All Good Books Are Catholic BooksPrint Culture, Censorship, and Modernity in Twentieth-Century America

All Good Books Are Catholic BooksPrint Culture, Censorship, and Modernity in Twentieth-Century America

Una M. Cadegan

Print publication date: 2016

ISBN: 9780801451126

Publisher: Cornell University Press

Abstract

Until the close of the Second Vatican Council in 1965, the stance of the Roman Catholic Church toward the social, cultural, economic, and political developments of the twentieth century was largely antagonistic. Yet, in and through the period from World War I to Vatican II, the Church did engage with, react to, and even accommodate various aspects of modernity. This book shows how the Church's official position on literary culture developed over this crucial period. The Catholic Church in the United States maintained an Index of Forbidden Books and the Legion of Decency (founded in 1933) lobbied Hollywood to edit or ban movies, pulp magazines, and comic books that were morally suspect. These regulations posed an obstacle for the self-understanding of Catholic American readers, writers, and scholars. But Catholics developed a rationale by which they could both respect the laws of the Church as it sought to protect the integrity of doctrine and also engage the culture of artistic and commercial freedom in which they operated as Americans. Catholic literary figures including Flannery O'Connor and Thomas Merton are important to the book's argument, particularly as their careers and the reception of their work demonstrate shifts in the relationship between Catholicism and literary culture.