Patrick J. HAYES, A Catholic Brain Trust: The History of the Catholic Commission on Intellectual and Cultural Affairs, 1945-1965.  Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2011.  vii + 432 pages.  $75.00 hc.  ISBN 978-0-268-03109-1.  Reviewed by Robert P. RUSSO, Lourdes University, Sylvania, OH 43560

Patrick J. Hayes is an assistant archivist for the Baltimore Province of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, or Redemptorists, in Brooklyn, New York.  He has previously contributed to numerous volumes regarding issues of the Catholic social tradition, and Church History (i.e. a volume on the St. Joseph’s Seminary).  His first full length publication is a fascinating, and necessary, look behind the history of the Catholic Commission on Intellectual and Cultural Affairs (CCICA), from its inception during the Second World War through the Second Vatican Council in 1965.  Hayes’ goal for this volume is “to narrow the inquiry” by focusing upon the CCICA, and relating “the story of the rise and demise of organized Catholic intellectual life in America in the last half of the twentieth century” (1).  Hayes takes a pragmatic view when examining Catholic intellectualism.   He contends that “[n]o one denies that Catholics can be intellectuals any more than other people of faith, although there is still the lingering canard that if one is religious, one cannot be an intellectual” (1).  Although Hayes later concludes that there is no standard answer to the question regarding Catholic intelligence, there are no “canards” to be had in terms of the amount of research that he undertook and synthesized to produce this volume.  Hayes combed through the archives of numerous institutions, interviewing several former members regarding the history of the organization.

Hayes dedicates chapters to the postwar revival of education, war relief and the United Nations, Church and state relations, and the scholarship involved in the creation of the New Catholic Encyclopedia.  In the chapter entitled “Launching the CCICA,” Hayes stresses the importance of John Courtney Murray’s role in the founding of the organization.  Hayes posits that the Jesuit Murray “had been studying the state of Catholic education in the United States since before the war and was convinced that the educational sphere was marked by an overwhelming need to produce Christian humanists who could stand up to the challenges of the world” (19).  This view was shared by the attendees at the first annual meeting of the CCICA, the list of which reads like a “who’s who” of pre-Vatican II education excellence.  Nascent members included Roy J. Defferari, Gerald G. Walsh, S.J., and John Tracy Ellis.  Sister M. Madeleva Wolff was not in attendance, but voted on issues by proxy.

The chapter entitled “Environments for Learning,” details some of the challenges faced by the organization.  Hayes relates that “[a]lthough the CCICA did not establish itself as a watchdog or advocate for Catholic university faculty, it periodically entered into public disputes where the issue of academic freedom was at center stage” (238).  Here, the organization issued statements in order to protect individuals who had had their freedoms violated.  Sadly, the organization began to lose its effectiveness due to the vast changes in thought brought about by the Second Vatican Council.  Hayes proposes that the organization’s decline was furthered by an “American society [which] was simultaneously realizing a fundamental shift in the social standing of the nation’s Catholics” (269).    

Patrick J. Hayes’ first publication is highly recommended for students of American Catholic History and those seeking to understand the rise of the intellectual movement in Catholic universities in the United States.  Hayes is also to be commended for producing a volume that is extremely well-written and researched.  He synthesized the archives of no less than thirteen institutions.  Although the end notes to this publication are voluminous (there are 120 pages of notes), Hayes’ work stands as a fitting tribute to an organization that left an indelible mark on the Catholic intellectual movement in the twentieth century.