Claiming Civic Space

Thomas A. Tweed

in America's Church

Published in print June 2011 | ISBN: 9780199782987
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199897384 | DOI:
Claiming Civic Space

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In the years between the Shrine's approval and dedication, the clergy believed there was “grand work” to do. At the Shrine and beyond its threshold, the clergy hoped their efforts would secure Catholicism's public presence. Ecclesiastical leaders not only hoped to contest Protestant interpretations of their faith, but—in a related effort—they also tried to claim civic space. They did so by working locally, regionally, and nationally to assert influence on American politics, culture, society, and economy. A few who ventured into the public arena had direct or indirect links with the Shrine. More important, in this chapter—which focuses on the building's geographical location, exterior design, and cultural function—it is argued that its clerical promoters helped to create the American tradition of making religious claims on civic space in the nation's capital, an important but overlooked pattern of public religious practice in the United States. Like the leaders of Protestant, Eastern Orthodox, and Jewish groups, Roman Catholic advocates increasingly focused their attention on Washington, where they asserted their presence through rituals (vigils, processions, pilgrimages, and parades) and architecture (war memorials, the Vatican's embassy, churches, and shrines).

Keywords: geographic location; Catholics; Catholicism; public presence; civic space; public religious practice; Washington D.C.

Chapter.  12966 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Religious Studies

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