American Catholic Higher Education, 1940-1990: The Ideological Context

Gleason, Phillip. "American Catholic Higher Education, 1940-1990: The Ideological Context" in The Secularization of the Academy, eds. George M. Marsden and Bradley J. Longfield, 234-258. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Philip Gleason's chapter focuses on the underlying cultural and religious assumptions operative in Catholic higher education in the United States from 1940 to 1990. From the beginning of the twentieth century until the eve of World War II (1940) Catholic morale was high. A post World War I cultural and intellectual revival among Catholics had been fueled by a determination to overcome secularism with a Catholic culture. The curriculum of Catholic education during this period is discussed as is the formation of many Catholic professional organizations. <p>Gleason also discusses the counter forces at work in American Catholicism during this time. As strong evidence of the depths of human evil, the war demonstrated the need for religious intellectualism and sparked a renewed effort in this area. Criticism of secularism reached a peak in the late 1940s. But the period also exhibited renewed anti-Catholic sentiment in the larger society, the development of a Catholic liberalism and a growing self-criticism among Catholics particularly after the publication of John Tracy Ellis's 1955 essay on Catholic intellectual life. Gleason concludes by considering several "seismic upheavals" in thought and culture and their impact on Catholic institutions of higher education from the early 1960's to the present. (LT)