THE NOW AND FUTURE CHURCH: The Psychology of Being an American Catholic by Eugene Kennedy

THE NOW AND FUTURE CHURCH: The Psychology of Being an American Catholic

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Repetitious but sensible--several cuts above its illiterate title and misleading subtitle. Kennedy is a professor of psychology (Loyola U., Chicago), but fortunately he never tries to explain the ""mentality"" of 50-plus million people. Instead, he sketches the social history of 20th-century. especially post-Vatican II, American Catholicism, and (over)confidently envisions a grand scenario for the 21st century. Kennedy's central theme is the rise and fall of the ""obsessive-compulsive"" immigrant Church, with its imperial hierarchy (Cardinals O'Connell, Spellman, Cody, and their ilk), massive building programs, swollen seminaries, obedient lay people, intellectual repressiveness, and ghetto splendor. This once-mighty institution, Kennedy keeps telling us, is finished, not because John XXIII unwittingly opened the floodgates of change, but simply because American Catholics grew up and threw off their tutelary status. As a conciliatory liberal, Kennedy is undisturbed by plummeting clerical numbers (he is himself an ex-priest) and the multifarious crises of authority now shaking the Church (over sexual ethics, radical politics, feminism, etc.). He does see an element of tragedy in all this: such growing (or shrinking) pains could have been immensely eased if in the early 1900s Plus X and other Roman reactionaries had not stifled freedom of thought and condemned the so-called heresy of modernism. What is needed at this point, says Kennedy, what is probably inevitable anyway, is a much more democratic Church, based on dialogue not edicts, declericalized and feminized, consistently subordinating dogmatic theology and canon law to pastoral care. This will mean letting go of the old mythological certitudes--a prospect Kennedy cheerfully anticipates in a conversation with Joseph Campbell, but whose revolutionary/destructive results he seems to ignore. Insightful, if not altogether compelling.

Pub Date: Sept. 7th, 1984
Publisher: Doubleday