Massa, Mark S(tephen)
MASSA, Mark S(tephen)
CAREER: Educator, author, and Jesuit priest. Fordham University, New York, NY, professor of theology, director of Center for American Catholic Studies.
MEMBER: Society of Jesus.
AWARDS, HONORS: Alpha Sigma Nu Award for outstanding work of theology, Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, 1999-2001, for Catholics and American Culture: Fulton Sheen, Dorothy Day, and the Notre Dame Football Team.
Charles Augustus Briggs and the Crisis of HistoricalCriticism, Fortress Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1990.
(Editor, with Richard Viladesau) Foundations ofTheological Study: A Sourcebook, Paulist Press (New York, NY), 1991.
(Editor, with Richard Viladesau) World Religions: ASourcebook for Students of Christian Theology, Paulist Press (New York, NY), 1994.
Charles Augustus Briggs, Union Theological Seminary and Twentieth-Century American Protestantism: A Centennial Address to the Friends of the Burke Library of Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, Union Theological Seminary (New York, NY), 1994.
Catholics and American Culture: Fulton Sheen,Dorothy Day, and the Notre Dame Football Team, Crossroad Publishing Company (New York, NY), 1999.
Anti-Catholicism in America: The Last AcceptablePrejudice, Crossroad Publishing Company (New York, NY), 2003.
SIDELIGHTS: Through his writing, Mark S. Massa, an ordained Jesuit priest, examines the way Catholicism has adapted as part of mainstream American culture, and also how non-Catholics have responded to this assimilation process. In Catholics and American Culture: Fulton Sheen, Dorothy Day, and the Notre Dame Football Team Massa investigates a broad spectrum of American Catholic icons during the period from 1945 to 1970. During this time many Catholics advanced from the working class to a more middle-class, suburban lifestyle, taking advantage of postwar opportunities and the changes in American culture. Massa follows such Catholic luminaries as television preacher Fulton Sheen and entertainer Dorothy Day, as well as the Catholic worker's movement, the rise of the football team at Notre Dame, Senator Joe McCarthy, and President John F. Kennedy, all which responded to their faith and the cultural demands of their era. He emerges with a theory regarding the effect of this progress on the Catholic religion.
William L. Portier, in a review for Cross Currents, commented that "this cultural history becomes a morality tale with Massa's invocation of Reinhold Niebuhr's 'theological irony' to interpret the unanticipated effects of the Catholic passage into the American mainstream." He also pointed out that Massa "does not speak for all Catholics; nor does he offer a new master narrative." Reviewing Catholics and American Culture in America, Donald P. Costello wrote that "Massa's insight, clarity and originality are surprisingly, and blessedly, free of jargon." Pius Murray, reviewing the book for Library Journal, called it "a major contribution to the study of American Catholicism in the 20th century."
With Anti-Catholicism in America: The Last Acceptable Prejudice, Massa tackles the perceived attitude of non-Catholics toward Catholics in the United States. He argues that, while other forms of prejudice are recognized for what they are and widely denounced, animosity toward the Catholic faith and its adherents is commonplace and rarely addressed. Thomas J. Carty, in a review for the Catholic Historical Review, wrote that "Massa's book successfully contributes to an important discussion about interfaith relations by distinguishing legitimate questions about Catholic culture from unfriendly bias against Roman Catholicism." Massa explores historical precedence for anti-Catholic behavior, from the objections of seventeenth-century Puritans to those of current televangelists, including the argument from a number of academics who claim Catholicism suppresses creative and original thought, leading to fewer Catholics pursuing graduate-level scientific studies. Carty noted that, "rather than presenting this evidence as proof of Catholic victimization, . . . Massa introduces Catholics who responded positively to this criticism." Ultimately, it is Massa's belief that there is nothing wrong with a certain level of anti-Catholicism, as it shows that American Catholics are maintaining their religion even as they assimilate into the nation's culture. Eugene McCarraher, writing in Commonweal, noted that, whether "evangelical or secular, anti-Catholicism . . . can be a sign that Catholics are doing something right." Yet, even if Catholicism remains a step apart from complete assimilation into American culture and society, it remains protected by the laws that structure the nation. Kathleen Sprows Cummings, in a review for National Catholic Reporter, stated that "while critics view the church's persistent attempts to exert public authority as a threat to religious liberty, Massa argues convincingly that the opposite is true. To insist that the church be silent and powerless would deny the freedom extended to all religious groups by the First Amendment."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
America, May 15, 1999, Donald P. Costello, "Catholics and American Culture," p. 24.
Booklist, February 1, 1999, Steven Schroeder, review of Catholics and American Culture: Fulton Sheen, Dorothy Day, and the Notre Dame Football Team, p. 948.
Catholic Historical Review, April, 2004, Thomas J. Carty, review of Anti-Catholicism in America: The Last Acceptable Prejudice, p. 355.
Choice, November, 1999, J. C. Scott, review of Catholics and American Culture, pp. 557-558.
Commonweal, September 12, 2003, Eugene McCarraher, "Some Things Never Change," p. 38.
Cross Currents, winter, 1999, William L. Portier, "Catholics in the Mainstream," p. 568.
Library Journal, February 1, 1999, Pius Murray, review of Catholics and American Culture, p. 98.
National Catholic Reporter, February 6, 2004, Kathleen Sprows Cummings, "Catholics Remain 'Outsiders' in America: Bias against Catholicism Continues and Is a Paradoxical Sign of Strength," p. 6.
Theological Studies, March, 2000, Thomas E. Buckley, review of Catholics and American Culture, p. 162.
Fordham University Web site,http://www.fordham.edu/ (July 20, 2004), "Mark S. Massa, S.J."