The Chruch Confronts Modernity assesses the history of Roman Catholicism since 1950 in the United States, the Republic of Ireland, and the Canadian province of Quebec. All three locales in 1950, despite very real differences in terms of ecomics, politics, and demography, were characterized by an institutionally vibrant Catholicism. Attendance at Mass was remarkably high, as was the frequency with which the laity received the sacraments. Devotional activities, especially those centered on the Virgin Mary, attracted a wide range of participants. Vocations to the priesthood and religious life were sustained at healthy levels. Large numbers of children attended Catholic schools, while their parents gave at least verbal assent to Church teaching on contraception and the indissolubility of marriage. Over the course of recent decades, these three locales have grown more alike: less rural, more affluent, increasingly wedded to an ideology of pluralism. The institutional health of Catholicism in each jurisdiction has also eroded. The book's essays seek to explore this seeming decline and assess both its causes and its significance. The authors discuss trends in Mass attendance and devotions; reception of the sacraments; vocations to the priesthood and religious life; attendance at Catholic schools and colleges; and support for church teaching in the social, political, and sexual realms. By comparing these trajectories of decline, readers will better understand the forces that have contributed to the change in Catholicism in the Western nations. The authors are especially interested in the relative impact of the Second Vatican Council. The book includes two essays each on Quebec, the United States, and the Republic of Ireland and two concluding essays that take a comparative look at developments in all three locales. The contributors are R. Scott Appleby, Gregory Baum, Kevin Christia, James D. Davidson, Michele Dillon, Michael Gauvreau, Dermot Keogh, and Lawrence Taylor.
Leslie Woodcock Tentler, professor of history at the Catholic University of America, writes mainly on American religious history, particularly U.S. Catholicism.