New Blood

The modern age has known many false prophets who have challenged the moral and spiritual beliefs of the Christian faith. Although churchmen have not always been vigilant in defense of traditional religion, one institution able to resist the secularizing trends of the 19th and 20th century has been the Catholic Church. But it has not done so, as Patrick Allitt suggests, because of an overabundance of intellectual creativity at its disposal. Indeed, the Church was slow to approve new developments in the natural and social sciences, historical research, and biblical exegesis for fear these new ideas might undermine religious faith. Yet, despite her resistance to innovation, from 1800 to 1960 the Roman Catholic Church in England and America attracted many gifted scholars and writers from diverse backgrounds who contributed enormously to the intellectual life of the Church and to the wider culture. Allitt, an Episcopalian who teaches history at Emory University, argues that these men and women dominated Catholic intellectual life and that their contributions to culture remain worthy of study.

These converts, as Allitt shows, became Catholics in the belief that the Church preached spiritual truths often denied by other religious communions. Being Christians already, they were choosing the religious denomination most faithful to the Gospel as they understood it; many, observing the threats to religious orthodoxy posed by secular liberalism,...

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