Video Archive Special Topics How Converts Transformed and Re-Shaped the American Catholic Church
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How Converts Transformed and Re-Shaped the American Catholic Church
Category Special Topics
Year: 2010
Time: 52 minutes
In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, the majority of American Catholics were recent immigrants from Ireland, Italy, Germany, Poland, and the Slavic lands. They were preoccupied with finding a place for themselves in the midst of a Protestant population, much of which was afraid of Catholicism and prejudiced against it. A minority of American Catholics, by contrast, were converts from Protestantism who joined the Church after crises of faith, and who then wanted to persuade their old friends and family members to make the same decision. They wrote and spoke persuasively, and in an idiom that Protestants could understand, becoming highly influential figures.  
Among the nineteenth century converts were Isaac Hecker, founder of the Paulist Fathers, and Orestes Brownson, editor of Brownson's Quarterly Review. Among the twentieth-century converts were Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, the historian and diplomat Carlton Hayes, the Trappist monk Thomas Merton, and the novelist Walker Percy. In addition, many famous British converts visited America and played a leading role in the American Catholic press, including G. K. Chesterton, Ronald Knox, Evelyn Waugh, and Graham Greene. Collectively these converts transformed the image of Catholicism in the eyes of other Americans and gave it a new position of intellectual dignity in American life.
Dr. Patrick Allitt, Cahoon Family Professor of American History, is an American who specializes in religious, intellectual and environmental history. He graduated from Oxford, England, in 1977, and earned his doctorate in American History in 1986 from the University of California, Berkeley, He was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Divinity School, (1985-1988) and has been at Emory since 1988.


Speaker(s): Dr. Patrick Allitt

Date: October 21, 2010

Location: Anderson Hall

Length: 52 mins

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