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Contending with ModernityCatholic Higher Education in the Twentieth Century$
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Philip Gleason

Print publication date: 1996

Print ISBN-13: 9780195098280

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195098280.001.0001

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The Beginnings of the Catholic Renaissance

The Beginnings of the Catholic Renaissance

Chapter 6 The Beginnings of the Catholic Renaissance
Contending with Modernity

Philip Gleason

Oxford University Press

The beginnings of the Catholic Renaissance in the United States were closely linked to the experience of American Catholics in the First World War. As we saw in Chapter 3, mobilization of Catholic energies to meet the wartime crisis led to the creation of the National Catholic War Council. The NCWC’s success in coordinating Catholic participation in the war effort, and the recognition it gained as the representative agency of the church in matters of broad national interest persuaded Catholic leaders that it should be perpetuated after the war. That was accomplished in 1919, when the War Council was transformed into the National Catholic Welfare Council (later National Catholic Welfare Conference). The creation of a national headquarters and staff not only gave the church a more effective voice in public affairs, it also enhanced Catholic visibility and served notice that a new era of purposeful Catholic participation in American life was about to begin. These developments had a tonic effect on Catholic morale and reinforced the sense of emotional solidarity with, and responsibility to, the nation that had grown out of the shared experience of wartime mobilization. The earliest manifestations of the Catholic Revival in the United States emerged from this matrix and took the form of a new kind of Catholic Americanism. There were, of course, certain points of similarity between the Americanism of the war and postwar years and that of the 1890s. Both versions, for example, reflected intense patriotic feeling, and both urged Catholics to identify with, and participate in, American life. Moreover, Cardinal Gibbons, who presided over the creation of the War Council and its transformation into the permanent NCWC, constituted a living link between the two eras. Yet no real effort was made to portray the new Americanism as a continuation of the earlier version. Reticence on this point made good sense tactically, since in 1899 Pope Leo XIII had condemned the opinions that “some comprise under the head of Americanism.”

Keywords:   Americanism, Benedictines, Entrance requirements, Ku Klux Klan, Literature, Medievalism, National Catholic War Council, Parochial schools

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