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THRS291/Class Overview

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Course DescriptionEdit

There are over a billion Roman Catholics in the world, only a tiny percentage of whom reside in the US. Yet Roman Catholicism remains the largest religious denomination in the US-a distinction it has held since the late 19th century when waves of immigrants from Europe came to America. James Fisher titles his brief history of Catholics in America, Communion of Immigrants. Owning one's immigrant roots is where any honest discussion of current immigration policy reform needs to begin.

Movies tell the American story and Catholics appear on screen more than any other religious group. As Colleen McDannell points out in Catholics in the Movies, Catholicism "lends itself to the drama and pageantry-the iconography--of film." But since the Second Vatican Council(192-65) called by Pope John the 23rd to "update" the Catholic faith in the modern world, US Catholics have been a divided community. Jesuit sociologist Richard Malloy argues in A Faith that Frees that most Catholics don't know and therefore do not treasure their rich faith tradition and its commitment to social justice. Religious historian Robert Orsi taps into the richness of material Christianity by showing how individual Catholics draw from their faith to create a world mediated by religious symbols and understanding.

Fortunately there is no shortage of films featuring Catholics which invite our active participation, appreciative criticism, and personal reflection. While this course explore the portrayal of Catholics in the movies in general, it attends particularly to how the Catholic immigrant experience continues to shape Catholic imagination and consciousness.

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