American Conversations with(in) Catholicism

28 Pages Posted: 26 Jul 2005


John T. McGreevy's Catholicism and American Freedom tells the story of how America or, more particularly, American liberalism has reacted and responded to Catholic claims about the nature and purpose of freedom. It also addresses how these claims were, in turn, shaped by Catholicism's own interactions with, internal conversations about, and adjustment to American liberalism. As McGreevy shows, for many people and for many years, the Roman Catholic Church served as a foil for American values and ideals and vice versa. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that American liberalism has often defined and constructed itself precisely in opposition to its image of Catholicism. At the same time, Catholic institutions, practice, and belief developed in response to American and liberal challenges, and American Catholics have oscillated uneasily between sectarianism, segregation, and counter-culture, on the one hand, and engagement, accommodation, and assimilation, on the other.

McGreevy's account enriches our studies and conversations not only about church-state relations, but also and more broadly about education, citizenship, and loyalty. His history could improve present-day academic debates about the nature and role of public reason and the place of religious argument and expression in public life, and more generally he takes us to the heart of perennial questions about the prerogatives of the liberal state, the scope and content of religious obligations, and even the nature and end of the human person.

Keywords: Religious freedom, democracy, Catholicism, establishment clause

JEL Classification: K10, K30, K40

Suggested Citation

Garnett, Richard W., American Conversations with(in) Catholicism. Michigan Law Review, Vol. 102, p. 1191, May 2004, Available at SSRN:

Richard W. Garnett (Contact Author)

Notre Dame Law School ( email )

Room 327
P.O. Box 780
Notre Dame, IN 46556-0780
United States
574-631-6981 (Phone)
574-631-4197 (Fax)

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics