A Definition of Catholic


in The Catholic Studies Reader

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print April 2011 | ISBN: 9780823234103
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823240906 | DOI:

Series: Catholic Practice in North America

A Definition of Catholic

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Catholic Studies emerges in the North American context precisely at a time when the boundaries for identifying “Catholic” are contested. Under conditions of globalization when persons shift in and out of a variety of local and transnational affiliations, the identifier is not as clear as perhaps it once was. This chapter proposes a method of rigorous interrogation not only of “what is Catholic” but also “what Catholic is.” It shows that the “Catholic” in Catholic Studies never represents the totality of personal and spiritual identity for Catholic persons: it constitutes but one element among many that contribute to forging personal, spiritual, and intellectual identities. It argues that the challenge for Catholic Studies is to generate scholarly and pedagogical practices that recognize the essentially hybrid character of “Catholic,” an insight that the author intuitively shares with British scholar Paul Giles, who suggested in a 1999 essay that Catholicism in America flourishes “as a form of hybridity, modulating the very different (often antagonistic) forces with which it has come in contact.”.

Keywords: Catholic Studies; Catholic; globalization; personal identity; spiritual identity; intellectual identity; Catholicism; Paul Giles; America; hybridity

Chapter.  7020 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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