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Russell Shaw analyses the effects of the American cultural assimilation of Catholics in new book
SAN FRANCISCO, April 2, 2013 – Many Catholic leaders believed that the absorption of American Catholics into the country’s secular culture would be beneficial. In some ways it has, but now the secular culture of the United States threatens the Catholic identity of millions of faithful and their institutions, such as schools, universities and hospitals.
This is the premise of AMERICAN CHURCH, a new book written by highly respected Catholic author and journalist Russell Shaw. Shaw provides a richly documented analysis of the impact Americanization has had on the Church in the United States extending over two centuries. In it, colorful characters and dramatic incidents abound, including the 19th century intellectual feud between Orestes Brownson and the Transcendentalist convert to Catholicism, Isaac Hecker, Pope Leo XIII’s condemnation of Americanism, the anti-Catholicism that greeted the presidential campaigns of Al Smith and John F. Kennedy, and the numerous intra-Church conflicts that have divided American Catholics since the Second Vatican Council.
“Russell Shaw is one of the best informed and most articulate observers of the American Catholic experience; a writer of elegant clarity, fairness and impeccable research. If you want to understand the Church in the United States and the challenges she now faces, American Church should be on the short list of books you need to read,” says Archbishop Charles J. Chaput.
Shaw illustrates that the present crisis the Church in America is facing is the worst it has dealt with in over two centuries. The “numbers” have spiraled downward — Mass attendance, Catholic marriages, priestly and religious vocations, enrollment in parochial schools and nearly everything else that counts. Not surprisingly, the opinion polls show widespread ignorance, confusion and alienation among American Catholics.
There are no easy answers to this crisis. But to a great extent, the answers are indeed in place, Shaw says, and we need to take them seriously. And the crisis brings with it an opportunity, as well as a need, to explain and defend Catholic teaching.
“Tell people they’re called to be saints, provide them with means for doing that, and the story could be different,” Shaw says. “Many may still say ‘not interested,’ and others may say ‘some other time,’ but some may see being a Catholic Christian as an option worth taking seriously.”
In concluding his study, Shaw offers a number of thought-provoking suggestions about what the Church in America needs to do now in the face of an ongoing decline that is sapping its strength and may threaten its very survival.
For more information, to request a review copy or to schedule an interview with Russell Shaw, please contact Kevin Wandra (404-788-1276 or [email protected]) of Carmel Communications.