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Synopsis

This book is not a scandal rehash. It describes the evolution of many Compliant Catholics of the largely ethnic, pre-WWII Church into both the Curious and the Critical Catholics of today. It is also about the potential demise of the American Catholic Church in the next few decades unless that evolution continues.

The author’s mission, based on his own experience and development, is to suggest to today’s Compliant Catholics that they not only may, but should become Curious; to demonstrate to already Curious Catholics that it is all right to be Critical; and to encourage Critical Catholics to speak up and be heard among their friends, in their Parishes and throughout their Dioceses.

The book is clearly critical of many things about our Religion and the Church, but it is not an exhortation to pack up and leave. In fact, it is a plea to fellow Catholics to realize that they can find and embrace reasons to stay and provide help in getting the Church back on track.

The book is not an attempt to convert people to Catholicism nor is it a Theological treatise on elements of the Faith. After reading the manuscript, a good friend, herself educated in Theology, said, “You are not a Theologian…(but you are) a fiercely loyal critic”. This book is addressed to all Catholics, whether practicing or not.

The author was born in 1930, during the golden age of Catholicism in the United States, which was rooted in the ethnic parishes of every city. Now, seven and a half decades later, he is a very different kind of Catholic, who despite the controversial election of Pope Benedict XVI is cautiously optimistic about the future.

When the author was growing up, his Religion was inextricably entangled with family, society, politics and nearly every other phase of life. It was an Immigrant Church, although many of its members were by then second and third generation citizens. From their midst they had provided a strong clergy and an army of Religious, who staffed excellent schools, colleges and hospitals.

These were Compliant Catholics, trained in that tradition through the firm, but usually gentle authority and discipline of the Church. These people didn’t know that they were Compliant Catholics and no one called them that, because that was the only kind of Catholics there were at that time.

They were taught that there was much somewhat undefined important work to be done and little time to spend discussing dogma or alternatives. There were also strong indications that not only would it be imprudent to introduce such discussions, but also that they would not be tolerated if they were introduced.

Compliant Catholics were defined by their Religion, instead of being supported by it. That Religion, in turn, was specified and taught, monitored and adjudicated by the Church, which itself was largely an enigma to its members. As the author grew up he became falsely comfortable and secure in his Religious beliefs; shielded by the Church from contrary opinion; but with no real sense of the meaning of Faith.

In the first two chapters, the author describes that not always subtle indoctrination, which extended through his high school years. At first, his training as a Compliant Catholicism came by example from his parents. Then it was the Nuns, first in Religious Education classes and later in Parochial School. Finally in a private boys high school the Brothers of the Christian Schools, an order founded in France, taught him their version. Authority and Discipline, not Faith.

The next five Chapters deal with the evolution of some of the Compliant Catholics of the author’s generation and their offspring, through the intermediate stage of being Curious Catholics and beyond into the Critical Catholics found today in sizable numbers in the American Catholic Church. This evolution had its roots in the

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