American Catholic: the politics of faith during the cold war

by D.G. Hart

Reviewed by Daniel Brown


Can Catholics be American? A lot of Americans Protestants didn’t think so. Hart, himself a Protestant, knows a lot about traditional arguments that make Catholics look suspicious. The 19th century Papal construction of the Americanist Heresy, which no American Catholics ever found and most American Catholics have ignored, becomes the interpretive lens for explaining the rise of right wing cold war Catholicism. Hart recounts that Catholic conservatism got its voice after the Second World War and became American in the 60s. William F. Buckley, Brent Bozell and then later Michael Novak , John Neuhaus and finally George Weigel made Catholicism truly American. Their principled conservatism affirmed that God exists, there is need for personal responsibility, limited government and protection of private property. John Courtney Murray, a hero to both right and left, got appropriated by both sides, but the right thinks he is really theirs. This novel and distorted description of the American Catholic church needs correction and can be found in many of the authors he cites in his first rate bibliographical essay.