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What does a typical American Catholic parish look like? Tricia Bruce, an affiliate of the University of Notre Dame’s Center for the Study of Religion and Society, argues in her new book that America’s largest denomination is held together by the differences it contains. Parish and Place: Making Room for Diversity in the American Catholic Church, published by Oxford University Press (2017), offers an outstanding account of how ecclesiastical structures have changed to take account of the tensions that can exist when “mobile people encounter immobile infrastructure.” Existing alongside the more familiar territorial and national parish structures, personal parishes allow believers with similar ethnic, linguistic, political or liturgical preferences to gather together. But does this represent a concession to the congregational impulse of American Protestantism, or to the market created by religious competition? Are personal parishes a symbol of the success or failure of American Catholicism? Do they represent new forms of segregation, and do they allow the hierarchy to control dissent? Tricia Bruce’s Parish and Place offers a distinctive and compelling analysis of the structures that may determine the future of the American Catholic church.

Crawford Gribben is a professor of history at Queen’s University Belfast. His research interests focus on the history of puritanism and evangelicalism, and he is the author most recently of John Owen and English Puritanism (Oxford University Press, 2016). 

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