass weekly, but on certain issues chooses to follow their conscience instead of church teachings or practices. This type represents the good Catholic who identifies with the church, participates regularly, but disagrees with some practices or beliefs. These Catholics practice birth control, or believe in capital punishment, or think that abortion is permissible under certain circumstances, but go to mass and communion regularly. They represent the largest segment of churchgoing Catholics.     3. Ignore the Rules Catholics : The third type attends church irregularly, perhaps once a month, chooses which teachings and practices to follow, and ignores those that either do not seem to make sense or appear inconvenient. These Catholics are weary of church teachings and practices that seem to them backward, but they do not leave the church. Instead they operate within, yet independent of, the church. They appreciate the ritual the church provides, the sense of community, and the spiritual dimension, but they do not allow the church to dominate their moral or spiritual life.     4. Rules Don't Pertain to Me Catholics : The fourth type attends church on Easter and Christmas and perhaps a few other select times such as Ash Wednesday, weddings, and funerals. Sometimes derisively called "Christmas and Easter" Catholics, this group has existed in America (and elsewhere) for as long as the church. They clearly claim Catholicism, but have little formal contact with the Catholic community and do not look to the church to guide their lives on a regular basis. If there is a crisis, such as a death in the family, they turn to the church for assistance, but generally they live their lives unaware, uninterested, or unaffected by the activities and teachings of the church.     5. Don't Know the Rules Catholics : The fifth type are baptized Catholics who have abandoned all forms of Catholic religious practice. This group is ill-informed about recent church teachings and practices and uninterested in what the church says or how it functions. They are for all intents and purposes non-Catholic. Only their baptism identifies them as Catholic. They may seek to be married in the church, want their children baptized, and hope to be buried from the church, but aside from these chronological life markers, they have little or nothing to do with Catholicism.     This typology is not completely new since the church always has been home to "active" Catholics and "lapsed" Catholics. What is different is the decline in the number of type 1 Catholics, and the growth in types 2 and 3. Types 1, 4, and 5 have been present in significant numbers among American Catholics since colonial times. Type 5 Catholics, those who as infants were brought to the church for baptism by their parents, but were not raised with religious beliefs or habits as an essential or even an occasional part of their development, most often end up Catholic in name only. They may be married in the church or buried from it, but otherwise they remain disconnected. Some sociologists, and not a few bishops, think that their participation in statistical surveys about Catholics skews the results. Bishops complain that these nonparticipants in Catholic life should not identify themselves as Catholic, and sociologists sometimes have trouble identifying them. But since many insist on calling themselves Catholic, some argue that survey percentages should be adjusted to reflect the fact that they are de facto non-Catholics (even if de jure Catholics because of their baptism).     The church has always included type 2 and type 3 Catholics in its membership. However, the proportions of these types has grown significantly since Vatican II while the number of type 1 Catholics has shrunk. Data to support this observation comes first of all from statistics on church attendance, perhaps the first criterion for a type i Catholic. If estimates for attendance reveal that between 29 and 44 percent of Catholics (depending upon whose statistics one uses) attend mass on Sundays, significantly below the numbers before Vatican II. Additional data comes from surveys conducted regionally and nationally.     Sociologists confirm that polarization exists among Catholics, but it is limited to a few areas, namely church leadership, priesthood, and moral teachings. These areas receive significant attention in the press, surveys, and in books like this one. For the most part, American Catholics identify with the central doctrinal claims of the church. Different Generations of Catholics Some sociologists have identified three distinct communities of Catholics according to a chronology defined by the Second Vatican Council. Pre-Vatican II Catholics, born from 1910 through the 1930s, reached adulthood well before Vatican II. Vatican II Catholics are the baby-boomers born in the 1940s and '50s. This group has a mix of pre-Vatican II religious upbringing in a highly structured and dogmatic church, combined with the tumultuous experience of the changes initiated by Vatican II, as well as the social experience of the 1960s in America. The third group is the post-Vatican II Catholics who were born at the time of, or since, Vatican II. They have only a post-Vatican II experience of the church, although they have no doubt heard anecdotes or read about the pre-Vatican II church and have been taught about the events and significance of the era of the Second Vatican Council. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, pre-Vatican II Catholics are an aging but important resource because they bear the imprint of time and experience, both valuable resources if the Catholic community is to learn from its history. Vatican II Catholics, now middle-aged or approaching retirement, form the most powerful constituency by most measures from economic to political.     However, it is the post-Vatican II generations of late baby-boomers, Generation Xers, and the Millennium Generation, who are the future of Catholicism in America. And this group is quite different from its predecessors. Two distinct constituencies compose this community. The first group includes those who are descendants of the first great wave of European immigration. They are a generation of increasingly college or graduate-school educated young people. The second group, largely comprising Hispanic and Asian immigrants who came to the United States in the latter half of the twentieth century, are those working to establish themselves economically and become inculturated into American society without completely surrendering their native cultures.     The first group of post-Vatican II Catholics, those who are third, fourth, and fifth generation Americans, are less institutionally identified than pre-Vatican II Catholics, less informed on theological and doctrinal matters, more inclined to favor individual conscience over institutional dictates, better educated but more likely to have at least part of their education outside of Catholic schools. They want democratization at all levels of the church, and have experienced greater religious pluralism in their social, professional, and personal relationships. This is a generation raised on religious education programs that stressed Christian behavior more than doctrinal beliefs. It is a generation that may know a few lines in Latin of a traditional Christmas hymn, but has known the liturgy only in English. They have seen the number of nuns, brothers, and priests decline. Some are children of former priests, brothers, and nuns who left the active ministry to marry; a generation that is aware of sexual misconduct by the clergy; a generation that, although perhaps unaware, has witnessed a decline in the number of regular churchgoers while the actual number of Catholics has increased. They are a generation that has read about the civil rights movement, the war in Vietnam, and free love, but that has grown up in the Reagan, Bush, and Clinton years. They grew up watching MASH, Oprah Winfrey, Happy Days, The Simpsons, Cheers, and Seinfeld . They have seen the salaries of professional athletes skyrocket and the prestige of the ordained ministry erode. For the most part, the church has not functioned as the center of their social and cultural life. Professor of Religious Studies and campus minister at DePaul University, Robert Ludwig confirms this observation: "A growing percentage of young people who were baptized Catholics as infants have experienced no meaningful socialization in the church or its traditions--gone are the days of twelve to sixteen years of exclusively Catholic education. They have little ownership and tend not to participate, particularly as leaders, in the organizations and activities of groups tied directly to the church." This is confirmed by the authors of The Search for Common Ground , an ambitious sociological survey of Catholics conducted in the middle 1990s that indicated "new networks satisfy many social needs which parishes used to meet."     Post-Vatican II Catholics also include recent immigrants who have found hope in the church. Those who came to America uneducated and unable to communicate in the common language of the country were welcomed by many parishes whose members offered them assistance. Some parishes are returning to the habits of the early nineteenth century when macro cities first developed. At that time cities, and the Catholic population, were small enough so that one Catholic church could serve the entire Catholic community. Particular ethnic neighborhoods had not yet taken shape, and the demand for ethnic parishes had not yet been made. Priests said masses in several languages to accommodate immigrants spread out throughout the city. In New York City around 1800, St. Peter's Church offered masses in English, French, and German on Sunday. Similarly today, at St. Boniface Church in the diocese of Orange in Southern California, masses are celebrated in Vietnamese, Spanish, and English, accommodating an ethnically mixed population of recent immigrants from Mexico, Latin America, and Vietnam, as well as a rooted Anglo population. On any given Sunday, mass is celebrated in 47 different languages in the archdiocese of Los Angeles.     This second wave of immigrants differs, facing circumstances that distinguish it from the first wave. Those of Hispanic descent are Catholics, but their form of Catholicism is different from that of the Germans, Poles, Irish, and Italians who immigrated a century or more ago. Hispanic Catholics, although generally united by a more-or-less common language, do not have identical cultures. Catholicism is a deeply ingrained part of the Hispanic way of life, which is imbued with Catholic symbols and traditions. For some Hispanics, however, one of those traditions is not weekly attendance at mass. Certain religious days like Good Friday, with its reenactment of Christ's passion and death, are observed with great fervor, while others like the Easter celebration of his resurrection are less compelling. Depending upon the country of origin, the Hispanic immigrant carries the celebration of various feast days important in the native land over into his or her religious experience in America.     Many Asian immigrants have not come from Catholic countries as did the first wave of immigrants or the current Spanish-speaking immigrants. Most of these people are converts to Catholicism. While Christianity has flourished in Vietnam and the Philippines for many generations, many immigrants from Cambodia and Laos, for example, come from Buddhist traditions. Not only are American society and culture different, American religion is as well. Catholic Christianity represents a different world view for them. (Continues...) Copyright © 1999 Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

1 Who Are American Catholics?
2 A Brief History of Catholics in America: Colonial Times to 1900
3 A Brief History of Catholics in America: 1900 to the Second Vatican Council
4 The Post-Vatican II Church in America
5 Teachings and Beliefs: Part I
6 Teaching and Beliefs: Part II
7 The Organization of the Church
8 The Church and Popular Culture
9 Challenges
10 The Future
Appendix 1 Selected Profiles of American Catholics
Appendix 2 Time Line