CATHOLICS AND AMERICAN POLITICS by Mary T. Hanna

CATHOLICS AND AMERICAN POLITICS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

What does being Catholic have to do with being American? To this interesting question, Hanna provides a series of balanced, competent, but consistently dull answers. She knows her material, but she doesn't know what to do with it. She writes as a liberal insider, backing the familiar ""two Johns"" thesis: JFK broke down the last barriers of nativist prejudice and opened the way for a swarm of Catholics on Capitol Hill, while John XXIII opened the window with Vatican II and let the winds of healthy change blow through the Church. She sees American Catholics coming of age politically in the 1960s; along with a steady rise in income and level of education, they began to display greater concern for civil liberties and social justice. While sticking, by and large, to their old Democratic loyalties, they become more tolerant and sophisticated. As of now, despite a decline in attendance at mass and the debacle over birth control, Hanna finds the institutional Church ""reasonably large and fairly strong . . . with an educated and devout lay leadership."" That should translate into a major impact on the American political scene; but -- except for the notorious issue of abortion -- it doesn't. Ironically, Catholic gains in status were accompanied by a ""denial of specialized group aims""; that is, they became like everybody else. Hanna has some worthwhile things to say about various subjects -- the position of Chicanos in the Church, reactions to Fr. Robert Drinan, etc. -- but her writing is excrutiatingly bland and colorless. Slightly complacent, but unbiased, informative, and useful -- if you can keep awake.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1979
Publisher: Harvard Univ. Press