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While there is a long-standing history of reflection among Catholics about the proper orientation of Catholicism towards American society, today the American Catholic community confronts a fundamentally new situation. Catholics face the dual threat of an ever more centralized and increasingly omnicompetent state and a new cultural ethos fundamentally incompatible with—and hostile to—Catholicism.
Today, American Catholics no longer live as a religious minority in a Protestant society whose commitment to limited government and religious freedom affords Catholics considerable space to live out their faith commitments, and whose Christian character assures the existence of substantial moral commonality. Now, Catholics are a religious minority in a post-Christian society animated by an anthropology and public morality incompatible with Catholic truth and committed to the exclusion of the faith from public life.
This new situation demands a rethinking on the part of American Catholics of their place in America and their relationship with American society. These essays seek to assist with this challenging task by casting light on this new situation and exploring its implications for the Church in America.
Kenneth L. Grasso is a professor of political science at Texas State University. Thomas F.X. Varacalli is assistant professor of great books at Belmont Abbey College.