A People Adrift
The Crisis of the Roman Catholic Church in America
In addition to providing a spiritual identity for over 60 million Americans, the church is the nation's largest nongovernmental provider of education and social services, as well as the largest not-for-profit provider of health care. But even before the recent revelations about sex abuse by priests, American Catholicism was already heading for a major crisis, with its traditional leadership depleted by the decline in religious vocations and paralyzed by "theological gridlock."
Catholicism in the United States confronts hard choices among contrasting visions for the future, choices with huge implications for American life. Analyzing these choices in ways that escape all the familiar labels of conservative or liberal, Steinfels points to the directions the church must take to survive.
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Today the Roman Catholic Church in the United States is on the verge of either an irreversible decline or a thoroughgoing transformation.
A few years ago, that proposition might have seemed melodramatic, typical journalistic sensationalism. Then, in the first half of 2002, the church was hit with a gale of revelations about sexual molestation of minors by priests, and as the winds of scandal continued to howl and howl, it seemed that no statement about the Catholic Church was too melodramatic or exaggerated to get a serious hearing. My own analysis of the sex scandal, somewhat different from the standard... see more