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From their earliest days in America, Catholics organized to initiate and support charitable activities. A rapidly growing church community, although marked by widening church and ethnic differences, developed the extensive network of orphanages, hospitals, schools, and social agencies that came to represent the Catholic way of giving. But changing economic, political, and social conditions have often provoked sharp debate within the church about the obligation to give, priorities in giving, appropriate organization of religious charity, and the locus of authority over philanthropic resources. This first history of Catholic philanthropy in the United States chronicles the rich tradition of the church's charitable activities and the increasing tension between centralized control of giving and democratic participation.
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