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In Search of an American Catholicism

A History of Religion and Culture in Tension

Jay P. Dolan

Publication Date - November 2003

ISBN: 9780195168853

320 pages
5-5/16 x 8 inches

In Stock

Retail Price to Students: $34.99

:"In Search of an American Catholicism will deservedly become a central book on the history of the Church."--The New York Times Book Review


For more than two hundred years American Catholics have struggled to reconcile their national and religious values. In this incisive and accessible account, distinguished Catholic historian Jay P. Dolan explores the way American Catholicism has taken its distinctive shape and follows how Catholics have met the challenges they have faced as New World followers of an Old World religion.
Dolan argues that the ideals of democracy, and American culture in general, have deeply shaped Catholicism in the United States as far back as 1789, when the nation's first bishop was elected by the clergy (and the pope accepted their choice). Dolan looks at the tension between democratic values and Catholic doctrine from the conservative reaction after the fall of Napoleon to the impact of the Second Vatican Council. Furthermore, he explores grassroots devotional life, the struggle against nativism, the impact and collision of different immigrant groups, and the disputed issue of gender.
Today Dolan writes, the tensions remain, as we see signs of a resurgent traditionalism in the church in response to the liberalizing trend launched by John XXIII, and also a resistance to the conservatism of John Paul II. In this lucid account, the unfinished story of Catholicism in America emerges clearly and compellingly, illuminating the inner life of the church and of the nation.
In this lucid account, the unfinished story of Catholicism in America emerges clearly and compellingly, illuminating the inner life of the church and of the nation.

About the Author(s)

Jay P. Dolan is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Notre Dame. He is the author of several books on the history of American Catholicism, including his best known work, The American Catholic Experience: A History from Colonial Times to the Present. He has served as President of both the American Catholic Historical Association and the American Society of Church History.


"A simply wonderful book from the master historian of Catholicism in America."--Jon Butler, author of Awash in a Sea of Faith: Christianizing the American People

"A tour de force of mature scholarship, careful but critical thought, and engaging prose.... A bold departure from earlier social histories of American Catholicism."--Harry S. Stout, author of The New England Soul: Preaching and Religious Culture in Colonial New England

"The capstone to Dolan's celebrated career. Put simply, he argues that America has been quite good for Catholicism and that Catholicism must continue to adapt to American culture if it is to endure, let alone flourish."--Christian Century

"This absorbing inquiry answers the often troubling question of what it means to be both a Catholic and an American."--Booklist

"Ideal as an introduction to the main issues and characters in American Catholic history." --Patrick Allit, Professor of History, Emory University, in The Journal of American History

"A brilliant study about the relationship between Catholicism and American democratic ideals, this timely book considers the historical foundations and subsequent evolutions of Catholicism's adaptation to and influence on American self-understanding. This well-documented, and lucidly written book is essential reading for all Americans interested in religion and politics. Wholeheartedly recommended."--Library Journal

"An eminent Catholic historian examines the ways American culture and Catholicism have affected one another. In his most engaging section, covering the past 40 years, he reveals his great admiration for John XXIII and his disdain for the conservative, authoritarian policies of the current pontiff. He does a good job, as well, of showing how Hispanic and black Catholics have affected the church as a whole."--Kirkus Reviews

"Can the church achieve an American version of Catholicism without getting swallowed up in the all-enveloping American culture? The answer to that question is still very much in doubt, as Dolan acknowledges, and his extended essay is a compact guide to the twisty accommodations that have evolved over the last 200 years."--Los Angeles Times

"It is ideal as an introduction to the main issues and characters in American Catholic history."--Patrick Allitt, Professor of History, Emory University, The Journal of American History

Table of Contents

    1. "Catholicism in an Age of Democracy"
    2. "The Romanization of Catholicism"
    3. "In Search of an American Catholicism"
    4. "Competing Visions"
    5. "An American Religion and a Roman Church, 1920-2001"