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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 Catholic Revival Reaches Full Flood

The Catholic Revival Reaches Full Flood

Chapter 7 The Catholic Revival Reaches Full Flood
Contending with Modernity

Philip Gleason

Oxford University Press

Around 1930 the impulses previously at work among an elite of educators and publicists broadened out to energize American Catholics more generally, especially young people, and the Catholic Revival became a full-fledged movement. It was self-consciously countercultural in the sense that it proclaimed and attempted to actualize the ideal of a Catholic culture set over against and in opposition to modern culture. Since it was so distinctly an intellectual movement, institutions of higher education were of course integrally involved. On the one hand, the revival shaped the mentality that dominated them; on the other hand, they served as focal points for its diffusion among the Catholic population and as a cultural force in American public life. Although the influence of the revival carried over into the post-World War II era, we will concentrate in this chapter on the 1930s. Al Smith’s campaign for the presidency brought the “Catholic question” of the twenties to its ugly climax. Even Catholics who could understand the reasons for their fellow citizens’ uneasiness on the church-state issue were disheartened and embittered by the tidal wave of crude no-popery that engulfed the Smith campaign. Thus Peter Guilday, who was privately troubled by traditional Catholic teaching on church-state and religious freedom, denounced those who had carried on “a studied propaganda o f . . . damnable, obscene and calumnious lies” against the church. But the excesses of bigotry also disturbed many fair minded Protestants, Jews, and non-religious liberals. As a result, the outbursts of 1928 spurred efforts to ameliorate interreligious feeling and the public attitude toward Catholicism improved considerably over the next half a dozen years. Father James M. Gillis, C.S.P., spoke for American Catholics in saying “We shall not wither up and blow away,” but their leaders also felt the need for new apologetical and public-relations efforts. Thus Carlton J. H. Hayes of Columbia University served as the first Catholic co-chairman of the newly formed National Conference of Christians and Jews, which initiated its systematic promotion of interreligious brotherhood in the immediate aftermath of the Smith campaign.

Keywords:   Anti-Semitism, Benedictines, Christian Family Movement, Elitism, Family issues, Grail Movement, Humanists, Labor issues, New Humanists

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