Heidelcast 172: With D. G. Hart On American Catholic: The Politics Of Faith During The Cold War (Updated)

What can confessional Presbyterian and Reformed folk learn from the history of Roman Catholicism in America? Quite a lot as it turns out. We are continuing our brief hiatus from the series, As It Was In The Days of Noah to talk with D. G. Hart, author of the new book, American Catholic: The Politics of Faith in the Cold War (Cornell University Press, Ithaca and London, 2020). This is an important new book, which deserves our attention for a few reasons. First, the USA has only its second Roman Catholic president in its history and Roman Catholicism is professedly an important part of his identity. Both the President and his publicists (i.e., the American news media) have invoked his faith as justification for more than one of his policies. Second, the Roman Catholic experience in the USA is a fascinating story. How does a largely marginal, immigrant church, which mostly arrived since the mid-nineteenth century, come to be arguably the dominant religious organization in the USA? Look around at American cultural institutions. Before World War II the USA was dominated by the old Liberal Protestant establishment, folk who used to be called WASPs (White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestants). Scholars of American religion and history have long written about the “Protestant hegemony” in American life. That hegemony is dead and though evangelicals have aspired to fill that void, they have not. Romanists, however, have. It is a remarkable story also because, until 1964, Rome was officially opposed to the founding principles of the American Republic. The history of Roman Catholics is not entirely unlike that of the Mormons, who were originally hostile to the USA. Remember, Mormons actually fought battles against the United States Army. Today, however, both Roman Catholics and Mormons would be counted as among the staunchest defenders of the USA while the old WASP establishment is dominated by those who mostly seem to regret the existence of the USA. Darryl Hart is one of the more important writers on the history of American Christianity. He is a ruling elder in the OPC and Distinguished Associate Professor of History at Hillsdale College.



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      • Bruce,

        Is this on the site or the RSS/app?

        I deleted the original file and uploaded a new file. It’s playing fine for me on the site. The update should have fixed it.

    • I just finished listening. You can see it was all happening for me in the space of a couple minutes. I started playing the piece that said it was 1hr+. But the link must have still been playing the 30min version. So it quit mid scene, and no matter how many times I tried to get it going further, I couldn’t get it. So I posted my comment. And as soon as I did that, the page was reset, and the full version was accessible.
      Delete this whole exchange, is what I recommend.

  1. I’ve listened to only a bit of this so far, and only just here heard of the book. Does Dr. Hart ever touch on the late Joe Sobran? He was a Catholic, wrote for National Review (back in the 80s when I was reading it), had a falling out with WFB and eventually ended up as a right-ish anarchist.


  2. Considering what DGH had to say in this podcast about “conservative Catholics” during both the Cold War and probably hence, how does one then view someone like Biden? Certainly he’s a nominal “Catholic,” but it seems like his far Leftist views of American polity would be contrary to what the Vatican would have to say. Then again, maybe not, considering the views of the current Pope. Further, Biden was a most central figure in the intense interrogation of Robert Bork as a SCOTUS nominee during the Reagan administration. Again, considering his debunking of Bork on the basis of his conservative views of various social, racial, and gender issues, how does that square with the Vatican.

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