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Sheed & Ward, in partnership with the Commonweal Foundation and with funding from the Pew Charitable Trust, proudly presents the first of two volumes in a groundbreaking series called American Catholics in the Public Square. The result of a three-year study sponsored by Pew aimed at understanding the contributions to U.S. civic life of the Catholic, Jewish, mainline and evangelical Protestant, African-American, Latino, and Muslim communities in the United States, the two volumes in this series gather selected essays from the Commonweal Colloquia and the joint meetings organized by the Commonweal Foundation and The Faith and Reason Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington. Participants in the Commonweal colloquia and the joint meetings-leading Catholic scholars, journalists, lawyers, business and labor leaders, novelists and poets, church administrators and lobbyists, activists, policy makers and politicians-produced approximately forty-five essays presented at ten meetings that brought together over two hundred and fifty participants. The two volumes in the American Catholics in the Public Square Series address many of the most critical issues now facing the Catholic Church in the United States by drawing from the four goals of the colloquia-to identify, assess, and critique the distinctive elements in Catholicism's approach to civic life; to generate concrete analyses and recommendations for strengthening Catholic civic engagement; to encompass a broad spectrum of political and social views of Catholics to encourage dialogue between Catholic leaders, religious and secular media, and political thinkers; to reexamine the long-standing Catholic belief in the obligation to promote the common good and to clarify how Catholics may work better with those holding other religious or philosophical convictions toward revitalizing both the religious environment and civic participation in the American republic. This first volume, American Catholics and Civic Engagement: A Distinctive Voice, includes a general introduction by Peter Steinfels and is structured in four parts, each of which include a brief overview. Part One, Catholic Thought in the American Context, explore the fundamental concepts that underlie Catholic social thought and their relevance to American public debate and public policy-the intellectual tools with which Catholics have often participated in the public square. Part Two, Catholic Institutions in the American Public Square, reveals the Church's vast presence in the American public square-from the church steeples that dot urban landscapes to primary and secondary schools, colleges and universities, hospitals, clinics and nursing homes, social service centers, orphanages, and shelters-and provides a detailed analysis of the place of the parish in the public square, the activities of the bishops' conferences in New York, Wisconsin, and the California, and the challenges facing Catholic health care providers. Part Three, Catholics in the Public Square: Autobiographies, includes the personal stories of politicians, journalists, lawyers, business executives, and labor leaders who describe how their faith shaped and is shaped by their work. Part Four, Catholics in the Voting Booth, relies on data from two wide-ranging surveys of how Catholics vote and assesses the impact on Catholic voters of the Catholic social tradition, of sermons, of parish community and sacramental life, and of papal and episcopal statements.
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About the Author
Margaret O'Brien Steinfels served as Commonweal's editor from 1988 to 2002 and as co-director of American Catholics in the Public Square project. Peter Steinfels writes the 'Beliefs' column for the New York Times and is the author of A People Adrift: The Crisis of Roman Catholicism in America (2003).