Scribner, “A Partisan Church: American Catholicism and the Rise of Neoconservative Catholics”

In March, the Catholic University of America Press released “A  Partisan Church: American Catholicism and the Rise of Neoconservative Catholics” by Todd Scribner (Education Outreach Coordinator at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops). The publisher’s description follows:

In the wake of Vatican II and the political and social upheavals of the 1960s,Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 1.07.07 AM 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 im- possible 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 dictator- ships, the economy, abortion, and the state of American culture being perhaps the most contentious subjects. Throughout these debates neo- conservative 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 neo- conservative concern that a significant fraction of church leadership had embraced a misguided ecclesiology, one that misconstrued the re- lationship 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 Cath- olic thought and identifying the distinct manner in which they ad- dressed matters of grave importance to the post-Vatican II church.

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