This week, I searched through the archives for a relevant primary source that addresses the difficulties of Catholic politicians running for president. In his piece, published by the New York Times in 1960, Leo Egan compares the presidential campaigns of Governor Al Smith and Senator John F. Kennedy.
Both men were Catholics, but religious tolerance from 1928 to 1960 changed over time. As I learned this semester’s topic of immigration, 1920s politics was an era of direct discrimination of Catholics. For instance, 1925 was the year in which the Ku Klux Klan revived itself and marched on Washington D.C. in hatred of African Americans, Jews, and Catholics. Similarly, Smith faced accusations of collaborating with Tammany Hall because of his religion. Egan states that Kennedy’s anti-Catholicism was masked by critics of his commitment to “ending racial discrimination in the South.” In essence, religious discrimination of Kennedy was hidden by conservative ideologies while Smith’s pundits were more open about fear of Vatican influence on American democracy. Furthermore, Egan mentions the Marshall-Smith correspondence published by the Atlantic Monthly, which we read for class. The article attempted to defame Smith as a candidate, claiming that if elected, the Roman Catholic Church would undermine American democracy.
Another variation between Smith and Kennedy is how Kennedy showed no reluctance in addressing his Catholicism “head-on,” while Smith apparently avoided religious debate during his campaign. In fact, Kennedy faced scrutiny from the Catholic Church for his Look Magazine interview in which he explained that religion is explicitly part of his private life, not his political life. The American Catholic media reactions of his statements ranged from being a “dangerous secularist, a Protestant appeaser or a spokesman for dialogue” (Sarbaugh 56). The New York Times, however, supported Kennedy’s actions as a nominee because he learned from Smith’s mistakes.
The conclusion of the article suggests that Kennedy’s Catholicism benefitted his platform in “states where there are large Catholic populations.” Nevertheless, the political cartoon portrays Kennedy struggling with religious bigotry in Southern states. In summary, this article lays out a useful discussion of how two Catholic candidates were forced to respond to voter stigma about their religion.
Egan, Leo “CATHOLICISM: Unlike Smith, Kennedy Seeks to Handle Issue by Meeting it Head on.” New York Times (1923-Current file), Sep 18, 1960. ProQuest.
Sarbaugh, Timothy J. “Champion or Betrayer of His Own Kind: Presidential Politics and John F. Kennedy’s ‘LOOK’ Interview.” American Catholic Historical Society, 1995, pp. 55–70.
This week was a momentous time for the nation as the midterm elections moved upon Americans, allowing voters to change the political system for the first time since the 2016 election. As an 18-year-old, I felt obligated to go out for my first time and let my voice be heard. Along with the religiously unaffiliated and other religious groups, Catholics made their presence known in the election. On Wednesday, the class attended the panel “Behind the Tweets” to unpack the results from the election.
My first impression regarding the Catholic vote is that it seemed to stay the same, whereas Catholics were divided by major parties and key issues. Professor Michael Murphy began the roundtable discussion by stating that Catholics are a swing vote. In some cases, such as the 2016 election, Catholics align with the Republican Party. In this year’s midterms, Catholics swung Democratically, however, the margin was very slight as Figure 1 shows that 49 percent of Catholics voted Republican. Dr. Murphy elaborated that Catholics are transient voters because one cannot find salvation in a singular political party. In recent years, it seems like Americans seek religiosity from politics. In his article in The Catholic World Report, Dr. Samuel Gregg emphasizes the need to desacralize politics as to prevent party members from demonizing each other. Moreover, the first week of class, we talked about the rise of religious nones and the deinstitutionalizations of younger generations. The consequence of less trust in historical institutions such as unions or religions means that people may idolize politics as a religion.
Another factor to consider regarding the role of Catholics in the midterms is the implication of the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh is one of the five Catholics on the bench, but his controversial confirmation earlier this fall resulted in serious consequences for certain state elections. Most experts predicted that the Kavanaugh confirmation would motivate widespread support for Democrats. In a pre-midterm poll from Politico, Democrats seemed energized by the fight against Kavanaugh as 36 percent of voters would vote against Senators who confirmed him. In contrast, Professor O’Brien noted exit polls in which voters say they voted against Democratic candidates, such as North Dakota’s incumbent Heidi Heitkamp, to stand in solidarity with Brett Kavanaugh. Catholic Vote is one of the largest Political Action Committees for conservative Catholics. The site’s campaign ‘Catholics for Kavanaugh’ offered supporters to sign a petition that reads:
The confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh is for me a litmus test. Every Catholic voter I know will be watching this process closely. Scrutiny of Judge Kavanaugh’s Catholic faith will not be tolerated. Together with millions of my fellow Catholics, I urge you to vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh this fall, prior to the November elections.
FedUp, another PAC, released a video to garner support for the Republicans against the Democratic politicians who led efforts against Kavanaugh. Essentially, Catholic-Republican PACs used Brett Kavanaugh as a device to reawaken the passion and rage from the trial. Evidently, the narrative was somewhat effective in holding a Republican majority in the Senate, according to O’Brien.
The Latino vote is a significant source of the Catholic vote that should be carefully considered amidst the Trump administration’s immigration policies. An article from the Catholic news outlet The Crux illustrates how the 2018 midterms show two distinct Catholic churches, one being white and affluent and the other being Hispanic and poor. John Allen Jr., the editor for the online magazine, explains how the overall Catholic vote increased 2 percentage points since four years ago, likely because of a higher turnout among Latinos. Nonetheless, voting data suggests a growing gap between white Catholics leaning Republican and Catholic minorities voting Democratic.
At the roundtable, there was a discussion of whether or not the midterms were influenced by President Trump’s anti-immigrant language leading up to the election. Instilling fear and fervor into his base using the caravan and challenging birth-right citizenship, it begs the question of whether not Latinos were influenced by the demeaning dialogue. Furthermore, Latinos made up 11 percent of the electorate, and a majority of 63 percent voted Democratic. The Trump administration has revitalized their political engagement, as Figure 3 proves an increase in engagement and enthusiasm since 2016. Additionally, the surge in the Latino vote may be critical to the 2020 election, as DallasNews claims that Hispanic voters could turn the state blue if they can reorganize after Beto O’Rourke’s loss. Despite Ted Cruz’s reelection, Texan Latinos helped to elect the state’s first two Latinas into the House. Prospectively, I feel that Democratic Latino-Catholics have great potential to diversify and change the political landscape in response to xenophobic immigration policies.
For Catholics, the abortion agenda has been consistently prominent on Election Day since Roe v Wade. Professor Stephen Millies writes in the introduction to his book that “the US Catholic Bishops will remain important figures in the story of the road that leads from Roe to the election of Donald Trump”(xviii). Earlier this semester, we read about how American bishops are quick to criticize Trump policies but will not directly advise voters. According to the article, one reason for the silence is because conservative bishops and liberal bishops cannot agree on debates like abortion and gay marriage. As my last post mentions, some congregations and Bishops reject the Vatican’s more progressive leadership under Pope Francis. At the panel, Dr. O’Brien predicted that a Catholic majority Supreme Court would likely not result in appealing Roe. Rather, the Court would allow for restrictions and state jurisdiction on access to abortion. Indeed, in the midterms, Oregon, West Virginia, and Alabama all passed laws limiting funding for abortion. In an article for the Washington Post, Peter Steinfels voices that Democrats like him who are anti-abortion can identify as a liberal. Steinfels comments, “those who oppose abortion have their own moral reasons for looking beyond near-term abortion right advocates’ victories and throwing themselves into a blue wave.” Democratic Catholics can be pro-life, but they must make a tradeoff by supporting pro-choice politicians.
Catholics were not necessarily instrumental this year in electing a Democratic House majority and maintaining a Republican Senate majority. Throughout the semester, I have recognized that the role of Catholics in modern politics reflects how the entire nation is divided by party and ideology, thus the Catholic vote is not unique from the electorate. Historically, Catholics wielded power from the election of other Catholics, such as Mayor Daley in Chicago or President Kennedy. I think that under the right circumstances, the Latino Catholics can emulate Irish-Catholic elections in 2020 to gain leverage over anti-immigration laws and become accepted in American life.
Figure 1: Geiger, Abigail. “How Religious Groups Voted in the Midterm Elections.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center.
Figures 2 and 3: Kent, David. “Hispanic Voters More Engaged in 2018 than in Previous Midterms.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 2 Nov. 2018.
Since the first week of class, my peers and I have been working around the history of the Catholic vote. Like most historical concepts, the answer is complex and increasingly difficult to navigate. I feel like most of this semester has focused on the Catholic Left, with pieces of the Catholic Right inevitably peeking through. Broadly, I have discerned that early Catholic immigrants made up the Democratic base. Then, the Catholic ‘white ethnics‘ were accepted by nativists in the postwar years and looked to the Republican Party. This week, the class ventured to the University of Chicago campus to hear from Professor Stephen Millies about his new book Good Intentions: A History of Catholic Voters’ Road from Roe to Trump. Millies offers a perceptive history of the Catholic vote since Roe v. Wade in 1973, a landmark case that has defined many Catholics and Christians into one-issue voters. At the same time, our readings from class show the emergence of conservative Catholics before the Roe decision.
Colleen Doody’s Detroit’s Cold War resonated with me because of my Polish heritage based in Detroit. My grandmother grew up in the parochial schools in the Polish neighborhood of Hamtramck during the Cold War. She now opposes the Catholic Church and identifies as a Floridian Democrat. Doody gave me the much-needed context that explains why my grandmother may feel this way. In the 1930s, Hamtramck was divided between Leftist Poles who unionized and Polish priests who suggested unions were Communist organizations (81). As the Cold War heated up after World War II, anti-Communism became popularized in the United States, especially for Polish immigrants who felt persecuted by the Soviet Union. Communism was portrayed by the Church as the “fertile soil of secularism,”(84) which contributed to the rise of traditionalism. Conservatism united Polish-Americans through block rosaries and the celebration of Saint Mary’s Day on May Day. What bothered my grandmother about Catholicism, besides the strict nuns, was how the traditionalists opposed scientific ideas and urged women back into their roles as housewives (87). Doody’s analysis of Detroit during the Cold War was intriguing because it allowed me to recognize Hamtramck as a personal example of conservative Catholic politics.
Another way to view how Catholics supported conservative policies before Roe is through presidential candidacies. Richard Nixon, Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, and Donald Trump all used conservative ideologies that directly spoke to Republican Catholics. At the panel, Millies attributed Pat Buchanan, Republican presidential nominee in 1992 and 1996, as the first Trumpist. Buchanan also served the administrations of Nixon and Reagan, equally prominent conservative policy-makers. Earlier in the semester, we read about how Nixon’s New Majority sought to “[attack] the left within the labor movement” (Cowie 270). By manipulating unions to which many blue-collar Catholics belonged, Nixon built a new Republican coalition. President Trump used a similar strategy in the 2016 campaign trail with laborers in the coal industry, appealing to the White Majority.
As discussed in class, Barry Goldwater’s nomination in 1964 was quite monumental. Goldwater won six states, perhaps because he was the “first candidate since Hoover about whom conservatives could feel enthusiastic” (Allitt 36). Goldwater, also known as Mr. Conservative, ran on a platform of anti-Communism. In a 1964 article published by the New Yorker, Richard H. Rovere followed Goldwater for a week and observed that:
In Goldwater circles, an Easterner is guilty until he proves himself innocent. There is no longer any need to identify a liberal with Communism; it is quite bad enough if he is a “liberal,” and doubly bad if he is an “Eastern liberal.”
Goldwater is often viewed as a shock to the nation for proving himself as a real competitor as an extremist backed by the Republican Party. Goldwater’s campaign on anti-Communism related with Cold War Catholics, such as those in Hamtramck who feared the Iron Curtain and hoped for democracy to reclaim dominance.
Ronald Reagan was a crucial supporter of Goldwater, “giving mild-mannered voice to an ideologically supercharged theme” (Allitt 36). Seventeen years later, Reagan would win the presidential election and implement Goldwater policies into American life. An article from earlier this semester, “Carter, Catholics, and the Politics of the Family,” reveals how President Carter was defeated by Reagan in the race for reelection. Unlike Carter, Reagan “spoke openly of his faith and openly opposed ERA, gay rights, and abortion” (Flippen 49). Carter, on the other hand, was inconsistent because he tried to please conservatives and liberals alike on pressing topics like abortion (38).
Essentially, the commonality between Nixon, Reagan, and Goldwater is how they were able to identify fundamental policies for Catholics based on the political climate and take a tenacious stance to build a reliable base. Similarly, Millies argues in the introduction to his book that “Catholics played an important part in the growing, destructive divisiveness of American political life that made Trump’s nomination and election possible” (Millies xvi).
Furthermore, Catholic media outlets were crucial to the distribution of conservatism. In Detroit, the Michigan Catholic faithfully condemned communism. During World War II, the Michigan Catholic criticized Soviet presence in Poland while mainstream American media “shied away from anti-Soviet articles” (Doody 80). In various editorials, the Church was also depicted as the protector of Western civilization. As a result, the local Catholic press helped “fracture the previously united Slavic community in the Detroit area at the end of the war” (81).
On a more national level, William F. Buckley was a strong force in establishing a New Conservative media outlet. In 1955, Buckley founded the National Review, which staffed a large amount of Catholics from its beginnings (Allitt 19). The National Review was vehemently anti-Communist, daring to criticize Pope John XXIII’s 1961 encyclical for not articulating Communism into his emphasis on poor nations (28). This echoes Catholics today who reject Pope Francis for his more liberal Catholic Social Teachings. In his conclusion, Allitt describes the New Conservatives as a “fringe political group,” (36) yet I feel that the impact of right-wing popular media has held a lasting legacy into 2018. Fox News and the existing National Review have informed conservative Catholics about politics for decades. Moreover, the media and its effect on the electorate has only heightened since 2016 and the era of ‘fake news.’
I agree with Millies’ statement at the panel that the decision to legalize abortion made many conservative Catholics feel lost between their American and Catholic identities. Millies further explained that Roe was a fracture point for immigrants after winning acceptance during the Cold War. Consequently, some Catholics have prioritized abortion so much that they “have made political calculations for many years, all of which have aimed at something good but that now has culminated in the election of Donald Trump” (xviii). In my opinion, opponents of Roe are products of New Conservatism and traditionalism beginning in the 1930s. With a majority of Catholics on the bench of the Supreme Court, it may be possible for Roe to be reconsidered. Political Scientist William Blake proves that Catholic justices closely adhere to teachings of the Catholic Church, which may influence the rulings of certain moral decisions. Scalia denied religion influencing his stance on abortion, but it would be “impossible for a judge to suppress her or his values completely” (814). Summarily, Catholicism’s role in politics spans from voters to lawmakers to the judicial system.
To conclude, the Catholic vote is divided according to many factors, with ideology being of central importance. Historically, conservatism attracted Catholics because of anti-Communist political leaders. The Catholic media was instrumental in spreading conservative content and ideas to the public. The build-up to the Roe decision included figures like Barry Goldwater, who reshaped the image of the GOP. The age of Democratic Catholic immigrants faded with the rise of populism and modern politics. I think that the Catholic vote is far more complicated than just looking at the Left and the Right, but it is a good place to start. I look forward to exploring more on my own as I begin to find my own sources as the semester proceeds.
Allitt, Mark. “American Catholics and the New Conservatism of the 1950s.” U.S. Catholic Historian, vol. 7, no. 1, 1988, pp. 15–37.
Blake, William. “God Save This Honorable Court: Religion as a Source of Judicial Policy Preferences.” Political Research Quarterly, vol. 65, no. 4, Dec. 2012, pp. 814–826.
Cowie, Jefferson (2002) Nixon’s Class Struggle: Romancing the New Right Worker, 1969- 1973, Labor History, 43:3, 257-283.
Doody, Colleen. “Anti-Communism and Catholicism in Cold-War Detroit.” University of Illinois Press, 2017.
Flippen, J Brooks. “Carter, Catholics, and the Politics of Family.” American Catholic Historical Society, vol. 123, no. 3, 2012, pp. 27–51.
Millies, Stephen. Good Intentions: A History of Catholic Voters’ from Roe to Trump.2018.
Rovere, Richard H. “The Goldwater Campaign.” The New Yorker, The New Yorker, 3 Oct. 1964.
This week honored the 50th anniversary of a remarkable year in global history. By attending The Hank Center’s Symposium Days of Past Present of 1968, I listened to a variety of scholars about groups worldwide and their reaction to perceived inequalities and lack of freedom. Leaving the Symposium, I considered whether or not the legacies of 1968 were effective, and the role of Catholics as protesters in Chicago and worldwide.
The 1960s were an important time for women because of Second Wave Feminism and women were joining men on the streets to protest. Second Wave Feminism is the term for post-war female liberation in the family, at work, and in popular culture. In 1964, Patsy Mink was the first woman of color elected to Congress for the state of Hawaii. As Professor Judy Wu articulated in her panel, Mink was anti-war, pro-environment, and the spearhead of Title IX that widened the rights of women in education. She refused to be called a liberal by the mainstream, she preferred to be known as a radical for her time. As for Catholic women, 1968 had its limits. The Catholic panel revealed that there was both a need and a failure for sex and gender reforms in the Church. Professor Susan Ross came of age in 1968, and she recounted her grandmother and mother’s reaction to Humanae Vitae. Humanae Vitae was issued by Pope Paul VI and reasserted that artificial contraception was not allowed by the Church. Ross said that there were women like her mother who obeyed these orders, or women like her grandmother who questioned the Church’s role in married life. Humanae Vitae seemed like a disappointment to most women after the Vatican II promises of social justice. In her article, Marian Mollin explains that women involved in liberal Catholic anti-Vietnam demonstrations also felt disappointed by the lack of inclusion by the Berrigan brothers. As told in a former blog post, Daniel Berrigan is known for his anti-Vietnam demonstration with the Catonsville Nine. The Berrigans used masculinity to recruit members of their inner-circle, which “blocked the ability of women to participate in the movement as true equals to men” (Mollin 51). Women from the Catholic Left eventually separated themselves from the Berrigans with their own civil disobedience, like the Women Against Daddy Warbucks (45). Anne Walsh, an active member in Catholic feminism, remembers that male leaders of the Catholic Left supported Women Against Daddy Warbucks, but “privately viewed and treated the women as the enemy” (46). Eventually, the Catholic Left stopped funding all-female groups and shut them out (46). Like journalist Kenneth Woodward said at the Berrigan Week panel, Daniel Berrigan had faults in his philosophy of ‘walk with me or walk against me,’ and revolutionary women were viewed as the enemy. There was a lack of unity in the Catholic Left concerning gender and reproductive rights; consequently, women felt they had no voice. On the other hand, women nation-wide were joining political conversations, which was a crucial step forward for feminists.
In his article, “The Family, the Gospel, and the Catholic Worker,” Daniel McKanan expresses how Catholic organizations emphasized family life and living out the Gospel in the 1960s. The postwar Catholic Worker movement diverged from Dorothy Day’s philosophy that “the Worker movement was good and necessary and that families were good and necessary but that neither one required the other” (McKannan 163). By contrast, Workers redefined the movement by focusing on family houses where Catholics extended hospitality and liturgical values to the poor and the surrounding community. The shift from individual to family and community was brought on by Vatican II and a document entitled “Apostolate of the Laity” (164). I think that the redefining of the Catholic Worker movement mirrored the social movements of 1968. The Civil Rights movement and anti-Vietnam protests were guided by the concept of solidarity rather than the needs of the individual. Indeed, Catholic Worker families were often involved in Vietnam protests, one example is how “Dave and Kathy Miller started Saint James Catholic Worker House shortly before Dave’s trial for draft card burning” (159). Like most institutions, the Catholic Worker Movement reshaped its mission due to Vatican II and pressure from ongoing 1968 leftist thinking.
At the panel on “Resistance and Riots, Murders and Martyrs,” Professor Kathleen
Belew argued that conservative groups are often overlooked by historians during the pinnacle of 1968 liberalism. Belew describes how white power mobilized in 1968 as men returned from Vietnam and brought the war and violence home with them. In this way, white power groups unified into a bloc and incorporated military uniforms into their neo-Nazi culture. Mainly, the Vietnam War was divisive because it shaped both left and right social movements. White power remains influenced by 1968 since military uniforms are worn by today’s generation of white nationalists. In Professor Fidelis’ panel, she presents Eastern Europe and the Second World during 1968. Leftist students organized under the group Club of Seekers of Contradictions and published magazines inspired by the Western popular press. At a rally in March of 1968, the students were met by the police who allowed civilians of the Worker party to beat the students with clubs. The Polish students were eventually arrested and suppressed by government officials. Additionally, in France, one usually thinks of the swarm of communist students on May Day. In reality, conservatives organized pro-de Gaulle protests that challenged youth calls for reform. Essentially, the narrative that left-wing politics reigned in 1968 is not true because of the agendas of right-wing groups that allowed for the election of Richard Nixon.
What makes Chicago unique from other cities in 1968? My blog from last week ponders how local politics in Chicago was distinct. Chicago in 1968; however, follows a global theme of political action met by reluctant politicians. The protests outside of the Democratic National Convention led to violent police force on 10,000 Yippies. The Yippies are the name for young men and women who protested the war and racism while the Democratic Party convened for the election. The protesters were forced out of the stockyards on the side of the convention center, and tear gas and physical violence were used by police under the order of Mayor Daley, an Irish-Catholic himself. Undoubtedly, the Convention is important to Chicago politics because it is looked back as a failure of Mayor Daley to keep the peace. Chicago-born historian James Barrett writes about his experience growing up Catholic with a Chicago police officer as a father. Barrett was deeply interested in Vatican II social justice and joined the Catholic Interracial Council in addition to the anti-war movement (20). While Barrett attended rallies and found his political voice, his father was arresting those same protestors (20). As Barrett illustrates, young Catholics like him made Chicago distinct in 1968 because they were the product of Vatican II. In conclusion, Chicago in 1968 was unique because of the Catholic influence, although Yippies were similar to existing social movements in the United States.
After hearing from a range of scholars this week, there is a sense that 1968 was exceptional. As the keynote speaker Professor Bourg stated, it is the year that historians continually memorialize decade after decade for bringing people together politically. I admit that it was a monumental year, but as I noted at the concluding panel with Loyola students from the past and present, there are lessons to be learned from 1968. I think that fifty years later, there are valid criticisms of the era that need to be considered for the successes of modern social justice movements. Contrary to the 1968 Olympic slogan, it was not a year of peace. It was a period of confrontation within liberalism and conservatism across the globe. If my generation wants to reverse social inequalities, we must look to 1968 for its faults. For instance, Catholicism in 1968 offers its mistakes and its triumphs with the opportunity of Vatican II and the limitation of Humanae Vitae. Overall, 1968 was a tumultuous and pivotal year that gave me insight into how to view history in the lens of the present.
Photos 1, 2, & 6 taken by Allison Lapinski.
Barrett, James. The Blessed Virgin Made Me a Socialist Historian. 2017.
Grossman, Ron. “The Whole World Was Watching: How the Tribune Reported the 1968 Democratic Convention.” Chicagotribune.com, 24 Aug. 2018.
McKanan, Daniel. “The Family, the Gospel, and the Catholic Worker.” The Journal of Religion, vol. 87, no. 2, Apr. 2007, pp. 153–182.
Mollin, Marian. “Communities of Resistance: Women and the Catholic Left of the Late 1960s.” The Oxford Historical Journal, vol. 31, no. 2, 2004, pp. 29–51.
Last weekend, more than 250 architectural sites in Chicago opened their doors to the public for the annual Open House. Having lived in Chicago for a year, I was amazed by the diversity and beautiful condition of all of the structures that I was able to visit for my first time. Furthermore, the churches and political sites that I visited closely related to this week’s topic and readings on local politics. In his article published by the New York Times, Andrew Gelman refutes former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neil’s quote that all politics is local. Rather, politics is local in the sense of gerrymandering practices and Senators seeking reelection, otherwise, elections have become nationalized. I think that Gelman makes a strong case that the emergence of mass politics has overlooked local politics and the needs of constituency services. Nonetheless, from what I have witnessed at Open House and read in class, Catholic politics was extremely local within Chicago’s history. Moreover, I disagree with Gelman because I think politics remains local. Primarily, politics being local in Chicago stems from the Church, immigration, ethnic politics, and determined community leaders.
The first place I ventured out to was located in the Ukrainian Village, which is a product of three waves of Ukrainian immigration to the United States. The first wave worked to establish themselves in Chicago by constructing their own institutions, such as the Catholic Church. According to the architectural representative who I spoke to at St. Nicholas Roman Catholic Church, Ukrainian immigrants built their own parishes because of language barriers from other churches that inhibited them from understanding their worship. The Church clearly reflects Ukrainian culture as I observed through the Eastern-European icons, Ukrainian inscriptions, and the placement of the Ukrainian flag alongside the American flag. In essence, the Ukrainian Village illustrates how Chicago Catholics are distinct, taken from “Catholicism, Chicago Style,” by Skerrett, Kantowicz, and Avella. The regionality and ethnic factions of Chicagoan Catholicism contribute to how practitioners “have traditionally taken much of their sense of neighborhood from their parishes” (xviii). Unlike other religions where the place of worship is generally far from the home, Catholic parishes typically share proximity to the parishioners. The article explains the utility of the Church by humanizing and sacralizing urban life for incoming immigrants (xviii). Summarily, politics were formed locally and naturally as the Church adopted immigrants into American nativist traditions. Assimilation was necessary, but Catholic neighborhoods like the Ukrainian Village were equally relevant in securing the sense of self in a new country.
After wandering around Ukrainian Village, I returned to the city and settled into Holy Name Cathedral, which is the church of the Archdiocese of Chicago. The Open House tour guide notified me that Holy Name was erected after the Great Fire of 1871, but the first Holy Name and the nearby St. Mary’s served as parishes for the Irish-Catholics. According to Kennedy’s piece, “FDR and Chicago Irish Americans,” Irish-Catholics arrived in Chicago and evolved with the city through population increase, fire, and industrious projects that expanded the small Midwestern city into a modern metropolis (266). Holy Name was the cornerstone of Irish predominance in Chicago, and its marvelous architectural features are fit for the archbishop.
Similarly, Holy Name Cathedral holds historical significance as the Archdiocese where German-American Bishop Mundelein presided starting in 1915 (Kennedy 264). Both readings from Kennedy and Skerrett describe how Mundelein paved a path for Catholics to succeed politically in Chicago. Mundelein satisfied his Irish clergy by imposing policies to Americanize the Church and appointing Irish priests and bishops to his administration (264). Mundelein’s most important legacy was creating “political ties with local Democratic politicians and with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt” (Skerrett xix). Indeed, Mundelein organized the divided multi-ethnic Chicago Church into a united front using the Democratic Party, meaning he both nationalized and localized the Church. Undoubtedly, Mundelein formed opportunities for Irish-Catholics to become a lasting presence in Chicago politics, as seen through the lens of the Daley Machine.
The Daley Machine is remarkable because of how its political achievements and failures shaped the city into today. In 1947, Irish-Catholic Richard Daley asserted himself into local politics as the Eleventh Ward Democratic committeeman before becoming the Democratic Party chairman of Cook County in 1953 (Pacyga 324). Once he was elected as mayor in 1955, Daley ruled Chicago as the Democratic political boss. Mayor Daley initially enhanced the city by attracting investors, developing office spaces in the Loop, and drawing up plans for the University of Illinois in Chicago (327). Daley failed his citizens, though, by creating lasting tensions with black communities. Namely, his public housing projects resulted in ghettos of “thousands of people living on top of each other” (334). Despite his negligence with African Americans, Richard J. Daley was the champion of white ethnics and he served as mayor for over 20 years. His son, Richard M. Daley, continued his father’s legacy by serving as mayor for six terms. When I went to City Hall, it was no surprise that the Daley family name was found in countless plaques and photos. I was given the chance to sit in the Mayor’s chair that was once throne to the Daley family. Daley might be the embodiment of the phrase “all politics is local” because of how his tactics of wielding power are entrenched in modern Chicago. The South Side is an example of segregation practices by Daley that are still prevalent despite national desegregation that began in the 1960s.
In addition to the Democratic Party, the Church influenced Chicago citizens by using charitable organizations to provide welfare services that the government did not implement until FDR’s New Deal. For instance, I went to Catholic Charities on Lafayette, which previously housed St. Vincent’s Hospital and Orphanage, founded in 1881. The Open House guides explained to me that St. Vincent served poor mothers and children during a time when unemployed families were rejected by society and left with no other option. The sisters at St. Vincent employed the chapel to baptize orphans and newborns into the Church. The small chapel is still in use today, and I found it to be a peaceful space amidst the hustle of the city from down below.
The elegant entrance to Catholic Charities
The chapel, now surrounded by high-rises.
Starting in the 1970s, Catholic Charities took control of Saint Vincent’s and redefined the mission as a place for community programs, such as counseling and employment training. Reverend Geno Baroni observed that organizations in the 1970s, like “the Catholic Church, the unions, the Democratic Party– have lost their ability … to address the real needs of these communities” (Merton 738). Baroni was a prominent Catholic priest who was shaped by Vatican II social justice tenants because his policies aimed to abolish discrimination of white ethnics. He ultimately resolved the disconnect between the Church and the working-class by heading the National Center for Urban Ethnic Affairs during the Nixon and Carter administrations (734). Essentially, the demise of Saint Vincent Center was caused by the fact that orphanages were no longer necessary for the community because social welfare programs had been long introduced. Rather, Chicago’s downtown area needed a haven for white ethnics in the “post-civil rights political environment” (734). In his article, “Rethinking the Politics of White Ethnicity in 1970s America,” Joe Merton argues that both Democratic and Republican parties used ethnic politics to strengthen their base of voters (736). Ethnic politics initially addressed local needs by revitalizing neighborhoods (733), but consequently collapsed under Carter’s administration with lack of funding. Overall, the history of Catholic Charities reflects the way in which Catholic organizations changed themselves to more fit the needs of local issues.
The last Open House site was Saint Peter’s in the Loop. Saint Peter’s reminded me of how “Baroni sought to build a unified, multi-ethnic political culture and identity” (Merton 732). The Roman Catholic Church was located within two blocks of a Methodist church and a synagogue, a true model of ethnic pluralism that existed prior to Baroni’s agenda of ethnic politics. Saint Peter’s is a Franciscan-run Catholic parish with German roots. It is a convenient place of worship for white-collar and blue-collar workers alike, as it is the sole Catholic Church in the Loop. Saint Peter’s does not appear as a humble parish for the working-class, it boasts a facade with an enormous sculpture of the crucifix and there are nods to art-deco glamour in the interior. The clerical makeup of Saint Peter’s mirrored how Catholic workers were crucial to the union movement because the right to work gave immigrants citizenship. In fact, the success of Nixon’s ‘New Majority’ ethnic politics was dependent on union workers (735).
The altar of Saint Peter’s.
Selfie at Saint Peter’s
The exterior of Saint Peter’s.
By visiting the Hairy Who installation at the Art Institute, I found that besides politics, art is local too. Chicago artists (Jim Falconer, Art Green, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, Suellen Rocca, and Karl Wirsum) used the Hairy Who to produce surrealist and experimental forms of art between the years of 1966 and 1969. As a viewer, I thought that the vivacious images and narratives displayed were inspired by political unrest in Chicago, one main event being Mayor Daley’s actions at the Democratic National Convention of 1968. The absurd psychedelic artworks feature themes of anti-capitalism, anti-Vietnam War sentiments, sexual liberation, and atomic warfare. At times, I admit that I could not fully understand the thought-provoking pieces. The biography near the entrance to the exhibit informed me that the Hairy Who was uniquely of Chicago because the artists rejected the New York art scene and started their own dialogue that was relevant to Chicagoans. The punk trailblazers inspired artists nationwide with their originality and imaginative compositions. The exhibit is emblematic of the city– similar to how Catholicism and the Democratic Machine were devices that connected local Chicago politics to the national scale.
Like the Scavenger Hunt, my observations at these five historic Chicago landmarks evoked connections to ongoing debates and discussions from class. The concept of ‘the white ethnic’ from earlier in the semester returned and was central to the idea of local politics in the post-civil war ethnic politics. Politics were local in Chicago by way of immigrants and ethnic politics, reforming leaders like Mayor Daley, and the Catholic Church. I think that these concepts remain true: Ethnic politics has been redefined as immigration, and Chicago is a sanctuary city with a diverse ethnic background. The Daley family will always be associated with Chicago, as Bill Daley will be featured on the ballot for the mayoral race. And the Church continues to serve Chicago with Catholic Charities. Additionally, my post from last week reveals how Father Pfleger is an activist voice for marginalized South Side African Americans. Catholicism may less directly influence Chicago politics compared to before, but Chicago will forever be a Catholic city.
Photos by Allison Lapinski.
Ellen Skerrett, et al. “Catholicism, Chicago Style.” 1993, pp. xvii-xxii.
Gelman, Andrew. “All Politics Is Local? The Debate and the Graphs.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 3 Jan. 2011.
Kennedy, Patrick D. “Chicago’s Irish Americans and the Candidacies of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1932-1944.” Illinois Historical Journal, vol. 88, no. 4, 1995, pp. 263–278. JSTOR.
Merton, Joe. “RETHINKING THE POLITICS OF WHITE ETHNICITY IN 1970s AMERICA.” The Historical Journal, vol. 55, no. 03, Mar. 2012, pp. 731–756. JSTOR.
Pacyga, Dominic. “Daley’s City” taken from “Chicago: A Biography.” The University of Chicago Press. April 2011.
Last Sunday, I stepped into a worship space that was like none I have entered before. The Faith Community of Saint Sabina, located in Chicago’s South Side, is a tight-knit, yet welcoming, congregation led by Reverend Michael Pfleger. Pfleger is somewhat of a Chicago celebrity because he defends and confronts problems like gun and gang violence, which are central to the daily lives of many members of Saint Sabina. He also regularly leads protests, one of which stirred a public debate between Governor Rauner and Mayor Emanuel. Pfleger causes disruptions in his demonstrations that may seem radical compared to social media activists who send tweets and expect immediate reform. Such as closing down the Dan Ryan, which is the city’s busiest expressway (Chicago Sun-Times). In his piece, “Chicago’s Political Priest” published by The New Yorker, Evan Osnos analyzes the extent to which Pfleger involves himself in the realm of American politics. Osnos writes about how during his candidacy, former President Obama denounced one of Pfleger’s sermons in which he targeted Hillary Clinton. In this way, Pfleger using sermons as a platform for political dialogue has its consequences. Furthermore, Saint Sabina is a mix of traditions, and on the surface, the church looks no different than any other. But it is adorned with items that are relevant to the congregation; a black Jesus mural above the alter hangs opposite to a poster that reads: “Discipleship will cost. Are you Willing?”
The inside of Saint Sabina
Photos by me.
In recent months, Pfleger shifted his support for Mayor Emanuel because of his lack of response regarding the death of Laquan McDonald. Laquan, a 17-year old South Side native, was fatally shot sixteen times by Chicago Police Officer Van Dyke. Given the surge in movements against racially motivated police brutality, the public lost trust in Emanuel for not releasing the dashboard camera footage earlier. Moreover, Pfleger channeled his frustration by asking Emanuel “for jobs and development projects in African-American areas of Chicago” (The New Yorker). Father Pfleger is quite active on his Facebook page, calling for a “Peaceful Nonviolent SHUT DOWN of Chicago,” if Van Dyke is not convicted for the murder of Laquan. Van Dyke was found guilty by the jury which is a monumental decision that will hopefully supplement changes in conduct within the Chicago Police Department.
While Pfleger is certainly a modern-day champion for the rights of black Americans, it is imperative to note that the Catholic Church has a rich history of priests and nuns who inspired him to adopt an activist role. In the 1960s, many priests and bishops alike felt that they had a responsibility to speak out against segregation and discrimination. For example, Amy DeLong profiles Father Leppert in her article, “Change from the Inside Out: The Contribution of Memphis Catholics in Civil Rights Activism, 1961-1968.” Chiefly, Leppert’s commitment to “integrate St. Therese of Little Flower Parish in 1965 was radical, representing the first time a Catholic Church in Memphis was intentionally integrated” (129). Leppert fostered his community by integrating the school and by welcoming black parishioners when one of their churches was shut down (129). Ultimately, the Memphis church became a multi-cultural safe place where Cuban refugees worshipped alongside Italian immigrants and black and white Americans (131). Pfleger emulates Leppert’s progressive motivations, and segregation remains important even after the 1960s, as Chicago is the most segregated city in the nation.
Similarly, Pfleger’s political demonstrations are reminiscent of several Catholic figures and organizations from the past. Osnos draws a comparison between Pfleger and radical pacifist priests who brought “street theatre to activism and [invaded] draft-board offices,” (The New Yorker) attributing the actions of Daniel Berrigan from my last post. Chicago radio journalist Studs Terkel exhibits the strength of nuns and the Catholic Interracial Council in his 1965 interview with John McDermott and Sister Mary Peter. In the interview, we learn that Sister Mary Peter marched in Selma with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. McDermott, director of the Interracial Council, states that the Civil Rights movement is “a moment of purification for our country,” and claims that it was the most Christian experience he has ever had. Later in the interview, he further states that one cannot be a Christian and be tainted by segregation. Sister Mary Peter introduces the idea of ‘avant-garde’ nuns, who led racial relations workshops for public school educators in an effort to streamline integration. Pfleger mirrors these figures, as he idolizes Dr. King (The New Yorker) and would agree with the conclusion of the interview, which declares that “segregation is a paganism.” I can feel a sense of militancy within Catholic Civil Rights trailblazers like Berrigan and the Selma marchers; however, there was a need for their strong resistance and Pfleger continues their legacy.
Fundamentally, Vatican II was central to the reason why Catholics joined the Civil Rights movements. Vatican II is known for modernizing the Catholic Church by introducing the English language into Mass and addressing principals of justice and unity. John T McGreevy outlines the goals of Vatican II in his article “Racial Justice and the People of God: The Second Vatican Council, the Civil Rights Movement, and American Catholics.” By reframing conceptions about the Church, using social justice ideas from the Gospel, and globalizing Catholicism (223), priests like Leppert in Memphis were given more discretion to welcome outsiders like African Americans and Latinos. McGreevy also solidifies the ideas of Sister Mary Peter by explaining the value of nuns in reexamining “all religious work in light of council teachings” (228). Without Vatican II, Father Pfleger would not have the ability to structure the mass the way he does, filled with ‘untraditional’ clerical dances and homilies that are focused on using faith as a weapon against racial inequality.
This week shed more light on protesters from the Catholic left, but what about the more conservative practitioners? Surely, not everyone in the Catholic Church stormed the streets, singing Kumbaya alongside each other. There are contradictions within the Catholic Church because the advent of Vatican II formed a different breed of protesters. For instance, there was a push for fair housing legislation in California to make affordable housing accessible to all races. William Issel and Marry Anne Wold examine this situation in their work entitled, “Catholics and the Campaign for Racial Justice in San Francisco From Pearl Harbor to Proposition 14.” Proposition 14, the bill that would appeal the Rumford Fair Housing Act that helped end racial discrimination by landlords, had a large number of signatures from conservative parishioners via a grassroots movement (42). While most bishops opposed the petition, Issel and Wold emphasize that “white Catholics generally are faulted for having failed to embrace the racial justice movement wholeheartedly” (43). In essence, many conservative lay-people avoided the new ideas set forth by Vatican II while liberal priests and nuns made it their mission to incorporate racial justice into their Catholic social teachings. Indeed, McGreevy quotes a woman who is disturbed by how Selma allowed “communist leaders … to divide the Catholic population” (McGreevy 230). In addition, there are influential names in the Catholic Right like there are in the Catholic Left. Similar to how Berrigan and Day had massive followings, there were Catholics on an opposite pulpit with their own supporters.
I immediately think of Father Coughlin, a priest based near my hometown in Michigan, who ran a widely-popular political radio show and condemned Jews during World War II. Some even claim that Coughlin has resurrected via Steve Bannon and the Breitbart news outlet.
In conclusion, the Catholic Church made notable steps forward in social justice during the 1960s and into today, as seen in Father Pfleger’s philosophies. At the same time, I am beginning to recognize an ideological division within the Catholic Church. Civil Rights can be traced back to slavery, of which McGreevy writes in his work Catholics and American Freedom. Mcgreevy investigates the distinction between Ultramontane Catholics and liberal Catholics. Respectively, the former excused slavery as a fact of social order while the latter viewed it as an inadmissible form of hierarchy (53). I formerly regarded the Catholic Church as an institution that was unified in most aspects, but it has been divided on race since the 1840s in America. In contrast, Saint Sabina evokes an air of solidarity, and I was delighted to participate in their accepting form of prayer.
Brinkley, Alan. Voices of Protest: Huey Long, Father Coughlin, and the Great Depression. Vintage Books, 1983.
DeLong, Amy. “Change from the Inside Out: The Contribution of Memphis Catholics in Civil Rights Activism, 1961-1968.” Tennessee Historical Quarterly, vol. 67, no. 2, 2008, pp. 124–147. JSTOR.
Hinton, Rachel, and Manny Ramos. “Anti-Violence Protesters Shut down Inbound Dan Ryan: ‘The People Won Today’.” Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Sun-Times, 7 July 2018.
Issel,William, and Mary Anne Wold . “Catholics and the Campaign for Racial Justice in San Francisco From Pearl Harbor to Proposition 14.” American Catholic Historical Society , vol. 119, no. 3, 2008, pp. 21–43. JSTOR.
“John A. McDermott and Sister Mary Peter Discuss Catholic Church’s Participation in Civil Rights Movement.” The WFMT Studs Terkel Radio Archive, 15 Sept. 1965.
McGreevy, John T. “Racial Justice and the People of God: The Second Vatican Council, the Civil Rights Movement, and American Catholics.” Religion and American Culture: A Journal of Interpretation, vol. 4, no. 2, 1994, pp. 221–254.
McGreevy, John T. Catholicism and American Freedom: a History. W.W. Norton, 2004.
Osnos, Evan. “Chicago’s Political Priest.” The New Yorker, The New Yorker, 1 Sept. 2017.
“How many must die before our voices are heard, how many must be tortured, dislocated, starved, maddened . . . When, at what point, will you say no to this war?”
– Daniel Berrigan, SJ
This week dealt with the complications that occur for Catholic Americans regarding their moral duty against what they perceive as unjust and the idea of patriotism during wartime. When religious identity and national identity are not aligned, Catholics are forced to make political decisions–and the results can be quite radical. Principally, after attending several events at The Hank Center’s Berrigan Week, I found many connections between the speakers and our class reading on Reverend William Au’s article, “American Catholics and the Dilemma of War, 1960-1980.”
The first event that I attended was led by Bill Wylie-Kellerman, who was a personal friend of both William Stringfellow and Dan Berrigan. Knowing very little about Catholic protesters beforehand, his description and personal anecdotes opened my eyes into the community of theologians who advocate for peace during war. In my opinion, many of these scholars and religious people are heavily influenced by the Catholic Workers Movement and Dorothy Day. Similarly, I learned about Father Daniel Berrigan’s involvement in the Catonsville Nine, which was an act of protest wherein him and 8 others broke into the United States’ draft center and burned the files of the men most vulnerable to be deployed. Symbolically, they scorched these documents with homemade Napalm. But Kellerman mostly discussed the ways in which Berrigan relied on scripture to interpret the lack of ethics within the war. Au’s statement on how the Berrigans saw Vietnam as a representation of “the fruit of what had always been the dominant values of American society,” (Au 72) became more apparent as Kellerman spoke. Moreover, Berrigan was critical of both the Republican and Democratic parties because he saw the faults of both political parties as incorrigible. His faith promoted ideas of pacifism, and he was willing to sacrifice his American freedom in the name of his Catholic freedom.
I also viewed the film Seeking Shelter: A Story of Place, Faith, and Resistance, directed by Susan Hagedorn. The documentary gave more evidence of Berrigan’s political persona within the small island community. Using the island as a hideaway from the FBI, he often hosted guests and created an environment for him and other Catholics to discuss politics in an open dialogue. Eventually, Berrigan was found and arrested in Block Island and went on to serve two years in prison. I found it fascinating how Berrigan did not discern faith and politics as separate entities. Rather, he depended on scripture, notably from the book of Revelations, and applied it to the Vietnam War. I thoroughly appreciated the forum afterward, where the audience established the need for community building during this age of political unrest. Following the film, I visited the exhibit on Daniel Berrigan and Catholic protesters, which was informative and summarized Catholic resistance efforts.
After hearing multiple stories praising Berrigan’s activism, it was refreshing to hear a critical analysis of the Catholic protest movement. Kenneth Woodward, a journalist and former Theology editor for Newsweek during the war, briefly interjected in the middle of the Berrigan Week Symposium. He posed the question of whether or not Berrigan’s efforts enhanced or inhibited the general Protest movement. Clearly, Berrigan is a prominent name in liberal Catholicism; however, he is generally unknown to the American public. I do not think he transcended religious boundaries because his legacy seems concentrated to the Catholic Left. Certainly, not all Catholics opposed the Vietnam War, and there was little said about the majority of Catholic Realists and supporters of the war during Berrigan Week. Essentially, the acts of radicals did not fully represent the way that all Catholics felt. Catholic Realists believed that preserving Western liberal democracy was “wedded to their ecclesiastical priority of preserving Catholicism as a significant part of that society” (Au 61). This explains why President JFK, a Catholic himself, entered the Vietnam War to contain communism.
Au describes how the terminology of ‘the Catholic Left’ was borne out of “the activities of the Berrigans and a growing following of peace activists who engaged in similar acts of civil disobedience” (Au 70). At the Symposium, I listened to two Catholic leftists share the ways in which they protested. First, Fred Marchant revealed that he enlisted in the Marines and opted out after seeing the horrors and mutilation of Vietnamese civilians. As a poet, he resonated with much of Berrigan’s philosophy and recalled reading TheNational Catholic Reporter denounce the war while he was in Vietnam. The NCR initially supported the war effort, but eventually condemned it in 1967 on the grounds that the war was ruining America as a moral symbol for the world (Au 64). The second story was extremely engaging, as it was a personal account from Kathleen ‘Cookie’ Ridolfi, a member of the Camden 28. She narrated the process of breaking into a federal building to steal draft files and being caught by the FBI. Cookie read a chilling witness testimony by the mother of one of the 28, who lost her son in Vietnam and approved of their actions. Ridolfi and Marchant failed to offer their views on the future of the Catholic Left, but their experiences left an impression on me and my peers nonetheless.
Concluding Berrigan Week, I listened to a selection of songs and poems of protesters following the Symposium. The peace songs and poems illustrated the individual turmoil that war leaves behind. Chiefly, Fred Marchant recited poems that showed how his transition out of the war was an internal battle. Peace hymns were another component that unified protesters, and I felt a spirit of solidarity when the room sang “Down by the Riverside”. In addition, Berrigan used poetry as an extension of his activism, as seen through the poem, “Children in the Shelter”:
I picked up the littlest
a boy, his face
breaded with rice (His sister calmly feeding him
as we climbed down)
In my arms, fathered
in a moment’s grace, the messiah
of all my tears. I bore, reborn
a Hiroshima child from hell.
In summary, this week solidified my suspicions on the division of Catholics surrounding the Vietnam War. Radical Catholic peace activists, like Daniel Berrigan, deserve more recognition for their powerful acts of civil disobedience. At the same time, there are many Catholics that do not endorse these actions. If I were to walk into my local parish, I could spot several Vietnam War Veterans that would defend their service for the United States. I guess the question is whether they are considered more Catholic or more American.
Au, William A. “American Catholics and the Dilemma of War 1960-1980.” U.S. Catholic Historian, vol. 4, no. 1, 1984, pp. 49–79. JSTOR.