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Rome in America: Transnational Catholic Ideology from the Risorgimento to Fascism.

Rome in America: Transnational Catholic Ideology from the Risorgimento to Fascism. By Peter R. D'Agostino. Chapel Hill, N.C.: The University of North Carolina Press, 2004. 393 pp. $22.50.

Addressing the question, "how has the papacy's distinctive relationship to modem Italy shaped U.S. history," (p. x), the late Peter R. D'Agostino, assistant professor of history and Catholic studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago, presents a well written and comprehensively documented study of the ideological influence of the Roman Question (i.e., the loss of the papal states and the temporal sovereignty of the pope) upon Catholicism within its European and American contexts. Using previously unexamined documents from Italian state collections and newly opened Vatican archives, and published articles and private correspondence from American Catholic, Protestant, and secular sources, D'Agostino has presented a refreshing new insight into Vatican-American relations. He argues throughout that between 1848 and 1940, the Roman Question was not an exclusively Italian or strictly European affair, but that "it shaped American Catholic identity and conditioned how Protestants, Jews, and liberals understood Roman Catholics in the United States" (p. ix).

D'Agostino divides his study into three historical periods: from the beginning of the Italian Risorgimento (1848), the liberal Italian movement to unify Italy, until the beginning of World War II (1940). In the first period, from 1848 to 1914, D'Agostino argues, Catholics in Italy and the United States protested against Risorgimento. This period of intransigence increasingly separated American Catholics from their liberal American neighbors who celebrated the unification movement. From the beginning of World War I until 1929, a period of transformation developed in which Catholic hopes to regain the temporal power reawakened. The collapse of liberal Italy and the rise of Facist Italy after the war created links between facism and Catholicism that were clearly manifested in the Lateran Pact of 1929. American Catholics supported that pact, creating significant clashes with their liberal and secular neighbors. During the last period examined in this study, from the Lateran Pact to the beginning of the Second World War, American Catholics continued to favor the Lateran Pact (arguing that it was a realization of religious liberty or a manifestation of a confessional state appropriate for Catholic Italy) in the face of liberal and Protestant critiques of the arrangement. D'Agostino's study helps to explain why mid-twentieth-century American liberals "looked upon Catholicism as an authoritarian culture with affinities to reactionary polities" (p. 14).

D'Agostino's study is representative of some younger historians of American Catholicism who take issue with a previous generation of historians who emphasized the exceptionalism of the American Catholic experience. He underlines instead the international links between European and American Catholic sensibilities and shows convincingly how the international dimensions of Catholicism influenced relations between American Catholics and their Protestant, Jewish, and secular neighbors. D'Agostino's work demonstrates the political as well as religious ideological dimensions of the Italian-American relations during the period.

The recent tragic murder of Peter D'Agostino in Chicago brought to an end the promising career of an insightful interpreter of the American Catholic tradition.



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Author:Carey, Patrick W.
Publication:Journal of Church and State
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 2005
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