Before the potato famine ravaged Ireland in the 1840s, the Roman Catholic Church was barely a thread in the American cloth. Twenty years later, New York City was home to more Irish Catholics than Dublin. Today, the United States boasts some sixty million members of the Catholic Church, which has become one of this country's most influential cultural forces. In American Catholic: The Saints and Sinners Who Built America's Most Powerful Church, Charles R. Morris recounts the rich story of the rise of the Catholic Church in America, bringing to life the personalities that transformed an urban Irish subculture into a dominant presence nationwide. Here are stories of rouges and ruffians, heroes and martyrs-- from Dorothy Day, a convert from Greenwich Village Marxism who opened shelters for thousands, to Cardinal William O'Connell, who ran the Church in Boston from a Renaissance palazzo, complete with golf course. Morris also reveals the Church's continuing struggle to come to terms with secular, pluralist America and the theological, sexual, authority, and gender issues that keep tearing it apart. As comprehensive as it is provocative, American Catholic is a tour de force, a fadcinating cultural history that will engage and inform both Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
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