The Catholic Labyrinth: Power, Apathy, and a Passion for Reform in the American Church

ISBN : 9780199751181

Peter McDonough
408 Pages
172 x 239 mm
Pub date
Aug 2013
Send mail

The sexual abuse scandals that exploded in 2002 shook a church already under stress in the U.S. Since the 1960s the number of priests and nuns has fallen, as has attendance at religious services. While more lay people have assumed leadership positions in the church's educational and health care operations, many parishes and parochial schools have been consolidated or closed. Through all this, conservatives have increasingly dominated the Catholic hierarchy in the United States. Why? Popular reaction against the cultural upheavals of the sixties played into the church's endorsement of traditional sexual values, and disenchantment with welfare programs helped turn Catholics once sympathetic to New Deal progressivism toward less liberal policies. Retrenchment has also prevailed in the internal politics of the church, despite growing popular support for optional celibacy among priests, the ordination of women, and similar changes. Though many have left the church, immigration has helped replenish the ranks of the faithful with predominantly traditional adherents. The demographic shift has in turn reinforced a culture of deference that impedes collective initiatives for reform. At the heart of Catholicism's resistance to change is the equation of hierarchical authority with inherited gender roles, especially the subordination of women. Age-old standards of sexual behavior are upheld as essential to cultural continuity and social order in and outside the church. The link between doctrinal tradition and institutional stratification makes reform of the church extraordinarily difficult. The Catholic Labyrinth traces the variably confrontational and incremental strategies of advocacy groups as they struggle to reconcile religious mores with the onslaughts of modernity.


Part One
One: The Matrix of American Catholicism
Two: The Dynamics of Tradition
Part Two: Overview
Three: Prisoners in the Promised Land: Neoconservatism as Culture and Strategy
Four: Feminism versus the Family?
Five: Welfare Reform, American Values, and the Triumph of Catholic Neoconservatism
Part Three: Overview
Six: Conciliarism and Other Dormant Traditions
Seven: Managerialism and the Catholic Deficit
Part Four: Overview
Eight: SNAP and the Strategy of Confrontation
Nine: VOTF and the Struggle for Catholic Pluralism
Ten: The Leadership Roundtable and the Long March through the Institutions
Eleven: FutureChurch and the Fog of Reform
Part Five: Overview
Twelve: In the Labyrinth
Thirteen: Two Steps Forward ...
Part Six

About the author: 

Twice a Fulbright fellow, Peter McDonough has also been a National Endowment for the Humanities fellow and a recipient of research grants from the German Marshall Fund, the National Science Foundation, and the Pew Endowment. He served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Bangladesh and has taught for extended periods in Brazil and Ireland.

The price listed on this page is the recommended retail price for Japan. When a discount is applied, the discounted price is indicated as “Discount price”. Prices are subject to change without notice.