What does it mean to be Catholic and American?
question of faith encountering culture is a perennial and universal one played out over
two millennia in every corner of the globe where the church has been planted. Perhaps at
no time in the history of the church in the United States did it seem so urgent than at
the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth. America was
changing, spreading out over a continent, transforming itself from a rural, second class
power into an urban industrial colossus and a premier player in world politics. The
Catholic people of the United States were changing too, matching the nation's progress
across the continent step by step, and growing from 8% of the nation's people to 17%. Much
of that growth was through immigration: the Germans and the Irish, followed by French
Canadians, Italians, Poles, Slovaks, Slovenes and others from southern or eastern Europe.
But a new American born Catholic generation, the sons and daughters of Catholic
immigrants, was growing to maturity then too, struggling to reconcile their European
ancestries with their American birthright. For them the question, "What does it mean
to be Catholic and American?," was especially pressing. As the new generation
emerged, a new pope, Leo XIII, ascended the throne of Peter, and himself sought to
confront the new industrial world emerging all over the west without sacrificing the
essentials of the faith.
As the church in America turned toward a new century, then, it confronted the question: what does it mean to be Catholic and American?
|Department of Archives, Manuscripts, and
Department of Rare Books and Special Collections
Library, The Catholic University of America
has been selected and arranged by
University Archivist and Museum Director,
using material from
the collection and donations
from the community.
Site created by Kevin Gunn, M.A., M.L.I.S
All contents copyright © 1999-2000, The Catholic University Of America. All rights reserved.