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The Frontiers of Catholicism: The Politics of Ideology in a Liberal World

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Why does the Catholic Church take a politically conservative stance on some issues, such as abortion and birth control, while on others, such as social programs and nuclear policy, it resembles the left? Why do some Catholic groups reject the legitimacy of Church hierarchy and yet choose to remain within its fold? To explain these apparent contradictions, Gene Burns examines the origins of contemporary diversity and conflict in the Catholic Church as well as the processes of ideological change. Drawing on ...
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Overview

Why does the Catholic Church take a politically conservative stance on some issues, such as abortion and birth control, while on others, such as social programs and nuclear policy, it resembles the left? Why do some Catholic groups reject the legitimacy of Church hierarchy and yet choose to remain within its fold? To explain these apparent contradictions, Gene Burns examines the origins of contemporary diversity and conflict in the Catholic Church as well as the processes of ideological change. Drawing on interviews and archival research, Burns reinterprets crucial institutional and ideological changes originating in nineteenth-century European Catholicism. He builds on historical research to explain the development of ideological trends obviously at odds with the traditional values of Catholicism. The Church has historically aligned itself with conservative elites and governments, yet American bishops have become outspoken critics of the government, decrying its economic and defense policies. Although religious sisters take a vow of obedience to the Church, American nuns rebelled early on against patriarchal authority, becoming committed feminists in advance of most American women. Contrary to the common perception that liberal political views among bishops and nuns came from outside, Burns finds ample precedent for the present diversity of ideologies within the Church itself. Providing the sociological and historical perspective that allows a better understanding of the multifaceted legacy of the Catholic Church, he argues that the contradictions stem from the attempt to separate matters of "faith and morals" from social and political issues. Furthermore, he shows that groups have developed different ideological stances depending on what type of power and how much of it they have relative to other groups within the Church. With valuable insights into the American Catholic Church, the modern papacy, and the Latin American Church, The Frontiers of Catholicism i
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Meet the Author

Gene Burns is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Princeton University.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Popes, Councils, and Selected Documents since Vatican I
Abbreviations
1 Introduction: Catholic Ideology 1
2 The Papal Struggle With Liberalism 22
3 Change and Ambiguity at Vatican II 47
4 Ideological Boundaries in a Minority Church 72
5 Collegiality and Catholic Social Teaching in the American Context 97
6 Radicalization at the Periphery of Power 130
7 Catholicism and Politics in Latin America: A Comparative Perspective 158
8 Conclusion: The Catholic Church and Ideological Change 189
Notes 209
Glossary 271
Bibliography 275
Index 289
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