These editors have tapped a rich vein of primary sources in order to document Catholicism in relation to and among the indigenous peoples of America. The Crossing of Two Roads now stands as the best collection of texts of the Native Catholic experience.
The collection begins with a section entitled "The Spanish Heritage" and leads off with the text of the 1613 Confesionario of Fray Francisco Pareja, OFM, a vademecum which "directed the confessor to inquire about and condemn all manner of acts in defiance of the Ten Commandments, particularly those of un-Christian worship and sexuality." An additional 33 documents are added under this heading. They are immediately followed by sections entitled "The French Heritage" (42 selections) and "Leadership, Urban Ministry, and Inculturation" (28 selections). Christopher Vecsey delivers a stellar introduction to these texts. A selected bibliography of suggested readings and an index round out the volume. This anthology forms part of the series in American Catholic Identities under the general editorship of Christopher Kauffman of the Catholic University of America.
This volume makes two important contributions to this series and, by extension, our knowledge of Native Catholics. First, the book includes images of varying quality, but each is of enormous value for the stories they convey. There are fourteen photographic reproductions and one song score for the hymn honoring Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, "In Her Footsteps." To have a series of documents in cold type is one thing, but to illustrate them in all their depth and variety is quite another.
Second, the volume brings to light significant selections from archives across the country, especially those from the Native Catholic collections at Marquette University. One of the editors, Mark Theil, is the archivist there and his familiarity with Marquette's holdings, particularly the papers of the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions, gives depth to the selections. Often emerging for the first time in print, these documents display a wealth of material from a population with an extensive and marginalized history.
Consider the fascinating exchange between Indians in the pueblos of New Mexico and the Archbishops of Santa Fe (documents 11-20). The letters from the Archdiocesan archives range from 1935 to 1977, beginning with Archbishop Rudolph Gerken's tenure. The pickle in which Gerken found himself soon after his elevation to that see involved the Santo Domingo Pueblo. In the hope that the community could preserve its sovereignty against white encroachment on their lands, the pueblo's authorities denied the Archbishop's request for property to establish a permanent residence for priests and missionary sisters. It had long been the natives' practice to forbid whites access to the community on certain days when they would practice the ancient customs of their people. Gerken saw this action as diminishing religious freedom. The village remained obdurate and Gerkin ordered that pastoral care be withdrawn until such time that the Indians "will grant us the liberty to carry out the work of the Church." A stand-off ensued and the interdict was not lifted for another five years when, after further negotiations, Gerken felt the pueblo met his conditions (though no priest was sent to reside there). The whole case is augmented by several additional missives from subsequent archbishops of Santa Fe as well as the natives they served. It provides a window on the life of a local church over a substantial period of time.
Readers will also find minutes of various congresses, foundational documents for various societies, diary entries, and other sources. From the California missions to the Algonkian peoples of Maine, the book cuts a large swath through North American indigenous cultures and their relationship to the Church. It will make an excellent teaching tool in courses on Christianity in America or native religions.