American Catholic by Charles R. Morris – a ‘Review’

American Catholic- Charles R Morris
American Catholic by Charles R. Morris

Lector, we have reviews at this site and ostensibly this is one of them.

But I am cheating somewhat, because this is not so much a review, but more a little notice – albeit, hopefully, a useful one.

For here is a book that tells us not only much about Catholic America – but also one of our major concerns at this website: Catholic Ireland.

And to cheat even further,  I cannot do better than to quote from Amazon’s blurb for the book, adding some emphasis in bold.

Before the potato famine ravaged Ireland in the 1840s, the Roman Catholic Church was barely a thread in the American cloth.

Twenty years later, New York City was home to more Irish Catholics than Dublin. Today, the United States boasts some sixty million members of the Catholic Church, which has become one of this country’s most influential cultural forces.

In American Catholic: The Saints and Sinners Who Built America’s Most Powerful Church, Charles R. Morris recounts the rich story of the rise of the Catholic Church in America, bringing to life the personalities that transformed an urban Irish subculture into a dominant presence nationwide.

It has been long years since I read this. I read it when I was first living in Ireland – as an American falling in love with this beloved land.

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I was deeply moved by the ways Charles R. Morris unearthed the profound connexions between Irish and American Catholicism. His history of the American Catholic Church makes very clear indeed that the Church in America was built by the Irish – above all others.

This is partly because, when the Irish arrived in America, they came speaking the English language – which of course the Germans, Poles and Italians etc. rarely did. However, Morris makes plain that there was far more to it than just that.

For the Irish simply had a zeal and passion for constructing churches, opening new parishes and establishing the faith that completely outpaced all other groups.

As I say, this is just a little notice, rather than a proper review. But I shall add that I found Morris’s history an erudite, fascinating tapestry of an obviously complex story with many layers.

Many of the books we praise at this website have a traditional perspective. Charles R. Morris is certainly no traditionalist. However, I did feel that he tried to listen and give space to many different perspectives in the American Catholic trajectory.

He also examines the crisis in Catholic America today. He actually visits Lincoln, Nebraska to to engage with the thriving Traditional movement there (thanks to seminary of the Fraternity of St Peter) and testifies to the power of tradition displayed there in Nebraska.

At the same time, he records the views of Liberal Catholics – one of whom is openly horrified that Morris will even think of going to Nebraska!

Thus, in addition to Irish connection and the rich Catholic history it evokes, the book has a lot to offer American Catholics as they grapple with the crisis of Catholicism in America today.

Catholic America—and Ireland
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One response to “American Catholic by Charles R. Morris – a ‘Review’”

  1. […] never accept a Catholic president. But that November, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was narrowly elected. As Charles R. Morris points out, Kennedy’s election manifested the growing Catholicisation of the United States, which proceeded […]