The American Church

Avery Dulles toward the end of 1989 presented a lecture at Fordham in which he outlined four “strategies” of the American Catholic Church:  Traditionalism, neo-conservatism, liberalism, and radicalism.  He saw value in each and warned against “internecine struggles” which he called a scandal and waste of energy.  Nearly twenty years later, I wonder whether he would have described the American Church in similar words.   If interested in the lecture,  go to

Quite frankly, I suspect I fall into both the traditionalist and radical camps, as strange of bedfellows that may seem.  The prophetic witness of the “radical Catholics”, calling both the Church and society to change is something of great need in my view.  Adhering to the counter-cultural aspects of the traditionalists with the emphasis on good catechesis is also sorely needed in my experience.  I am afraid I would have had a difficult time had I been living in the era of Archbishop Ireland and his efforts to “Americanize” Catholicism.  In similar fashion, I am not all that sure of the “neo-conservative” efforts of today, and I have difficulty with the anger of the “liberals” who seem to direct it all at the Church (in contrast to the “radicals” who seem to use that energy and call out to both the Church and the world).

About Deacon Bob

Moderator: Deacon Bob Yerhot of the Diocese of Winona, Minnesota.
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2 Responses to The American Church

  1. Deacon Gordon D. Richard says:

    Are we American Catholics or Catholics in America? American Catholics bring American values and prespective to the Chuch and society Catholics in America were our ancestors and experienced a much lesser degree of assimilation into American society. American Catholics are fully assimilated. How many Supreme Court Jutices are Catholic; five out of nine? I’ve head somewhere that 40% of CEO’s in the United States are Catholics. George Gallup, the polster, has called the Catholic Church the “sleeping giant” of evangelization. If that giant were fully aroused, what an effect we would have!

    The ‘flip side’ of being American Catholics is that in our assimilation we have become accomodating to the predominent culture. Specifically, the comsumer society. We have become like everyone else in pursuit of the pleasures and things of this world. We have not been ‘counter-cultural’ enough. Many of the Catholics in positions of power have made a difference, but we have a long way to go. John Paul II’s “Culture of Life” can be our contribution and, as American Catholics, we can permeate society with such a culture. In doing this we will be more awakened and continue this country toward truly becoming the “New Israel” envisioned by our American founders.

  2. admin says:

    Thanks for great post, Gordon. I think you have described things well. JPIIs “Culture of Life” may be a good way for us to realize our Catholic identity in our society today. I wonder how many people in the pews know anything about it or currently identify with it. To do so would really be “counter-cultural” it would seem.

    Hope all is well for you in your new diocese!

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