At the close of the Spanish-American War the United States found itself in possession of a colonial empire. The role played by the American Catholic Church in influencing administrative policy for the new, and predominately Catholic, dependencies is the subject of this incisive study by Frank T. Reuter.
Reuter discusses the centuries-old intricate involvement of the Spanish crown and the native Roman Catholic Church in the civil, social, and charitable institutions of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines. He explores the attempts of United States officials to apply the traditional doctrine of separation of church and state in resolving the problems of a Church-run school system, the alleged desecration of native Catholic churches by American forces in the Philippines, the native antagonism toward the Spanish friars, and the disposition of Church property in dependencies with a deeply rooted correlation between the Catholic Church and the state.
Recounting the development of the Catholic Church in America, which felt responsible for maintaining the islands’ religious structure after Spanish control was removed, Reuter sees the reaction of the Church to the war with Spain and to colonial policy in the early postwar period as voiced not by a monolithic political force, but by diverse spokesmen—in particular the unofficial voice of the Catholic press. He traces the growth of the Church in the United States from a disparate group of dioceses clinging to European backgrounds, disunited by a divided hierarchy, and attacked by the wave of the anti-Catholic, nativistic sentiments of the last two decades of the nineteenth century, to a church body unified by the problems in the colonies. Catholic opinion, although not utilized to its full political potential, achieved a common focus through the formation of the Federation of American Catholic Societies and the debate in Congress over the Philippine Government Bill.
This study of American and native Catholic attitudes toward the formulation of United States policy in the insular dependencies and the attitude of the United States government toward the Catholic interests in the dependencies details the interplay of personalities and organizations: Presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt; William Howard Taft, civil governor of the Philippines; James Cardinal Gibbons, moderator between Catholic factions and official spokesman of the hierarchy to the Papacy and the United States government; Archbishop Placide L. Chapelle, apostolic delegate of the Vatican to the Philippines; Archbishop John Ireland, friend of President McKinley; the Philippine Commissions; and the Taft Mission to the Vatican in 1902.
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