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*Image: The Second Plenary Council Meeting of the U.S. Roman Catholic Church is meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, 1866. [House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College]

By Russell Shaw, The Catholic Thing, April 20, 2022

Russell Shaw is former Secretary for Public Affairs of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops/United States Catholic Conference. He is the author of more than twenty books, including Eight Popes and the Crisis of Modernity (forthcoming from Ignatius Press).

Russell ShawIn her history of the Church in the United States, American Catholics (Yale University Press), Leslie Woodcock Tentler recalls that the country’s Catholic bishops met in three plenary councils in Baltimore in 1852, 1866 and 1884. After the third, however, they did not gather as a group for another 35 years.

Tentler, an emerita professor of history at the Catholic University of America, explains the hiatus like this: “For many of the intervening years, the U.S. hierarchy was riven by conflict, principally but not exclusively over the question of just how accommodating of American values the Catholic Church in the United States could be.” …

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