James Hitchcock

James Hitchcock is Professor of History at St. Louis University. He is the author of many books including The Supreme Court and Religion in American Life (Princeton) and, most recently, The History of the Catholic Church: From the Apostolic Age to the Third Millennium (Ignatius, 2012).

recent articles

Was Vatican II a Mistake?

Editor’s note: this article first appeared in the June 2004 print edition of Crisis Magazine. Most Catholics in 1959 probably didn’t even know what an ecumenical council was. And yet, here it was. Pope John XXIII announced that the goals of the Second Vatican Council would be “the renewal of the spirit of the Gospel … Read more

The Contradictions of Multi-Generational Liberalism

A recent study by the Pew Research Center finds significant differences between younger and older liberals, differences that are not encouraging either to orthodox religious believers or to the older liberals. The Next Generation Left (NGL) are at one with older liberals on the social issues, notably abortion and homosexual marriage, and it is primarily … Read more

The Religion of Liberalism & the New Heretics

The most astonishing fact about contemporary American politics—that there is not a single Protestant on the Supreme Court, while there are six Catholics—goes largely unremarked, even though on the surface it seems to fulfill the most dire predictions made at the time of John F. Kennedy’s ascendancy in 1960. On the other side, the fact … Read more

Liberalism Favors Rights of Individuals Over Churches

The secular media have an unending interest in things Catholic. A recent sampling includes a theology teacher allegedly dismissed for favoring the ordination of women to the priesthood, an announced lesbian (and, as it turned out, a Buddhist) refused Communion at her mother’s funeral, a music teacher dismissed from the Catholic schools because he planned … Read more

The Welfare Snare: Christian Conflict with the Liberal State Is by Design

Upon issuance, the Obama Administration’s requirements concerning health insurance were immediately recognized as a threat to religious liberty. Less obvious is the fact that such infringements, and many that will be far worse, are endemic to the modern welfare state and were bound to emerge sooner or later. To begin with, there is the king’s … Read more

Off the Rails: Was Vatican II Hijacked?

In this Crisis Magazine classic, James Hitchcock says that while the Second Vatican Council was itself orthodox, much of what followed was not. Here’s why.     Most Catholics in 1959 probably didn’t even know what an ecumenical council was. And yet, here it was. Pope John XXIII announced that the goals of the Second … Read more

Off The Rails: Was Vatican II Hijacked?

Most Catholics in 1959 probably didn’t even know what an ecumenical council was. And yet, here it was. Pope John XXIII announced that the goals of the Second Vatican Council would be “the renewal of the spirit of the Gospel in the hearts of people everywhere and the adjustment of Christian discipline to modern-day living”—a … Read more

Apologists — With Angst and Without

At an ecumenical conference, a Greek Orthodox bishop went around the breakfast table asking half a dozen people their favorite work of C. S. Lewis. There was animated discussion until my turn came, when I awkwardly confessed not to have read very much of that famous writer. My companions were certainly cordial, but more than … Read more

What Went Wrong in the ‘Fifties: The Fall of Ozzie and Harriet

The priest enters the worship area in slacks and sports shirt, a stole casually draped around his neck. He quietly sits in the midst of the congregation, on one of the metal folding chairs arranged in a semicircle in the almost bare room. The liturgy proceeds as an informal evening among friends, with continuous conversation, … Read more

Hijacking Vatican II: Can Catholicism Survive Subversion from Within?

In the United States, as apparently, in most other Western countries, the governing word for post-conciliar Catholicism is “confusion.” The Second Vatican Council came as a surprise to almost everyone, and for some years most Catholics had difficulty making out what it was supposed to mean. The easiest way of explaining it — and the … Read more

Democrats and Catholics III: The Traditional alliance Crumbles

Editor ‘s note: This is the third in a series of articles on Catholic voting behavior. See Stuart Rothenburg and Steve Lilienthal, “Campaign Notes: Why the Catholic Vote Will Be Decisive in 1988” (May) and James Castelli, “The Democrats’ Secret Weapon: Will Catholics Put Dukakis in the Oval Office?” (June). The traditional alliance of Catholics … Read more

Preparing for the Synod on the Laity

As with most things in post-conciliar Catholicism, the role of the laity in the Church has become problematic mainly because classical Catholic ways of thinking have been either forgotten or badly distorted. As a number of commentators have observed, in an odd way feminism has promoted a new clericalism. Spokesmen such as Rev. Richard McBrien … Read more

War of the Rose: The Historical Context of “The Name of the Rose”

Like the plot of the novel itself, the historical context of Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose consists of a number of overlapping circles, related to one another in intricate and subtle ways. The immediate context is a particularly fierce episode in the perennial medieval conflict between’ he papacy and the Holy Roman Empire. … Read more

Curran, Dissent, & Rome: A Symposium

Among its many dimensions, the Curran case focuses attention on the social role of the theologian in our time. Father Curran and his supporters argue that theologians have the right to pursue their researches (more precisely, their speculations) freely, unmolested by threats from outside the academy. Only in such a serene, tolerant environment, it is … Read more

The Rebellious Heart: The Unraveling of the Church Since Vatican II

Even non-believers have been fascinated with the internal life of the Catholic Church over the past quarter century, although the reasons for that fascination are far from consoling to a believer. At the beginning of the pontificate of John XXIII most of that fascination stemmed from curiosity whether the Church would indeed make those adjustments … Read more

The Pope & the Jesuits: The Aftermath

My book The Pope and The Jesuits was published in the fall of 1984, after having first seen the light of day as an excerpt in Catholicism in Crisis (July 1984), Since then numerous people have asked me how the Jesuits themselves have reacted to the book, especially in view of the fact that I … Read more

The Pope and the Jesuits

When Jesuit journals publish articles undercutting papal positions or when individual Jesuits do the same in public pronouncements, they promote a concept of the Church quite different from that of the Church’s leader — the man to whom Jesuits take a special vow of obedience. The Society of Jesus is one of the great glories … Read more

The Twilight of Socialism

The very question “is the Pope a socialist?” helps to reveal the intellectual slipperiness that characterizes the socialist movement. For, confronted with numerous societies which call themselves socialist — Soviet Russia, Red China, Castro’s Cuba, Idi Amin’s Uganda — dedicated socialists reject the validity of the label. Socialism, it turns out, requires some very rigorous … Read more

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