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In this handsomely designed and, glory of glories, footnoted book, Patrick Allitt of Emory University examines a period in the history of the American Catholic Church of probably more radical change than occurred in any comparable era. This was in part due to the reforms of Pope John XXIII, which shook the Church world-wide, and in part to the events in 1960s, which tore the United States apart. The resulting rift thus opened became permanent, leaving traditional America on the far side of a rapidly widening fault line.
Despite a long history in the New World, the Catholic Church was somewhat marginalized in that older America. Allitt reminds us that during the 1950s, Catholics still felt obligated to refute charges that their link with the Vatican rendered their loyalty to their country suspect.
For Catholic intellectuals, liberals and conservatives alike, this meant maintaining a semi-united front before the common enemy. This alliance was made easier because the emerging new conservatives of the period owed much to liberalism. As Allitt says:
They were lay people eager to establish themselves without clerical props and certainly without deferring to clerical control and censorship. Most of them favored political collaboration with members of other faiths . . . . Many of them were educated at secular universities; were married and hoped …