"With his new book, American Church: The Remarkable Rise, Meteoric Fall, and Uncertain Future of Catholicism in America, mild-mannered Russell Shaw has become the bull in the china shop of U.S. Catholic history, knocking heroes off pedestals and overturning conventional story-lines—all in aid of trying to understand why the Church in America is in a precarious position today vis-à-vis the ambient public culture and the government.
Shaw’s answer: We’re in deep trouble because of a longstanding U.S. Catholic determination to be more American than thou—to disprove ancient charges of Catholicism’s incompatibility with American democracy by assimilating so dramatically that there’s no discernible difference between Catholics (and their attitudes toward public policy) and an increasingly secularized, mainstream public opinion.
Shaw mounts an impressive case that Catholic Lite in these United States has indeed taken its cues from the wider culture, and as that culture has become ever more individualistic and hedonistic, the historic U.S. Catholic passion for assimilation and acceptance has backfired. Moreover, Shaw’s call to build a culture-reforming Catholic counterculture is not dissimilar to the argument I make about the Church and public life in Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st-Century Church"
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U.S. Catholics: Overly Assimilated? | First Things