My good friend and former boss, Phil Lawler, editor of Catholic World News, offers up a sneak peek of the first chapter of his new book on the Catholic Church in Boston, “The Faithful Departed: The Collapse of Boston’s Catholic Culture”.
In the book, Phil charts the rise of Catholicism in Boston out of the pits of bigotry and repression to become the single most dominant force in the life of the average citizen, only to see it fall so far out of influence in public life that even the most prominent Catholic public figures flout her principles with nary a thought. The pinnacle came in the middle of the 20th century:
Among those Catholics, about 80% attended Mass every week, and heard the doctrine of the Church proclaimed in sermons regularly. Many attended parochial schools, where their attitudes toward the world were shaped by the Sisters of St. Joseph and other religious orders. When the Holy Name Society organized a parade, 10,000 men marched through the streets of downtown Boston. A growing number attended Catholic colleges; Boston College and Holy Cross were attracting some of the brightest young men from the families of Irish and Italian immigrants. Lay Catholics joined the Knights of Columbus, the Women’s Sodality and the Altar Guild. They met their future spouses at CYO dances and Newman Club social hours. They identified themselves readily as Catholics, and on religious matters they identified Cardinal O’Connell as their leader.
How times have changed.
Obviously, as an employee of the Archdiocese it would be inappropriate for me to offer an endorsement of the book, but I am interested in reading Phil’s perspective. I don’t think we’ve had anyone weigh in on the situation in Boston from this particular point of view and it should be a valuable contribution.