As a solution to the problem of the faithful being absorbed into secular culture, Shaw proposed the creation of a new "Catholic subculture" that promotes Catholic identity while being evangelistic rather than being focused inward like the "Catholic ghetto" of the early 20th century.
Shaw agrees with those who would denounce an inward-focused Catholic subculture whose institutions are laughable to secular culture. However, he maintains that a healthy Catholic subculture is necessary for the Catholics to thrive as Catholics: "absent a subculture, you won't have any group identity."
"You'll be what we are now, a rather amorphous group, a label for convenience's sake: 'the Catholic Church in the U.S.', but a splintered group in which a very large number of the putative members are not really Catholic in any meaningful sense at all."
"In the late 50s through the 70s, we gave up on the Catholic subculture in a big way, and that's the era when we lost a lot of the older Catholic institutions, and those that remained went secular," he observed.
More than half a century ago, Shaw noted, Catholicism was "well on its way to becoming a profoundly effective culture-forming factor in the United States."
But now, he explained, the Church has no significant influence on the broader secular culture because so many American Catholics have plunged "unconditionally" into that culture.
The solution, a new subculture, must be based in "a Catholic identity which is outward looking and which is profoundly and radically committed to evangelization" of the larger culture, the author emphasized.
This subculture must sustain its members and maintain Catholic identity.
"You have to get your identity, values, and commitments right, or you're going to be in serious trouble," he said.
Shaw sees promising signs of the framework for this Catholic subculture, including new media ventures such as Catholic News Agency, new Catholic educational institutions such as Ave Maria University, and "the return to a more orthodox brand of Catholicism on the part of at least some older academic institutions, such as Catholic University of America."
He added that a new subculture will require both those deeply immersed in it, who "provide reinforcement and catechesis," bolstering and sustaining Catholic identity, and those who having been bolstered and are more present "in the midst of the secular world."
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"What I'm saying is predicated on the assumption that we'll have a large percentage of Catholics who are loyal and orthodox...who will be out there in the secular society, working and socializing with non-Catholics, but whose commitment to the Catholic faith will be visible at all times and in all circumstances," he explained.
"And it is those people who will be agents of the new evangelization in that larger secular context."