PARISH BOUNDARIES by John T. McGreevy

PARISH BOUNDARIES

The Catholic Encounter with Race in the Twentieth-Century Urban North
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 An account of how the Catholic Church in urban areas, with its largely ethnic parishes, responded to American racism and the ferment of the civil rights movement. Throughout most of this century, McGreevy (History/Harvard) asserts, Catholic parishes, with their distinctive emphasis on geographical boundaries, constituted a unique combination of educational, religious, and social communities, representing ``a specifically Catholic style of merging neighborhood and region.'' Catholics arriving in America gravitated to areas in which there were Catholic churches, and the neighborhoods developed a clear, intense ethnic identity that did not easily admit outsiders. McGreevy concentrates on the period between WW I, when the Catholic system of parishes and schools aggressively expanded into every section of the cities, and the early 1970s, when the system began to show signs of strain. He is especially interested in exploring how Catholics and African-Americans interacted with one another. There was, early on, clear Vatican impatience with the existence of separate Catholic institutions for blacks. A number of individuals in the Church were uneasy with the unintended results of the parish system: Jesuit John LaFarge worked for greater integration, as did the Federation of Coloured Catholics. Public figures like Bishop Sheen and Cardinal Spellman presented a vision of Catholicism as transcending national and racial boundaries. Many Catholics endorsed integration in principle but fiercely opposed upsetting the ethnic homeostasis of their own parishes. In the 1960s Catholics' social consciousness was raised by the Second Vatican Council and the civil rights movement. But as the model of integration came to be questioned in the name of respect for diversity, liberal Catholics who had fought against the parish system were, paradoxically, faced with a crisis. For many, their religious affiliation seemed an obstacle that protected a discredited status quo. A thorough, sensitive, and balanced contribution. (photos, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-226-55873-8
Page count: 351pp
Publisher: Univ. of Chicago
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1996




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