It is no secret: the body of Christ in the United States is broken. While universality—and unity amid diversity—is a fundamental characteristic of Roman Catholicism, all-too-familiar issues related to gender, sexuality, race, and authority have rent the church. Healthy debates, characteristic of a living tradition, suffer instead from an absence of genuine engagement and dialogue. But there is still much that binds American Catholics. In naming the wounds and exploring their social and religious underpinnings, Polarization in the US Catholic Church underscores how shared beliefs and aspirations can heal deep fissures and the hurts they have caused. Cutting across disciplinary and political lines, this volume brings essential commentary in the direction of reclaimed universality among American Catholics.
Mary Ellen Konieczny is assistant professor of sociology at the University of Notre Dame. She holds a PhD from the University of Chicago and an MDiv from Weston Jesuit School of Theology, and she previously worked in ministry and administration for the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago. Her book, The Spirit's Tether: Family, Work, and Religion among American Catholics, is an ethnography of liberal and conservative Catholic parishes examining how religion and family life support and shape moral and political polarization.
Charles C. Camosy (PhD, University of Notre Dame) is associate professor of theology at Fordham University. His articles have appeared in publications including American Journal of Bioethics, Journal of the Catholic Health Association, Los Angeles Times, and America. He is also the author of Too Expensive to Treat?, Peter Singer and Christian Ethics, For Love of Animals, and Beyond the Abortion Wars. He advises the Faith Outreach office of the Humane Society and the ethics committee of Children's Hospital of New York.
Tricia C. Bruce (PhD, University of California Santa Barbara) is associate professor of sociology at Maryville College and author of Faithful Revolution: How Voice of the Faithful Is Changing the Church. Her second book (forthcoming) explores the use of "personal parishes" in response to cultural, ideological, and ethnic diversity among US Catholics. She also co-leads the American Parish Project and has conducted applied research for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.
"Pope Francis reminds us that `open and fraternal debate makes theological and pastoral thought grow.' We should welcome such debate as evidence of a vibrant Church engaging issues at the heart of our faith. Polarization in the US Catholic Church advances this effort, challenging Catholics to remember that ours is a Church of relationship rooted in love and that our discourse must reflect that if we're to advance our evangelizing mission."
Kim Daniels, Member of the Vatican Secretariat for Communications, Former spokesperson for the president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops
"Polarization is one of the gravest illnesses infecting the US Catholic Church. In fact, Catholics often have an easier time talking with members of other Christian denominations and other religious traditions than with one another. Before we can accomplish anything in our church, we must first be able to talk to one another charitably. This book is an important step forward, as some of the church's most thoughtful men and women lay out the scope of the problem, consider its roots, and point to healthy and life-giving ways to move ahead. Essential reading for Catholics in the United States."
James Martin, SJ, Author of Jesus: A Pilgrimage
"This short collection of essays does an excellent job of shining a light on the problem of polarization in the US Catholic Church. Most of the essays here are quite accessible, so this relatively short volume could be utilized fruitfully in a variety of ecclesial and educational contexts. At the local level, Catholics could perhaps benefit most from this work by organizing parish-based discussion groups that commit to engaging on a weekly basis the various topics addressed by the contributors."
Ryan Marr, Catholic Books Review
"A must-read for anyone trying to assess where the church is today and needs to go to be credible in the future."
Kevin W. Irwin, Catholic University of America
"On the whole, this is a very insightful and hopeful volume, truly relevant to the concerns facing the Church today. It calls us to remember that our similarities are greater than our differences, that as Catholics we truly are a big-tent organization. I commend the conference organizers for starting this dialogue, and as a reader, I hope to see it continue."
Vox Nova, Jeannine Marie Dymphna
"What has happened in America since April 2015 makes the book even more important."
"The book provides the opportunity to unite friends, companions, and all who share their thoughts and experiences, to join in reflecting on how engaging those with different views on controversial issues might challenge each reader to revise and incorporate new understandings of the issues that divide them."
"Given the diversity of opinions on the nature and extent of the topic, this is a good purchase for academic and parish libraries."
Daniel Boice, Catholic Library World
"The volume is a rich collection of essays that offer a diversity of voices on the reality of polarization in the Catholic Church, a polarization that reflects the reality of the broader American reality. The essays offer wisdom drawn from personal experiences of polarization brought to bear on the expertise of religious leaders, academics, and advocates. I encourage anyone interested not only in understanding the phenomenon of polarization in the Church but also in finding insights into strategies to address it to pick up this book. The honest assessments of the wounds in our Church and society are coupled with genuine hope for healing grounded in the various authors' experiences of working toward creating the space for genuine dialogue. This volume is a gift to those of us who long to help create such spaces. It was truly a pleasure to read this work. I intend to bring different essays into my various classes, work with students, and conversations with colleagues."
Catherine Punsalan-Manlimos, PhD; Malcolm and Mari Stamper Endowed Chair in Catholic Intellectual and Cultural Traditions; Director, Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture; Associate Professor, Theology and Religious Studies, Seattle University