“All Good Books Are Catholic Books: Print Culture, Censorship and Modernity in Twentieth-Century America” by Una M. Cadegan. Cornell University Books (Ithaca, N.Y., 2013). 238 pp., $39.95.
Una M. Cadegan in her short but dense history, “All Good Books Are Catholic Books,” describes an intellectual war between Catholicism and modernity that reached its high-water mark in the first half of the 20th century.
While it may have been a bloodless war, it had consequences as profound as any war fought on a battlefield. The church’s principal weapon was censorship of theological works and works of fiction and nonfiction.
With the closing down of immigration to the United States in 1920, Catholics shifted from being powerless newcomers in an alien branch of Christianity to being assimilated Americans with a real voice in print culture. There was an explosion of new publishing houses, books, journals and magazines all run by Catholics for a Catholic audience. Catholics also became influential in the burgeoning film industry of Hollywood.
Catholicism’s enemy, modernity, was less of a movement than a collection of ideas that sprung from the rapid expansion of scientific knowledge, from the development of psychological theories, from the dissemination of the evolutionary ideas of Darwin, and the important changes in scriptural study, namely the historical critical method. All of these ideas were gaining importance as the United States was transforming from a rural, farming nation to an industrial giant.