Approaches to engagement : American Catholicism in the public sphere (thesis)
Using history and contemporary sociology, this paper seeks to understand the relationship of the Catholic Church and the public square in the present-day United States of America, critically examining the ways by which American Catholic bishops, public officials, and laypeople seek to influence national dialogue on prominent contemporary political and social issues. It employs sociologist of religion José Casanova's thesis about the resurgence of religions into the public square as its cornerstone, complementing his theory with the work of other scholars, including Peter Berger and Charles Taylor, who offer their own visions of the Church's relationship with society, as well as with the changing beliefs and practices of the American Catholic laity. The task of understanding the relationship of the American Church and the public square is a multifaceted consideration of how the Church defines itself both internally and in relation to the broader American milieu. Unlike national churches in Europe or the Americas, American Catholicism has always been a pluralistic, diverse agglomeration approaching unity not by episcopal fiat but by compromise and necessity, with the intention of protecting itself from the Protestant majority or more recently, the secular square; this paper traces this history to the present day, ultimately offering a vision for engagement that honors Catholicism's theological integrity, diversity of membership, and relevance to modern American society.
Thesis; [FULL-TEXT RESTRICTED TO WASHINGTON AND LEE UNIVERSITY LOGIN]Christopher John Washnock is a member of the Class of 2012 of Washington and Lee University.