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Anti-Catholicism in America: The Last Acceptable Prejudice [Paperback]

By Mark S. Massa S.J. (Author)
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Item Number 137447  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   288
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.98" Width: 6.06" Height: 0.76"
Weight:   0.88 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Sep 1, 2005
Publisher   The Crossroad Publishing Company
ISBN  0824523628  
EAN  9780824523626  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
One of the most important books in religion this year is a tour-de-force of new investigation, scholarly rigor, storytelling, and humor. In this authoritative work, the author reveals how American Catholics' distinctive way of viewing the world is constantly misunderstood--and attacked--by outsiders.

Publishers Description
One of the most important books in religion this year is a tour-de-force of new investigation, scholarly rigor, storytelling, and humor. In this authoritative work, Mark Massa, program director of Fordham University's Center for American Catholic Studies, reveals how American Catholics' distinctive way of viewing the world is constantly misunderstood by outsiders. This book tells the astonishing story of how a supposedly tolerant American culture has prejudged members of their largest religious group, and how the profound differences between Catholics and non-Catholics explain this animosity. Crossroad is pleased to present the paperback edition with major study guide. Chapters include: The Varieties of Anti-Catholicism in the United States; Do Catholics and Protestant See the World Differently? Catholic-Protestant Tensions in Postwar America; The Power of Negative Thinking; The Death Cookie and Other "Catholics Cartoons"; Catholicism and Science; "Why Does He Say Those Awful Things about Catholics?"; Betrayal in Boston; The Last Acceptable Prejudice?

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Contributes to knowledge but not the solution  Feb 28, 2008
The oft quoted saying that problems can't be solved at the same level that they were created applies here if the study of anti-Catholicism is intended to help alleviate it. `Unlike Catholic and non-Catholic authors of other books on the subject that I have read, the author of this book (in spite of being a Catholic priest) appears to be himself quite hostile toward Catholicism (but not somehow 'being a Catholic').

People who despise Catholicism and appreciate a well written and well referenced book arguing that Catholicism itself is the root of its problems will enjoy this book. The author genuinely seems to want anti-Catholicism to end. However he considers the substance of Catholicism to blame and believes that the solution is Catholicism reinventing itself so that its structure and beliefs enable it to blend better with popular secular culture.

The issue of the sexual abuse scandals is legitimately raised as a catalyst for extreme modern anti-Catholicism. The author rightly points out that "One of the many tragedies of the Boston Clergy sexual abuse case is its handy availability as proof positive for those citizens already uneasy with Catholicism that their fears were well placed after all."

Nevertheless, as has been pointed out in other literature, the scandal was exacerbated by critics of the Church who helped generate the media construct and who fanned the flames hoping to derive support for their ongoing attack on Catholicism.

Unfortunately the author leans toward continuing this exacerbation. Don't expect more than an incidental mention of the low incidence of abuse among the clergy relative to comparable groups and the mitigating reasons for inappropriate management by the Bishops. Such mention is made only passingly to rebut its mitigating implications for the moral culpability of the Bishops.

Ironically the facts adduced to condemn the Bishops almost completely exonerates them. The exception is a March 2002 psychiatrist's statement contradicting claims of Edward Cardinal Egan. Other attempts to establish moral culpability are weak and clearly establish that psychiatric and medical opinion at the time resulted in and supported Bishop's decisions. Nevertheless the author strings the proverbial long bow in second guessing a Bishop for failing to reject the medical opinion of a molestor's "family doctor and friend". Another example of an equally long bow is represented by holding up a 1985 Bishop's report as a smoking gun. The report was partly based on testimony of psychiatrists. It held that treatment could "help rehabilitate (paedophile) clerics so that they could return to active ministry" providing that a specific treatment regime was followed to avoid recidivism. The key treatment required was 6 months at a facility. The author focusses on the example of molestor Father Georghan to demonstrate non-compliance with the report recommendations. Although in that example rehabilitation at facilities clearly lasted less than 6 months per visit it is plain that Georghan attended facilities for treatment and plain that the treatment duration was based on the recommendations of the facilities. That an honest attempt was made to follow the report recommendations is palpable.

The unreasonable assumption that such facts are a smoking gun appears to be based on the author's bias toward viewing Bishops as villains presumably due to being part of institutional Catholicism. Indeed he even dismisses Catholics with the temerity to criticize media reports on the topic which included exageration or misrepresentation. He implies that such Catholics are labelling legitimate criticism as Catholic bashing. Further, he so ardently seeks condemnation of Bishops that he considers the following comment somehow self evidently relevant to the above situations: "a church culture that places the reputation of that church above the safety of children is a church culture that must be seriously reexamined." Implicit is an unestablished extrapolation that relying on then current medical opinion was somehow a coverup wilfully accepting that children would continue to be harmed and any call for fair and honest media reporting on such an inflamatory issue equates to an attempted cover up.

For the record I firmly believe that Bishops deferring all authority to mental health professionals (even if they consulted canon law to ensure the rubber stamping was implemented with correct procedures) acted extremely misguidedly and incompetently. They failed miserably to act as shepherds rather than rubber stamps for secular decision makers. This resulted in tragic consequences for some of their flock. However that does not mean that the author's weak excuses to unfairly condemn the Bishops for more damaging reasons should be countenanced.

Unfortunately the author seems more interested in changing Catholicism then analysing anti-Catholicism. Noteable is the glossing over of the statistical surge in abuse cases commencing in the 1960s and ending in the 1980s an era when liberal Catholicism dominated the Church. Indeed the author's casual use of the term "homophobic" in the final chapter when arguing that Catholics are not the only group who encounter modern prejudice speaks volumes about his level of acceptance of Catholic teachings. Likewise the uncritical and undue emphasis (compared to other Catholic views) afforded to recording explanations for anti-Catholicism derived from "Catholic commentators" who blame institutional Catholicism itself for its problems supports this view. This emphasis includes quotes from a gay Catholic and a Catholic who states "the arguments for what passes as current church doctrine are so intellectually contemptible that mere self respect forbids a man to voice them as his own." The corollary of the willingness to embrace opinions violently opposed to Catholic doctrine is presumably that the author shares the hostility.

In the final analysis the irony here is that a book from a Catholic priest and academic apparently hostile toward Catholicism is unlikely to alleviate anti-Catholicism and may well exacerbate it. Like a badly behaving priest in the news, a priest hostile toward Catholic belief will affirm in people already uneasy with Catholicism that their uneasiness must be well grounded after all.
Enlightening and comforting...  Jun 11, 2007
As someone who grew up Catholic and who has always loved being a Catholic this book is a source of great reassurance. I spent 12 years in schools run by Benedictine nuns and priests and, though they were pretty strict, I believe I got a better education than I would have had I attended a secular school. Being a Catholic is not always easy and I am not always good at it. There are many problems within the Church but I am so tired of feeling like I have to apologize for continuing to believe in the higher purpose of Catholicism.

Father Massa's book is a great reassurance that Catholicism is more than just what one does on Sunday mornings. It is a way of life and, for the most part, it is a good way of life. I particularly appreciated his chapters on the pedophilia scandals of recent years. His precise and exacting explanation of the events leading up to it and the way it was handled is unblinkingly honest but reassuring that, while many mistakes were made, they were human mistakes that had little to do with theology and the essence of what Catholicism is.

This is a beautifully written, touching and informative book. If you are a Catholic who feels you have to apologize for that at times and yet still believe, I urge you to read Father Massa's book.

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