The Making of American Catholicism

Regional Culture and the Catholic Experience

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Michael J. Pfeifer
  • New York: 
    New York University Press
    , January
     248 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.
Review coming soon!

Review by Mary Beth Yount forthcoming.


Traces the development of Catholic cultures in the South, the Midwest, the West, and the Northeast, and their contribution to larger patterns of Catholicism in the United States.

Most histories of American Catholicism take a national focus, leading to a homogenization of American Catholicism that misses much of the local complexity that has marked how Catholicism developed differently in different parts of the country. Such histories often treat northeastern Catholicism, such as the Irish Catholicism of Boston, as if it reflects the full history and experience of Catholicism across the United States.

The Making of American Catholicism argues that regional and transnational relationships have been central to the development of American Catholicism. The American Catholic experience has diverged significantly among regions; if we do not examine how it has taken shape in local cultures, we miss a lot. Exploring the history of Catholic cultures in New Orleans, Iowa, Wisconsin, Los Angeles, and New York City, the volume assesses the role of region in American Catholic history, carefully exploring the development of American Catholic cultures across the continental United States.

Drawing on extensive archival research, The Making of American Catholicism argues that American Catholicism developed as transnational Catholics creatively adapted their devotional and ideological practices in particular American regional contexts. They emphasized notions of republicanism, individualistic capitalism, race, ethnicity, and gender, resulting in a unique form of Catholicism that dominates the United States today. The book offers close attention to race and racism in American Catholicism, including the historical experiences of African American and Latinx Catholics as well as Catholics of European descent.

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Michael J. Pfeifer is professor of history at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the CUNY Graduate Center. His books include Rough Justice: Lynching and American Society, 1874–1947, and The Roots of Rough Justice: Origins of American Lynching.



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