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In the wake of Vatican II and the political and social upheavals of the 1960s, disruption and disagreement rent the Catholic Church in America. Since then a diversity of opinions on a variety of political and religious questions found expression in the church, leading to a fragmented understanding of Catholic identity. Liberal, conservative, neoconservative and traditionalist Catholics competed to define what constituted an authentic Catholic worldview, thus making it nearly impossible to pinpoint a unique "Catholic position" on any given topic. A Partisan Church examines these controversies during the Reagan era and explores the way in which one group of intellectuals - well-known neoconservative Catholics such as George Weigel, Michael Novak, and Richard John Neuhaus - sought to reestablish a coherent and unified Catholic identity. Their efforts to do so were multilayered, with questions related to Cold War politics, US foreign relations with Central American dictatorships, the economy, abortion, and the state of American culture being perhaps the most contentious subjects. Throughout these debates neoconservative intellectuals voiced their opposition to positions staked out by the Catholic bishops of the United States and to other schools of thought within American Catholicism. While policy questions were an important component of Catholic identity, a more fundamental disagreement was reflected in the neoconservative concern that a significant fraction of church leadership had embraced a misguided ecclesiology, one that misconstrued the relationship between the church's mission and political life. In this book, Todd Scribner, of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, traces out the contours of these disagreements by focusing on neoconservative Catholic thought and identifying the distinct manner in which they addressed matters of grave importance to the post-Vatican II church.
TODD SCRIBNER is the Education Outreach Coordinator at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, DC.
"Todd Scribner makes a noteworthy contribution to our understanding of Catholic neoconservatism and its promoters' efforts to shape Catholicism's role in late twentieth-century US public life."~James P. McCartin, Fordham Univ, American Catholic Studies
"In this insightful, well-researched and thought-provoking book, Todd Scribner presents a compelling story of the development of neoconservative Catholic thought in the 1970S and 1980s. The story covers a wide spectrum of subjects, including church structure, secular political history, Catholic social thought, and public policy. Despite the challenge of such wide-ranging topics, Scribner ties them together to produce insights highly relevant to contemporary Catholicism and American politics... In this engaging and illuminating book, Scribner demonstrates the value of religion in directing American civil society, which in turn influences political identity."~Patrick Garry, Univ South Dakota, First Things
"This is a well-told and useful intellectual history… In Scribner's patient narrative we get to see how his three protagonists helped set the stage for, lionize, and finally memorialize the era of President Ronald Regan - all while attempting to integrate their political aspirations with those of Pope John Paul II. The result is understanding... The book may do well in advanced courses in Catholic studies and should have a place in graduate libraries."~Patrick J. Hayes, Catholic Library World
"The book gives a brief but accurate look into conservative political thinking and writing in the closing decades of the twentieth century."~Joseph Martos, Aquinas Inst, St. Louis, MO, Theological Studies