Dr. Kevin Starr’s industrious work on the colonial developments of Roman Catholicism in the United States is an exemplary work of research into the nascent Catholic Church in the United States prior to the American War of Independence. While the book seemingly is daunting in size at 637 pages, Dr. Starr makes the work fluent as it redacts the historical realities that developed and challenged the establishment of the Catholic Church in North America.

Continental Ambitions, Roman Catholics in North America, is a welcome work in the historical details, the specific accuracy of the author in revealing the unique contexts of each even and most importantly the multi-national interests that aided the successful development of Roman Catholicism in North America. Dr. Kevin Starr has produced a great resource that chronologically traces the roots of American Catholicism from the establishment of the Church in Florida in 1511 through the events of 1763 which established Maryland as a refuge for persecuted Catholics in the pre-Revolutionary era.

Most notable in the work are detailed explanations of the various political, social and economic intrigues that, behind the scenes determined the outcome of the structure and nature of North American Catholicism. The multiple interactions of the colonial rulers, the French, English and Spanish authorities were keenly influential in establishing an American Catholic Church, along the lines of each nations political agenda of colonization and exploitation of the North American continent for not just souls but for raw materials that would provide wealth for their nations political coffers.

Notably, it is interesting to observe the various interactions of religious communities, the Jesuits, the Sulpicians, the Franciscans all of whom represented the multiple interests of their native countries as they establish communities in the developing communities of Catholic faith in North America. Dr. Starr makes clear that not only were the communities at times representative of their respective governments, they also evangelized to better establish their communities’ financial interests in relationship to the Church’s establishment in multiple areas of North America.

Dr. Starr’s momentous work deserves inclusion in every Church History course, because it provides significant insights into the development and establishment of the Catholic Church in North America. Previous works on the topics wane in comparison to the great research and attention to detail as is contained in this extraordinary work of not just academic achievement, but a study in political and social interactions as governments, religious communities and even the Holy See vied for control of the North American continent for reasons of theological piety and most importantly economic gains.

This work by Dr. Starr is deserving of attention by all types of readers, those that are keen to study history, Catholics with a desire to understand the foundations of the American Church and historians who wish to further extrapolate on Dr. Starr’s exceptional redaction of the events that shaped the Catholic Church in North America.

Readers will be made aware of the fact that religious beliefs as expressed I Roman Catholicism are epistemologically tied to multiple factors, faith, economic development and political ambitions just to name a few.

Continental Ambitions, Roman Catholicism in North America is published by Ignatius Press. It is available at their website: https://www.ignatius.com/ The retail price is $34.95.


Hugh J. McNichol is a Catholic theologian and journalist. He studied at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary, Philadelphia, Pa. & Villanova University in Villanova, Pa. He holds a B.A. from Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philosophy, and a M.A. in Historical Theology from Villanova University. He is currently pursuing his doctoral degree in Catholic theology and both a M.A. & M.B.A. at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD. He is a member of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem and a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts in London, U.K.  He writes frequently at his own syndicated sites, http://verbumcarofactumest.trinetconsultantsinc.org & http://catholicsacredarts.trinetconsultantsinc.org

Hugh is a frequent contributor to multiple media outlets of the Catholic press, Irish Catholic, Dublin, BBC, Catholic News Agency and multiple periodicals such as the Sacred Architecture Journal at Notre Dame University

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