Mapping US Catholicism

Project Number: 
Start Date: 
Fri, 05/01/1992
End Date: 
Wed, 03/01/1995

The "Being Right: Conservative Catholics in America" study originated with a 1988 conversation about the existence of a "Catholic fundamentalism" between R. Scott Appleby, then associate director of the Fundamentalism Project of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and Mary Jo Weaver, professor of religious studies and women's studies at Indiana University. Although Appleby and Weaver disagreed about whether the term "fundamentalism" could be usefully applied to conservative American Catholics, both agreed that "there was a significant body of American Catholics united in their opposition to moder- nity." Such Catholics were typically characterized by distress at the perceived decline in respect for papal teaching, discomfort with what they regarded as excesses in the implementation of the Second Vatican Council, and loyalty to traditional devotional practices and scholastic theology. With support from the Lilly Endowment, Weaver launched an exploratory study of conservative Catholics in 1991. She interviewed numerous conservative Catholics, who generally preferred to be called "orthodox" or "traditional" rather than "fundamentalist," and sought to understand their concerns and their wordview. Based upon Weaver's initial research, she and Appleby drew up a proposal for the "Being Right" study, which received three-year funding from the Lilly Endowment. The project sought to understand conservative Catholics on their own terms, as well as to place the development of a conservative form of American Catholicism in a wider context and to bring the insights of various academic disciplines to bear on representative conservative Catholic movements and organizations. In May of 1992, Weaver and Appleby met with representative leaders of conservative Catholic groups as well as scholars from various academic disciplines to define the project more clearly. As the project progressed, the "Being Right" seminar met frequently to discuss and critique the essays commissioned for inclusion in a book on conservative Catholics. In 1995 a volume of essays edited by Weaver and Appleby, entitled Being Right: Conservative Catholics in America, was published by Indiana University Press.