Category: Americanism

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The New Americanism, Part Five: Activity

In the late 19th century, Pope Leo XIII saw in the American Church a tendency to value the active life over receptivity to the Holy Spirit. In his 1899 letter to the faithful in America, Testem benevolentiae, Leo identified this tendency as part of the heresy of Americanism. In more contemporary language, the Pope noticed Americanists value the work of one’s own will over receptivity to the Holy Spirit, an American manifestation of Pelagianism: To...

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The New Americanism, Part Four: Religious Submission

Related to the problem of liberty, noted Pope Leo XIII, is the Americanist view that “all external guidance [that] is set aside for those souls who are striving after Christian perfection as being superfluous or, indeed, not useful in any sense…”[1]  Americanism resists trustful docility to the guidance of spiritual directors and the authority of the Church. America is, after all, a nation born of the Declaration of Independence. Although Americans boast a great pioneering...

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The New Americanism, Part Three: License and Liberty

In his late nineteenth-century letter to Catholics in the United States, Testem benevolentiae, Pope Leo XIII condemned the heresy of Americanism. Although few American Catholics know about this heresy, many of those who have heard of Americanism believe it is consigned to the Left alone. They believe Americanism is liberalism, progressivism, modernism and–for some Traditionalists–the spirit of Vatican II. When Leo wrote the letter in 1899, he was indeed concerned about an American form of...

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The New Americanism, Part One: Americanism and Traditionalism

In an effort to counter the anti-Catholicism of nativists in the 19th century, the Church hierarchy in the United States made great efforts to assimilate waves of Catholic immigrants into the culture. Organizations such as the Knights of Columbus and the Catholic Daughters of the Americas showcased the positive union of American and Catholic heritage. Through displays of patriotism and public charity, a Christian denomination once associated with immigrant ghettos gradually entered the mainstream.[1] The...