A scholarly and stimulating history of the impact made by gifted thinkers who became Catholics on both sides of the Atlantic...


CATHOLIC CONVERTS: British and American Intellectuals Turn to Rome

A scholarly and stimulating history of the impact made by gifted thinkers who became Catholics on both sides of the Atlantic between 1825 and 1962, and of the problems they faced in their new Church and in society. Generations of penal legislation in Britain and in many parts of the American colonies had left Catholics an uneducated, suspect group. Allitt (History/Emory Univ.) traces the fortunes of a rich variety of scholars and literary figures who ""went over to Rome,"" often in the face of social and professional ostracism. Beginning with the English Romantic architect Augustus Welby Pugin and renowned Oxford scholar John Henry Newman, who unexpectedly found the stance of the early Church in contemporary Rome, we follow the careers of Americans such as Orestes Brownson and Isaac Hecker, who came to the Catholic Church from Transcendentalism and saw Catholic belief as uniquely consonant with the American ideals of freedom and optimism. Allitt shows how the converts had to deal with pressures from inside the Church, such as the 1870 declaration of papal infallibility and Rome's increasing phobia toward new ideas in politics, science, and philosophy, which resulted in the excommunication of scientist St. George Milvard and Jesuit theologian George Tyrrel. A very different era ensued with authors Robert Hugh Benson, Hilaire Belloc, and G.K. Chesterton, who focused on Catholicism as a counterculture opposed to the Protestant-inspired industrial society and big Capitalism. Evelyn Waugh and Graham Greene brought their anguished perspectives to Catholicism, while Thomas Merton, Marshall McLuhan, and Fr. Avery Dulles initiated a more authentically American Catholic outlook before the watershed of Vatican II. Allitt makes good use of the extensive scholarship available on many of these figures, adding his own incisive observations and showing how their work tried but failed to restore the cultural visibility that the Church had enjoyed in former centuries.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0801486637

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Cornell Univ.

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1997

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