American Catholics Through the Twentieth Century

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American Catholics Through the Twentieth Century

Spirituality, Lay Experience and Public Life

Claire Wolfteich explores powerful examples of the complex vocation of living out the Catholic faith in our daily lives.This clear and informative study explores the many, diverse initiatives of lay Catholics ranging from Dorothy Day to César Chávez to Mario Cuomo.

While many classic spiritual teachings emphasize the beauty of contemplation, lay Christians must live “in the world,” making practical judgments in private and public spheres. Wolfteich offers dynamic and inspiring models of modern day leaders whose conscience of faith directs their lives' decisions.

Reviews and endorsements

“Wolfteich examines lay-led movements and publications through which U.S. Catholics in the pre-Vatican II era sought to infuse the social order with gospel values: Commonweal, Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker, the Grail Movement, the Christian Family Movement, Opus Dei, and Integrity, a magazine published for a decade after Catholic Action advocate Carol Jackson and former Catholic Worker Ed Willock co-founded it in 1946. Even more extensive treatment is given to developments after Vatican II, with particular attention to figures like John F. Kennedy, John Courtney Murray, César Chávez, Daniel Callahan, Mario Cuomo, and Geraldine Ferraro, as well as the issues that shaped U.S. Catholics' sense of lay vocation and Catholic identity such as Civil Rights, ecumenism, Humanae Vitae and the birth control debate, and abortion.”
Spiritus

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"In this outstanding book Wolfteich blends consideration of the challenges of lay Catholic life with a series of discussions of leading Catholic public figures, among them J. F. Kennedy, Mario Cuomo, Geraldine Ferraro, Dorothy Day, and Cesar Chavez. Her overall concern is to articulate a lay Catholic way of being in the world, balancing the commitment to the particular cultural and ethical context of Catholicism with life in a pluralistic society. Typically, Catholic public figures like Kennedy and Cuomo have tended to argue that they can conveniently separate their personal religious convictions from their public responsibilities to an electorate. Wolfteich’s careful analysis shows that it is not so easy to make a coherent case for the disjunction. In so doing, she illuminates the challenge to all lay Catholics, namely, to be faithful members of the church and at the same time to live out their Christianity fearlessly in the secular world that is the primary field of lay endeavor. Thus she provides a lot of food for thought, but also makes important contributions to thinking through theological issues like the meaning of being lay and the character of a lay ecclesiology. My only complaint is that the choice to rely heavily on essays from the lay Catholic journal Commonweal may skew her samples somewhat; she thereby ignores rich resources in other Catholic organs of free speech like America and the National Catholic Reporter. But this is to be highly recommended for studies in ethics, ecclesiology, and Catholic studies."
Reference Services Review


“In American Catholics through the Twentieth Century, Claire Wolfteich tells a story of how modern Roman Catholic lay men and women develop a distinctive style of spirituality and practical theological thinking. Lay persons are not passive recipients of the teachings of the Church; they are active responders and contributors to a developing theology that struggles to balance public and private, family and work, intimacy and vocation. This is a great story well told.”
Don S. Browning, Alexander Campbell Professor of Religious Ethics and Social Sciences, University of Chicago

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“While this book is a fascinating account of Catholic lay movements in America, it is also more than that: Through the prism of these movements Wolfteich presents a vivid picture of the tensions that have gripped American Catholicism in recent decades. The book deserves a broad readership.”
Peter L. Berger, professor of sociology, Boston University

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“Reliable and well-crafted historical writing and clear but unobtrusive and never preachy implied council . . . What [Wolfteich] is doing is important, and one wishes for it a larger readership than books on histories of Catholic movements tend to get.”
Martin E. Marty, Fairfax M. Cone distinguished service professor emeritus, University of Chicago

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American Catholics through the Twentieth Century takes up a crucial pastoral theme—the integration of Catholic Christian faith with ‘life’ in our time—and rightly approaches it from the perspective of spirituality."
Thomas H. Groome, professor of pastoral theology, Boston College

9780824526375
Paperback / 212 pages
Dimensions: 6 x 9
CROSSROAD, 2011