James Carroll

Recent Articles

What Would Jesus Do?

The radical social justice of the early Christian Gospel and its good news for our own day. 

Public Domain The Tribute Money by Masaccio, 1426 The Forgotten Creed: Christianity's Original Struggle Against Bigotry, Slavery, and Sexism By Stephen J. Patterson Oxford University Press This article appears in the Fall 2018 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . “ You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’” So begins the famous line cited at various times by all three of the Kennedy brothers. “But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not?’” This beautiful dream of political possibility comes from George Bernard Shaw’s Back to Methuselah , but the Kennedys drew no attention to its particular attribution in the play. Shaw puts the words in the mouth of the tempting serpent in the Garden of Eden, about to bring down Eve and wreak havoc with all of history. Was Shaw warning that the idealistic vision of a just world free of suffering counts, actually, as a hubristic denial of what is real? The serpent seems to propose the hope of a better future, but the myth of...

The Wrong Side of History

In assessing Roman Catholicism's role as a source of the advancement of progressive social change, what is to be made of the Church's age-old and continuing exclusion of black Catholics from the priesthood? That is an admittedly rhetorical question, premised on a half-truth, since the Church excludes only some blacks from the priesthood, which keeps the policy from being racist. If the Roman Catholic Church were an officially and openly white supremacist organization, not even the niceties of church-state separation would keep progressive critics silent, and it is hard to imagine that, in the American civil rights era, the courts themselves would not have found grounds to challenge the policy. The black Catholics who are excluded from the priesthood, of course, are women. Their exclusion, shared with all women, is a matter of gender, not race. In recent years, the Vatican has so forcefully restated the traditional prohibition of women in orders that senior...