The Catholic University of America Press

The Road to Renewal

Victor Joseph Reed and Oklahoma Catholicism, 1905-1971

Jeremy Bonner

Cloth 978-0-8132-1507-5 $34.95
December 2007 In Print Add to Cart
E-Book 978-0-8132-1688-1 $34.95
August 2012 In Print Add to Cart

Between 1958 and 1971, Catholics in Oklahoma emerged from the sheltered world of the pre-Vatican II Catholic Church. Under assault from divisive cultural forces within American society at large, many responded to the deliberations of the Second Vatican Council by embracing a wholesale transformation of the way in which the Church functioned in secular society, a process that brought national attention to a comparatively small Midwestern Catholic Diocese and to its ordinary, Victor Joseph Reed. In this study, Jeremy Bonner explores the process of Catholic renewal at the parish level and assesses the role of Victor Reed as an agent of that process.

A product of the Catholic Action and liturgical renewal movements of the 1930s and 1940s, Reed returned from the Second Vatican Council convinced of the need for greater participation by the laity and clergy in the life of the Church. Relaxation of the hierarchical structures of the Church in favor of a more consultative model was accompanied by a drastically restructured liturgical practice and a greatly reduced emphasis on parochial education. As more lay Catholics participated in parish-level ecumenical exchanges and in the civil rights and antiwar movements of the 1960s, a corresponding decline in numbers occurred within the female religious orders, while the male priesthood was transformed into a more professionalized -- and less distinctively Catholic -- clerical order. In all of this, Reed proved a powerful voice in favor of a measured response, embracing neither outright rejection nor unqualified acceptance.

The Road to Renewal offers an important contribution to the study of Catholicism in the 1960s. Grounded in thorough archival research, the book breaks new ground in its examination of the implementation of Vatican II at the diocesan level.


Jeremy Bonner is an independent scholar in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He received his Ph.D. in American History from the Catholic University of America.


"4½ stars out of 5. . . . This book will be of great interest to Oklahoma Catholics and to Oklahomans too. Those interested in the tumultuous times after Vatican II will want to read this book since it gives the history of what happened in an American diocese that is not one of the major archdioceses like New York or Chicago where things would have been quite different and on a very larger scale." -- Br. Benet Exton, O.S.B., Sooner Catholic

"[T]his book will be of great interest to Oklahoma Catholics as well as those interested in the tumultuous times after Vatican II." -- Br. Benet S. Exton,

"Jeremy Bonner's The Road to Renewal, Victor Joseph Reed and Oklahoma Catholicism, 1905-1971, is an important contribution to an understanding of the impact the implementation of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) had on a diocese and a bishop prepared to embrace them. . . . Bonner is careful and objective in his approach to a complex history . . . . [S]cholars and readers interested in Oklahoma and Catholic Church history will find this book an interesting and valuable addition to the literature." -- Anita Rasi May, The Chronicles of Oklahoma

"[An] excellent and dispassionate study of the turmoil experienced by this progressive Midwestern Catholic diocese in the 1960s. . . . There are a number of strengths in the organization and presentation of this story. The author offers enough historical context for the Oklahoma narrative so that the reader is aware that the narrative is not occurring in an historical vacuum. . . . Another strength of the book is the author's sensitive and balanced use of hundreds of letters to and from Reed in the midst of his embattled episcopacy." -- Thomas Jodziewicz,

"Jeremy Bonner's study of Oklahoma Catholicism provides a wonderful overview of Catholic life in a state known traditionally as the "Buckle of the Bible Belt.". . . Bonner's work is a good model for a generation of historians now ready to write with some perspective about the American Catholic experience after Vatican II. He captures it all here--in its euphoric enthusiasm, its excess, and its sometime naïve simplicity. He captures well the sense of many early reformers and others that the Council's vision was lost in the fear and timidity of those in authority at the time." -- Steven M. Avella, Catholic Historical Review

"This is not an old-fashioned potted episcopal biography. The bulk of Bonner's work consists of a detailed analysis of the progress of renewal in Reed's diocese during the thirteen years of his episcopate, especially on the parish level. . . . Bonner has written a balanced and exhaustively documented study of the day-to-day struggles of a progressive American Catholic bishop to contend with the winds of changes that were sweeping through his diocese in the turbulent 1960s." -- Th. J. Shelley, Revue d'histoire ecclesiastique

Product Details

Pages:xii, 425 pages

Dimensions:6x9 inches


CIP Information: 2007013377/ BX1414.04B66 2007/ 282'.7660904--dc22


1. Catholic Church--Oklahoma--History

2. Reed, Victor Joseph, 1905-1971

3. Catholic Church--Bishops--Biography

4. Oklahoma--Church history