For two centuries, Catholicism has played a profound and largely
unexamined role in America's political and intellectual life.
Emphasizing the communal over the individual, protections for
workers and the poor over market freedoms, and faith in eternal
verities over pragmatic compromises, the Catholic worldview has
been a constant foil to liberalism. "Catholicism and American
Freedom" is a groundbreaking tale of strange bedfellows and bitter
conflicts over issues such as slavery, public education, economic
reform, the movies, contraception, and abortion. It is an
international story, as both liberals and conservatives were
influenced by ideas and events abroad, from the 1848 revolutions to
the rise of Fascism and the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, to
papal encyclicals and the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s; and
by the people, from scholarly Jesuits to working class Catholics,
who immigrated from Europe and Latin America. McGreevy reveals how
the individualist, and often vehemently anti-Catholic, inclinations
of Protestant intellectuals shaped the debates over slavery and how
Catholics, although they were the first to acknowledge the moral
equality of black people and disavowed segregation of churches,
even in the South, still had difficulty arguing against the
hierarchy and tradition represented by slavery. He sheds light on
the unsung heroes of American history like Orestes Browson, editor
of "Brownson's Quarterly Review," who suffered the disdain of
abolitionists for being a Catholic, and the antagonism of
conservative Catholics for being an abolitionist; and later heroes
like Jacques Maritain and John Courtney Murray, who fought to
modernize the Church, increased attention to human rights, and
urged the Church "to adapt herself vitally . . . to what is valid
in American democratic development." Putting recent scandals in the
Church and the media's response in a much larger context, this
stimulating history is a model of nuanced scholarship and
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