The American Catholic Revolution

by Kathy Cummings

My review of Mark Massa’s The American Catholic Revolution: How the ‘60s Changed the Church Forever (Oxford, 2010) appears in the most recent issue of America.

It’s a very positive review (I compared my level of excitement for a new Mark Massa book with that my daughter had towards new Harry Potter novels); it really is a great book that you should all read.

But I do make one critique in my review. Here it is, in an excerpt:

Scholars who follow Massa’s lead in the future would do well to apply his thesis more comprehensively to issues of women and gender. Alas, his book is indeed a “master narrative” in the sense that, with the notable exception of Mother Caspary of the I.H.M.s, all its protagonists are men. A discussion of women’s ordination or the abortion question would have enhanced the study. Strictly speaking, of course, both Roe v. Wade and the Women’s Ordination Conference belong to the 1970s, but they do fall within the purview of “the long ’60s,” a term most American historians use to limn the period. More significantly, though, both of these developments were undoubtedly rooted in the events Massa describes, and they were—and remain—quite central to any discussion of an “American Catholic revolution.”

So when I was writing this paragraph, I had conflicting emotions. On the one hand, I was worried about sounding like a broken record: “Here she goes again, harping on the absence of female subjects,” I imagined my phantom reader thinking. Am I becoming a cliché, I wondered?

But on the other hand, I was angry. Why SHOULD I have to point out time and again that it might be nice to include a few more women in your study/lecture/conference paper/whatever, not because it would fulfill some kind of politically correct quota but because it might actually help you strengthen or refine your argument? Too often I have heard people who ignore women defend themselves by saying that they are just not “interested” in women’s history. Well, who says it’s okay—let alone historically responsible--not to be interested in half of the human population?


Edward J Blum said…
nice review! and you don't sound monotonous ...
Anonymous said…
Glad to hear about this. I'm looking forward to reading the book.

Curtis Evans