Shaken by the ongoing clergy sexual abuse scandal, and challenged from within by social and theological division, Catholics in America are at a crossroads. O'Toole tells the story of this ancient church from the perspective of ordinary Americans, the lay believers who have kept their faith despite persecution from without and clergy abuse from within.
©2008 Harvard University Press (P)2009 Harvard University Press
"O'Toole deftly tells the history of lay Catholics in America. Beginning with the priestless church of the Colonial period, he goes on to explore the church in the democratic republic, the immigrant church, the church of Catholic Action, the church of Vatican II, and the church in the 21st century." (Library Journal)
I liked best the facts. When names and dates and titles were given it makes this book very useful as a reference. The botching of doctrine was quite painful, however. I am sure, also, that the narrator did his best, but he did pronounce several key words incorrectly, like reading "coven" instead of "convent."
The performance could have been better if the narrator had been certain to know some key words before wagering a guess at their pronunciation.
It was worth it, but you have to distill a lot of error out of it regarding doctrine, so caveat emptor!
I thought theat the content was well balanced and reliable. If I had read the book and not listened to it, I would have enjoyed it just as much. It gave me much to think about.
OK, here is where the bulk of my problem lies: The reading was mechanical, sometimes to the point that I seriously doubted it was done by a human being. The reader also simply did not take the time or make the effort to learn to pronounce many of the Catholic terms that were used. His indifference in preparation and recitation showed me that he would rather have been reading almost anything else and made the listen, at time both irritating and distracting. Even common words were sometimes an issue
I loved the book. It is a very even history of the Catholic Church which I have lived for over 80 yeers. I found the reader very uninteresting! I never was sure if he was calling pastors "pastures" and piety was always peeity. Is he familiar with the Catholic Church?
Discovered this audio book with many Catholic faith follower stories that were unknown to me. Great historical to more current day review of what it means to be Catholic. If you are Catholic or interested in learning more about the Catholic faith and the Catholic faithful members; plus the many changes over the very many years; this audio book is well worth a listen - (In my opinion).
Thanks for reading my review!
Bye for now... Till next review...
catholic majoring in classics and religious studies, student of Greek, Latin, Hebrew, world religions, psychology, philosophy.
One of the perks of studying history is looking at the past to imagine who we can be in the future. This book is great proof of that utility of history. O’Toole, a historian at Boston College, chronicles the changes in Catholic America from the days of the first colonials to today’s post-Vatican II era. He marks its history in six stages:
1. The Priestless Church: 1-2% of Americans Catholic, few priests, lay organization and reliance on private and family devotionals with visiting priests 1-3 times a year
2. The Church in the Democratic Republic: growth and stamping-out of ‘trusteeism’, a movement of lay power, more priests led to ‘churchifying’ process of vestries, choirs, weekly mass, diocesan conventions, more passivity of laity, beginnings of montanism and cult of the Pope
3. The Immigrant Church: explosion of European Catholics led to 18% of America being Catholic by 1900, immigrant churches both keeping ethnic traditions alive and dividing parishes on ethnic grounds, populist private devotions alongside passive and bored liturgy, anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic movements led to more patriotism
4. The Church of Catholic Action: Catholic Worker movement, St. Vincent de Paul Society, work for social justice, labor living standards in 1910s and 1920s, but later move to affluence and suburbs in settled 1950s. Beginnings of ecumenism and popular media figures such as Fulton Sheen.
5. The Church of Vatican II: Shocking changes, increased lay participation in many areas, leading to polarized church: conservatives such as “JP II priests,” Humanae Vitae opposers, versus liberals calling for more change, womens’ ordination.
6. The Church of the 21st Century: Loss of white Catholics, growth of Hispanic Catholics, sex abuse scandals, and …?
What can we learn from this?
First, there seems to be a constant tension between Catholics as an ethnic culture and Catholics as more inclusively or theologically defined. The ethnic identity of the immigrant church brought together tightly-knit communities, but led to division, with parishes catering to Italians, to Poles, to Anglos, and to slaves. (As a friend who converted to Greek Orthodoxy complained, sometimes they are more interested in being Greek than Orthodox.) And as those immigrants’ children and grandchildren lost their ties to the Old World and blended into that bland thing we call “white,” they lost their Catholic identity too. One of Vatican II’s aims was to remove the “ghettoizing” of Catholicism and bring it in dialogue with the modern world. But then we have to find new ways to identify ourselves, not just outside narrow ideas of ethnic divisions but also opening ourselves to ecumenism, interfaith, and other broadening movements.
A second contimuum of American Catholic life has been a tension between lay and clerical power. On the one hand, clerical power has been used to ignore the realities of the laity (e.g. birth control) and hide real problems (e.g. transferring sex offenders from parish to parish). But too much lay power diminishes the priest’s ability to be a prophetic role model for his flock. When Catholic priests pushed for racial integration and equality in the 1960s, their parishioners, empowered by ‘Vatican II theology,’ ignored and sometimes yelled at them. This is a tension hardly solveable by a single papal encyclical or bishops’ decree. But having a historical lens for it will help us see it when it pops up next.
Lastly, many of the so-called post-conciliar “changes” are nothing new. They’re just revivals of old trends. Current lay outspokenness has precedent in the nineteenth century. Priest shortages were a problem in the eighteenth century. Concern for social justice dates back a century ago. History rhymes.
O’Toole’s book had to gloss over a lot of fascinating things, particularly regional and ethnic diversity. He barely covered Hispanic or African-American Catholicism. But for what it does cover, I enjoyed this audiobook.
P.S. As other reviewers noted, this narrator needs help pronouncing some Catholic terms. Convent sounded like coven and piety was pronounced "pee-eh-tee." It's not like O'Toole dropped bombs like "homoousios."
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