Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

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(1930-) Having earned a B.S., magna cum laude, from Holy Cross College, an M.A. from Fordham University, and a Ph.D. from Harvard, Reiss taught at Marquette University (1957-1963) and then at Fordham (1963-1985). From 1969 until he left Fordham to become President of Saint Michael's College, Colchester, Vermont (from which he retired as President Emeritus in 1996), he worked in administration as Dean, Vice President, and Executive Vice President. His published works in sociology are primarily concerned with family, kinship, education, and values in Catholic education. Editor of Sociological Analysis , 1961-1968; President, American Catholic Sociological Society, 1970.

Reiss's presidential address to the ACSS was primarily concerned with a sociological analysis of the ACSS. Examining the 29 extant (of 32) presidential addresses prior to his presidency, Reiss diagnosed five trends that he thought manifested a "definite evolution in the thinking of the members of the Society particularly around the issue of sociology and Catholicism." The five trends were (1) assertions of a Catholic sociology; (2) explanations of the relationship of sociology to theology, social philosophy, or social action; (3) explanations of and/or exhortations to scientific sociology; (4) studies of an aspect of the sociology of Catholicism; (5) examinations of the character of the ACSS. He saw 1963 as the year in which annual meetings began to focus on the sociology of religion. (It was not, however, until the tenure of Reiss's successor as president—Ralph Lane, 1971—that the ACSS changed its name to the Association for the Sociology of Religion.) As Reiss saw it,

Not only is there no such thing as a Catholic sociology as claimed in phase one, but there is also no need for an organization of Catholic sociologists as implied in phases two and three. The focus of phase four on the sociology of Catholicism also does not provide adequate rationale, as this sociology has become an integral part of religion. (Sociological Analysis 31[1970]: 119 f)

He correctly predicted that phase five would promote the evolution of ACSS into a more specialized association focusing on the sociology of religion.

Loretta M. Morris

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