THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC: A Social Portrait by Andrew M. Greeley


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Fr. Greeley seems to be recycling his grievances as well as his research. His brief for Catholic ethnics was delivered in two previous books: Why Can't They Be Like Us? (1971) and That Most Distressful Nation (1973). Do we really need to be told again, at this late date, that American Catholics--Poles, Italians, Irish--don't conform to the stereotype of blue-collar, hardhat, racist hawk? Greeley is bent on pressing upon us an alternative to the ""assimilationist picture"" of American society; what he comes up with--""ethnicity as a mosaic with permeable boundaries""--is too tortured a formulation to be satisfying. It may still surprise some to learn that Irish Catholics, if not Italians and Poles, were more liberal on such issues as withdrawal from Vietnam and marijuana use than their Protestant counterparts. Greeley also points out that they rate high on educational attainments and income--though they remain underrepresented in the ""prestigious occupations."" With considerable spleen, he ascribes this to discrimination--even managing to compute their ""disadvantage"" at almost 40 percent of that experienced by blacks. There are, of course, ""primordial"" differences in family life, politics, and community relationships--the source, Greeley feels, of the sublimated antipathy which gives Catholics less than their due. A myriad of graphs and charts buttress his contentions--delivered here in shrill, sarcastic tones.

Pub Date: March 11th, 1977
Publisher: Basic Books