The Changing Identity of American Catholics in Evolving Multi-Cultural and Global Religious and Identity Contexts

“As Americans continue to figure out how to live in a diverse, multi-cultural society, we might to look to the experience of the American Catholic Church as exemplified in Los Angeles on how Catholics on a daily basis struggle with, adapt to, and evolves into a globalized church community led by an increasingly international clergy and create a new sense of American Catholic identity. ”

Team Members/Contributors

Joseph Martin Palacios University of Southern California Contact Me

About this project grant for researchers

The project entails historical research on the development of the U.S. Catholic Church formed by largely European immigrants into an “American Catholic Church” solidified in the 1950s. After Vatican II (1962-65) and the introduction of vernacular liturgy and increasingly diverse immigration in the 1970s through the 1990s the Church responded by creating multi-cultural parishes, programs, and services and bringing in clergy from other countries and religious orders to fill the needs of an expanding religious population desiring services in their native languages and customs. The "outside" clergy supplanting the "inside" diocesan clergy now comprise the majority of the clergy of most U.S. dioceses due to local clergy shortages. The project empirically examines these changes in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the largest and most diverse dioceses in the U.S., if not the world. Through interviews of clergy, demographic analyses of the archdiocese and examination of programs, services, and pastoral approaches the project addresses what effects these changes have on the historical American character and identity of the neighborhood parochial system, openness to religious pluralism and liberty, participation in civil society, and pragmatic approaches to theology and spirituality.

As the clergy leadership moves from native-born American clergy to a globalized clergy how are the globalized clergy challenged by and transforming the U.S. church and how are the diocesan, native-born clergy also adapting to this dynamic and creating a new sense of American Catholic— and by extension American? Further, can these changes in the American Catholic Church help social scientists theorize and problematize multi-cultural and diversity issues in other large North American institutions of the education, health care, security, NGOs, and other non-profit/NGO sectors?