Charles Morris' AMERICAN CATHOLIC
Next week, we will be discussing themes of immigration and ethnicity within American Catholicism, and reading pp 1-227 of Morris' AMERICAN CATHOLIC. In order to help you through the readings, I offer the following list of questions, more as guideposts than anything:
What critiques do you have of the book? Are there major areas you think it omits or over-stresses? Does Morris explain everything adequately? Is the history too top-down? Why do you think he spends so much time on the great moments, like the consecration of St Patrick's or the Eucharistic congress?
What surprised you in the readings and the stories told?
Morris tells us about the historical roots of the American church. How do these roots shape the later experience of American Catholics? What do Catholics remember or mis-remember of these events? What is the mythology?
Culture is a matter of memories. Note how American Catholics have a dual, and perhaps competing, set of memories, those arising from the American experience, and those derived from the wider church. Note how Catholic attitudes are shaped by the church's memory of the French revolution and the political conflicts of ninetenth century Europe. What problems arise when the church tries to apply these lessons in the very different environment of the USA
Why does it matter that it is an immigrant church - is it more so than, say, the Episcopalians or Lutherans?
How do different ethnic groups act within the church?
What difference does ethnicity make? In looking at the experience of ethnic Catholic immigrants, how much do we attribute to the ethnicity, how much to the Catholicism, and how do we draw the line?
How much of the character of American Catholicism is due to one specific ethnic group, namely the Irish? Why and what?
Is it possible to understand the American church without understanding the international setting?
What are the tensions that arise regularly between the American church and Rome?
What are issues dividing the church at different times?
What surprised you about the and bitterness of the various debates?
Why is education such an enduring issue? Why do some Catholics oppose the Catholic schools?
Why did men want to become priests?
How does the church gain such political power?
How homogeneous is the church in political or social attitudes?
What is the "Americanism" debate all about?
How does church respond to social radicalism?
What power does the Catholic Church have in the major cities? Why?
How do all these debates foreshadow modern debates and conditions?
Why are Catholics so urban?
We read lots of evidence throughout the book of nepotism and corruption by senior clergy -why is all this not scandalous at the time?
How does the experience of the American Catholic Church differ from what we would expect in "Catholic countries" like Spain or Ireland? Does the church benefit from NOT being an arm of government?
I will want to focus on two individuals in particular, namely Archbishop John Ireland and cardinal Denis Dougherty. Why are they so important, or so representative, in the overall Catholic story?
As a summary of issues and themes, read the remarkable passage on pp 194-195 - in what senses was the Catholic Church "the dominant cultural institution in the country" by the 1930s?