After an extensive semester of researching and learning about Catholicism and it’s impact on Chicago politics, I decided I would like to research the religious segregation in Chicago especially regarding Catholicism. I’d also like to examine the role women played in the segregation in Chicago, and whether Catholic women did more to further segregation or attempt to desegregate. I’d specifically like to focus on dynamics of Chicago neighborhoods as well as Catholic schools.
I got the idea for this research topic when I was driving to St. Sabina Church late last year. As I drove through different neighborhoods, I couldn’t help but notice every new neighborhood I passed through was either ALL Catholic (schools, charities, etc) or not at ALL Catholic. As I got further and further from the north side of Chicago, I felt like I saw more and more Catholic institutions. I found it incredibly interesting, and after doing some research regarding the segregation I found women were a large proponent in keeping it segregated. This of course was just preliminary and fast research, so I would like to really dive in and see the connection between the segregation and if the role women played contributed to the problem.
The 1968 documentary, Inquiring Nuns, touched on many topics we covered over the course of this semester such as, the Vietnam war, altruism, Catholic pillars of social welfare and women in Catholicism. During this short documentary, many of the interviewees stated that they would be much happier if the war in Vietnam was over – this parallels Daniel Berrigan’s view as well. Berrigan was an activist dedicated to ending the war in Vietnam and stopping young men being drafted into it. He felt the war did not align with the Catholic view of a “just war”. Had he been interviewed for this documentary I believe he would have answered as many people in the film did, that he would be happy once the war was no longer going on.
One of the pillars of Catholicism is caring for those without a voice. Many Catholic women themselves did not have voices, but that did not stop them from advocating for themselves, and others. The flier above was found at the Loyola Women and Leadership online archives – women in Chicago were boycotting and petitioning to get more women involved in the church. Such activism can also be seen in Catholic women’s pursuit of the “social question” discussed in the McGreevy article.
In the early 1900’s, examples of Catholic women’s attempts to solve the “social question” were rampant — the Hull house in Chicago, Catholic nuns running hospitals, and they began building orphanages (the Catholic Charities in Chicago discussed in early blog posts is also an example of this).
The social question interested Catholics as a whole, but the women played a large role in not only seeking out voices for others, but for themselves as well. I find it fascinating that they had the time to advocate for themselves while also helping so many of those around them.
C. (n.d.). PDF. Chicago: Loyola Women and Leadership Archives. A flier for A Call for National boycott of Catholic churches until women are ordained.
ONeill, J. M. (1952). Catholicism and American freedom[Chapter 5: The Social Question]. New York: Harper & Brothers.
The presidential campaigns of Al Smith and John F. Kennedy were paralleled in their obstacle of answering the “Catholic question”, JFK succeeded in answering the American public where Smith could not.
Both candidates struggled with moving focus from their religions to their policies, and having the American people view them not as Catholics but as viable candidates. JFK was applauded for how he dealt with the question of his Catholicism impacting his presidency, however Smith did not address the issues of religion that were presented to him in the same manor that JFK did, and many historians believe this could have impacted his lack of popularity in comparison to JFK. In Michael J. Hostetler’s meta-analysis: Gov. Al Smith Confronts the Catholic Question: The Rhetorical Legacy of the 1928 Campaign, he reviews the differences in campaigning that ultimately led to JFK’s success and Smith’s failure. The analysis also focuses on how JFK openly spoke about his religion, while Smith gave “thin” background and did not want religion to be a focal point of his campaign.
However, it is argued that Smith’s campaign in 1928 laid the groundwork for JFK’s success in 1960. Smith’s major problem in his candidacy was people did not believe that “dual allegiance” with respect to church and state would be an obstacle he could overcome. Moreover, it was said that the Catholic principles the Church demands of their congregation would sway the candidate away from American issues and towards Catholic issues.
These arguments were all used when JFK ran as well, however he was prepared to answer them in a manor that would calm the American people in the 1960’s. Smith spoke about the Catholic question sparingly very early in his campaign, and refused to answer questions regarding his religion as the election approached. JFK approached the situation exactly the opposite, he spoke often about his Catholicism and welcomed questions and concerns — establishing his position and reassuring the people often that it would not affect his judgement should he be elected. Smith believed his religion would not play a significant role in his campaign, but JFK knew it would be instrumental, and detrimental if he did not address it.
There of course were other factors in play other than just addressing the public, a change in politic climate, a greater toleration for Catholicism by the American people, and so on. However, the rhetoric used during the campaigns seems to have played a huge role, and that can be seen even in the way people spoke about JFK as opposed to Smith. Smith was viewed in a harsher light, while JFK was beloved even by those who did not necesarilly support him. In a January 1960 post by the Los Angeles Times, Alexander Holmes wrote an editorial titled: Candidate Kennedy, a Man of Quality. In this newspaper article, Holmes explicitly states that Kennedy is not his first choice for the presidency, (In fact, he was not even in his top 3) however, Holmes wrote “Win or lose, he is as good a guy as the country has around”. He continued citing Kennedy’s intellectual integrity, policies, successful career, and finished his piece with “He’s a man of quality, this Kennedy”. This is remarkable, especially when comparing it to today’s political climate. I could not imagine a member of an opposing party speaking so highly of a candidate in such a fashion today. The coverage on Kennedy was positive, even from those who did not support his policies, which differs greatly from Smith’s campaign.
This does not mean that Kennedy did not face issues in answering the Catholic question, as can be seen in other newspaper articles from 1960. “Problem of Religion posed for Democrats: Kennedy makes it clear he will not accept vice-presidency as Catholic Vote Deal” an article posted in New York Times also in January of 1960, examined JFK’s refusal to accept a VP nomination when he was qualified to run for the presidency. At the time, the Democratic party probably did not believe he could win as a Catholic, so because he was so loved, they thought he would better serve under a protestant candidate and pull in the Catholic votes. JFK saw through this, and refused to be a part of it — he said he either would run as president or not at all. His strength is definitely something to be applauded here, and this article exemplified some of the challenges he was facing at the time, even from his own party. I think this strength and honesty with the people is what people loved about him. It seems there was more open bigotry to Catholics during Smith’s run, as can be seen above in the political cartoon — people were not shy in expressing their distrust in his religion and policies. The largest difference, among many others, is in how the candidates chose to address the public, even those who did not agree with JFK, liked him. Though there was still hostility towards his religion from many at the time, JFK was able to overcome the barrier that the Catholic question posed for Al Smith.
This week the Ramonat’s attended Midterm Postmortem Round-Table: Behind the Tweets. We discussed finding where the average voter can relate in this political climate and voting environment as well as how political parties have been turned into religions. People identify with their political party more-so than their religions in some cases, and this identification could be one of the reasons why it is so difficult to discern the “Catholic vote“. Catholic voter’s pillars are things such as life and dignity of the human person, solidarity with nations, and care for God’s creation among others. The Catholic pillars are divided between the parties, and it becomes a pick-and-choose of which issues are most important to them because both parties focus fall under different pillars. Some of the speakers believed the 2016 election was something of a thought experiment on the population of the United States.
However, when it comes to the Catholic vote – as discussed in previous weeks, after Vatican II when emphasis was placed on anti-abortion it is very interesting that Catholics would vote for a party that coincides with one of their most influential pillars. The pro-life movement is not a new movement, it has been advocating for anti-abortion since the 1970’s after Planned Parenthood of Missouri v. Dan forth (1976) reached the Supreme Court according to Mills (Journal of Church and State).
According to news sources, the Catholic vote was split in half during this year’s midterms – not surprisingly because of the divide in Catholic pillars among the parties. No one party completely embodies issues that are important to Catholic’s, each individual must decide which issues are most important to them. In 2014, the Catholic vote was 54% Republican and 45% Democrat, however this year it was 50% Democrat, and 49% Republican – aside from a few states that are still counting – the difference is still significant. Polls had been predicting a blue wave, especially within Catholic communities, and while there was not a wave it is significant to have religions as well as the rest of the country, split down the middle on which issues are most important to focus on.
This week, the Ramonat Scholars went over to the University of Chicago campus to the Seminary Co-Op Bookstore for a discussion with the author of Good Intentions, Steven P. Milles. In previous weeks, the Scholars tried to analyze if there was in fact a “Catholic Vote” – this is difficult to discern, being that Catholics range as a group and it can be difficult to predict (as all polls and predictions are usually inaccurate either way ). Millies himself said the “Catholic vote” is something that he could not predict, and his book mainly focused on white, immigrant Catholics, focusing on Irish and Italian Catholics.
That being said, it can be difficult to determine how different ethnic and sociocultural groups who are Catholic would vote in an election. With the upcoming midterms, it is especially relevant to talk about the Catholic vote. In my opinion, I think the Catholic vote in places like Chicago would follow a past theme in this class being that “politics are local”. I say this because a Catholic in Chicago would probably vote Democrat, however a Catholic in southern Illinois may vote Republican. There are so many different influences on the voter, while religion plays an important part – it is evident that social factors influence voters as well. If religion was the only aspect Catholics focused on, I believe there would be a large majority of Catholics voting Republican based on the pro-life movement which is an important issue to Catholics around the world, however this is not the case.
The Catholic vote has evolved greatly over time, in the past primary focus was on Unions and worker’s rights, and today it has shifted greatly to issues of healthcare, whether it be pro-life or physician assisted suicide. Catholics want to protect those without a voice, and those who cannot protect themselves, and that population has changed over time. I agree with Millies that Catholics can be a “swing vote” in an election depending on the climate and issues at hand. He embarked on assessing the Catholic vote from Roe v. Wade to the election of President Trump. Millies argues that Roe v. Wade shaped the Catholic identity and eventually through the decisions of the Catholic church, like focusing on anti-abortion movements, is what eventually led Catholic voters to lean towards Trump in the 2016 election. Vatican II is also believed to have had an impact on the road that led to President Trump’s election, the church began to be more involved with politics and the world, which gave Catholics more lee-way in their activism.
In my opinion, there is no Catholic vote, and there will never be a Catholic vote regardless of the political topics or climate at hand. I think voting choices are a direct result of local politics, and many Catholics tend to live among one another, (i.e. the neighborhood around St. Sabina – there was a huge Catholic population there, I saw a catholic church or charity on every city block). So again, we return to the topic of whether politics are local, and while politics may be religious sometimes, I believe locality always affects the “Catholic vote.”
Although 50 years have passed since 1968, it seems there are many parallels between the events occurring then and now. On Wednesday, I attended the Resistance and Riots, Murders and Martyrs panel which compared the problems of 1968 to today. One presentation I found especially interesting was Don Steman’s talk about crime in the 60’s as compared to today. I was shocked that crime had been at an all-time high in 1991 – I would’ve thought the highest point was 2018 especially with all the focus on Chicago’s crime. There were also presentations given on gun control, and the history of neo-Nazi’s and the KKK. Thinking of resistance in 1968 brought me back to the Catsonville Nine – who in opposition to the draft for the Vietnam War burned all the draft files. The parallel to the Catsonville Nine in today’s resistance movements would be things like gun control protests, and the Me-Too movement. The Family, the Gospel, and the Catholic Worker, (McKanan, 2007) also touched on how Dorothy Day was criticized for lack of support for families, because Catholics view community and family as an important aspect of life – this was a significant complaint. The parallel to this can be seen today however as well, when politicians disagree on a topic, a very popular counter is that it is “an attack on the American family” – this is a powerful counter that resonates with many Americans, and it was seen in 1968 and in 2018.
Thursday’s panel: Struggles for Justice: Race, Class, Gender, and Immigration in 1968was one I enjoyed immensely as well. When we think of 1968, we often do not think of the implications and events that were going around in the entire world. From student riots against Polish communism, to Mexican student riots in attempts to fight against a corrupt government- there were struggles for justice worldwide. Struggling for justice is inherently Catholic – we can again think to the Catsonville Nine, Daniel Berrigan, the Catholic Workers fighting for Unionization and Labor laws, child welfare and so on. The presentations. When I think about these presentation, there has been huge changes since 1968 but the problems that plagued 1968 either carried over 50 years later, or they changed the climate of the current state. In Mexico, the government is still corrupt and there are still brave people who are trying to make changes. Poland is no longer communist – however the struggles that were encountered in the 60’s shaped the political climate and infrastructure of the country today.