Catholic Television and Conservative Politics

A few weeks before the 2016 election, Donald J. Trump sat for a fifteen minute interview with Raymond Arroyo on the Eternal Word Television Network’s (EWTN) news show; The World Over. The conversation covered topics common in interviews of the time such as religious liberty and Trump’s controversial comments about women. The main difference is that EWTN is one of the largest Catholic media companies in the United States and Arroyo asked Trump about his prayer life and his favorite saint. Why was EWTN so important that they scored an interview with the Republican candidate for the presidency?

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EWTN Trump Interview

Mirroring the political dimensions of mainstream media sources such as Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC, Catholic media can be broadly separated into “liberal” and “conservative” camps. While these are not hard categories, certain outlets tend to drift towards certain viewpoints. The focus of my research project, EWTN, can be generally characterized as conservative. Their website hosts a page on Pro-life issues and they sponger a show called Pro-Life Weekly. The channel was also the plaintiff in a recent court case over whether EWTN needed to provide contraceptives in their insurance plan. Many of these issues are very important to Catholics who may lean right of center. EWTN provides an outlet for those Catholics to hear talks, news and other programs on these issues.

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Mother Angelica of the Annunciation

The story of EWTN is remarkable. The channel was started in 1981 in the garage in the Monastery of the Poor Clare Nuns of Perpetual Adoration in Hanceville Alabama by Mother Angelica of the Annunciation (1923-2016). Arguably one of the most iconic and recognizable figures for Catholics in the United States, Mother Angelica hosted a weekly show for years on her network. While mostly centered on religious topics such as the love of God and the importance of certain prayers for the faithful, she was not afraid to discuss political issues such as abortion. She passed away on Easter Sunday in 2016 which many Catholics saw as significant.  In 30 years, a nun was able to create one of the most watched religious stations in the country.

For my Ramonat Seminar research project, I will be researching the history of EWTN, Mother Angelica, and its relationship with the conservative movement. While I do not have a specific research question at the moment, I believe that there are many interesting ways the project can go. I can look at EWTN in relation to American Protestant Televangelists. While Mother Angelica’s show was geared toward faithful Catholics looking to deepen their own faith, one can see similarities with Protestant Christian programming. I can study EWTN as an outgrowth of conservative media. While  this might not be a fair assessment in that EWTN hosted non-political content such as mass, the channel, it is important to note that the channel’s programs do have a slight political bent.

I am interested in this project for two reasons. First, I have been familiar with EWTN for while and am interested in its history. From my lived experience, I know that EWTN is very influential in the lives of Catholics around the world. Most Catholics I know either watches the programs, is aware of it, or knows someone who watches it. The image of Mother Angelica speaking on her show is well known to American Catholics. With EWTN being a behemoth on the American Catholic Scene, I am interested in learning more about it. My second reason is that I am very interested in news outlets and its intersection with politics. News outlets provide a way for people to learn about issues facing their country. These issues become tinged with the biases of the outlet one watches. I am interested in how a conservative Catholic perspective might influence issues.

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To prepare for this semester’s research, I began reading Nicole Hemmer’s Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics. Hemmer’s thoroughly researched book traces the history of American conservative media from World War II to the present day. While focusing on secular political outlets, the book provided me with a general outline of the issues conservative media outlets focused on throughout the 20th century. Though the book, I also discovered that cable television programming became popular around the same time as EWTN.

This project is in its early stages. While I find something intellectually attractive in studying EWTN, I am not afraid to look at other Catholic media figures. EWTN is centered in Alabama which might create a logistical challenge in finding sources. If this project becomes unfeasible, other topics of study might be Bishop Fulton Sheen and the 1930’s fascist leaning radio preacher Charles Coughlin. As with any project, I have my research routes open.

I am excited for this semester and the opportunity to critically analyze the development of conservative leaning Catholic media.

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A still from Mother Angelica’s Show
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Maximizing Happiness – Inquiring Nuns and the Social Good

I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world. – John 16:33

A Common theme throughout this semester’s portion of the Ramonat seminar is the various social programs and social goods that the Church provided to the American people. James Gilbert describes these social benefits in his article “Twin Cities/Two Chicagos: Religious Confrontation between 1880-1920” when he writes about the creation of the Guardian Angel Mission. The Mission was a settlement house created as a Catholic alternative to the more Protestant influenced organizations. I understand a “social good to be a boon given to the public or a member of the public that increases the quality of his or her life. I believe that the 1968 film Inquiring Nuns portrays Roman Catholic nuns providing a very different variety of social good; happiness.

The film centers on two nuns from the south side of Chicago traveling around the city asking people a very simple question: Are You Happy. The answers that the Nuns received were wide ranging. One man attempted to compartmentalize his happiness in that he was “happy” with his family and personal life, but unhappy in his career. Another man questioned the existence of happiness as a concept and opted to focus on “joy” which is much rarer in life. Another startling answer was from a woman in the Art Institute of Chicago who answered the question with tears in her eyes and sorrow in her heart.

I believe that the interview with the sad woman best encapsulates the “social good” the nuns were bringing. On the outset of the interview, the woman was visibly sad and shaken. As the nuns talked with her about her conceptions of happiness, I believe I saw the woman seem less distressed. It was as if by talking about the concept of happiness and what would make her hypothetically more happy created a space where the woman could actually be happy. By talking about happiness with people, the nuns were bringing “social good” of happiness to the people of 1968 Chicago.

Mentioned above, the Nun’s giving the social good of happiness to the people of Chicago is part of a long tradition of the Catholic Church working to bring hope to the destitute or downtrodden. Scholars of covered this topic extensively. For example, Elizabeth and Ken Fones-Wolf described the role that Catholics had in creating unions for the poorest immigrants. William Issel and Mary Anne Wold wrote a detailed account of the Catholic role in the racial justice campaign in San Francisco. Throughout the 20th century, the Roman  Catholic church worked to overcome barriers and to raise the destitute to a proper standard of living. kq-inqnun.jpg

Can we categorize the Nuns’ interviews in Inquiring Nuns into the same category as fighting racial injustice or unionizing workers? I believe you can because recognizing one’s happiness in life is essential to living a good life. Just as one can not live to their fullest when they are chained by racial bias or under wage slavery, one can not live fuller if they are miserable all the time. This is especially true in 1968 when the film was released. With the lost of traditional elements of society such as very strict gender roles, peoples’ worldviews were shaken. America was also facing a challenging political environment with demonstrations occurring regularly and an unpopular war being fought in Vietnam. In those hard times, I believe that nuns working to help people find their happiness can be categorized as a “good”

The Catholic Church has been a source of social goods  for the poor of America. The various readings throughout the Ramonat seminar has made that apparent. I sincerely believe that the work of the Nuns in Inquiring Nuns is a continuation of that proud American Catholic tradition.

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Justice in an Unjust World – Catholics and Social Issues in the 20th century

Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs? He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me. And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. Matthew 25: 44-46

The beginning of the 20th century saw a new Catholic interest in “social problems” such as unfair wages, homelessness, unemployment. I believe that there are two constant approaches towards social issues which characterize the Catholic approach to social issues in the 20th century. First was a preferential option for the poor. A foundation of Catholic social teaching, it was always the beginning and the end of Catholic approaches to social issues. The second is a tendency to criticize the unjust structures it sees around it. The Catholic Church would be inherently political by attempting to bring justice to the unjust world surrounding it.

In his chapter on the social question. John McGreevy discusses the development of Rerum Novarum which laid out the Catholic Church’s vision of economic development. Priests of that era were not afraid to wade into political waters For example, Father John A. Ryan (1865-1944) who was a professor at the Catholic University of America strongly advocated for a living wage for men and moderating hours for women and children. He put these ideas into a document released by the USCCB for reconstruction after World War I. In other words, Father Ryan attempted to place his economic ideas into policy by espousing them in a formal capacity. These ideas might have seen controversial to some politicians, but Father Ryan was attempting to right an injustice he saw in the world. These policies also were meant for the poor of society. These policy ideas would be for the working class and assist them in living a more comfortable meaningful life. Father Ryan was working within the Catholic framework of working for the poor.

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Father John A. Ryan

John A. Ryan’s work had lasting political impact. Harold Meyerson writes in is article “God and the New Deal” that “Ryan’s labor Catholicism probably claimed the allegiance of several million adherents during the New Deal years.” The people who read and believed in Ryan’s work were the people who supported Roosevelt’s social programs. Once again one finds the work of Catholics being political. By influencing supporters of the New Deal, Father Ryan’s work was affecting the political history and policies of America. These programs also were meant to provide a safety net for less fortunate sections of America which sits in line with Catholic ideas of supporting the poor.

Catholic social programs also had to compete against other institutions. For example, Catholics in Chicago formed the Catholic Youth Organization in response to the YMCA and the Guardian Angel Mission in response to social settlement houses like Hull House. These struggles are outlined in James Gillbert’s article “Two Cities/Two Chicagos”. While not political in the sense that these organizations were lobbying local political authorities, they were political in that they were challenging the traditional religious establishment. These various organizations had to combat the bias and fears of the local Protestant and secular institutions. While Catholics had to combat other organizations , they never forgot their foundation; the poor. They were still able to fight and work for the dejected in Chicago.

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A Nun with Children working for Catholic Charities

“The Social Question” does not only include labor issues, but also includes problems of racial discrimination. In his article “Resistance in the Urban North”, Arnold Hirsch documents the history of African Americans moving into the Chicago neighborhood of South Deering in the 50’s and 60’s. Families such as the Howards faced daily discrimination and violence by their white neighbors. The Catholic response to such racial discrimination has two responses. On the parish level, Catholic Churches invited African American Catholics to mass. Hirsch’s article uses the example of Saint Kevin’s Catholic Church in Chicago. While these invitations sometimes ended in violence against African Americans attending mass, such as those who attended St. Kevin’s, I believe that one can read these invitations as a Catholic attempt to right an injustice. There were also Catholic attempts to fight discrimination on the institutional level such as the Catholic Interracial Council which saw integration of Catholic Churches as essential to destroy racial bias in America. These two approaches were political in that they challenged local governments and communities to recognize the human dignity of African Americans in community. While many  communities were not willing to accept African Americans, these Catholic communities challenged these ignorant ideas. The Catholic crusade against racial intolerance also placed those suffering the most in society first. The Catholic Church took the side of those who were spit on and attacked by white America. They were following the central tenant of Catholic social teaching; care for those who are rejected from society.

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Members of the Catholic Interracial Council pose together for a photo

Catholic concern for social justice issues extends to the modern day. Searching through Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Social Justice archive, I found a letter written by the project director and associate director of Chicago’s 8th Day Center for Justice on a survey of homelessness in Chicago. The 8th Day Center was a center that advocated for a variety of issues ranging from women’s issues to homelessness. It is still in operation in some capacities today, but it was slated to close in the summer of 2018. The letter from June 1982, continues the two characteristics of Catholic approaches to social issues outlined above. The letter shows a concern for the poor by describing in detail the struggles that those experiencing homelessness go through. The authors describe society’s forgotten as finding shelter in abandoned cars and searching for food in dumpsters. The authors bring special attention to that these people are rejected by society. The two directors are also not afraid to enter the political realm. They criticize the local government for not having enough shelters and focusing on the new poor. In the eyes of the authors, the focus on the new poor leaves the long term homeless forgotten. The directors take the step to criticize national politics by targeting Ronald Reagan’s economic policies. They write “In the grim supply-side practice of trickle down compassion, precious little now trickles down to the crassly labeled. ‘deserving poor.’ The street people get less”. One can understand their statement as a direct attack on the mainstream economic outlook of the era.

In sum, the Catholic Church in America has not been afraid to become political and fight for those deemed as outsiders by society. From Father Ryan’s economic policies to the Eight Day Center’s commentary on Reaganomics, the Catholic Church has sought to work towards justice.

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A recent photo of the 8th Day Center marching for justice

 

Bias in the Republican Party? Connecting the Dots of Catholic Electoral History

Finally, all of you, be of one mind, sympathetic, loving toward one another, compassionate, humble. – 1 Peter 3:8

For this week’s seminar, the Ramonat scholars were required to find articles covering the numerous Catholic Candidates who made runs for the White House. Out of the articles that I found, the most interesting one was from the October 1960 issue of the Chicago Defender.

Robert Kennedy Charges Bias

According to the article, Robert Kennedy accused various elements of the Republican party of distributing anti-Catholic material. Robert Kennedy made these accusations while functioning as the campaign manager for his brother John F. Kennedy. The article mentions that Robert Kennedy did not believe that Nixon had knowledge of the material. This article is significant for two reasons. First, it was published in the Chicago Defender. This paper was one of the only publications in Chicago written for an African-American community. An interest in anti-Catholic propaganda might be common in the 1960 African-American community in Chicago. Facing a nation that was biased against them, their newspaper might try to show how the Democratic candidate experienced similar discrimination. While African Americans have a different history in the United States, both communities share a history of not being at home in the American establishment.

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The Front Page of an Issue of the Chicago Defender

 

This article is also important because it fits within a working model of Catholic electoral politics developed during the seminar. A small group of students I worked with discussed that Catholicism shifted from being a nail in the foot to a tool in a politician’s tool box throughout the 20th century. For example, Al Smith had to face an editorial in the Atlantic Monthly questioning his ability to govern as a Catholic. Smith also worked very hard to disassociate his Catholic identity from his ability to govern. Today, politicians like Jeb Bush and Tim Kaine will discuss their Catholic faith when addressing Catholic audiences.

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Jeb Bush meets Pope Benedict XVI

Where does the Chicago’s Defender’s fit into this model of Catholic politics? John F. Kennedy functions as a bridge between the two eras of Catholic politics. Kennedy accepted his identity as a Catholic. He did not try to divorce himself from the tradition like Al Smith did. One begins to see the seeds of the Jeb Bush variety of Catholicism in that Kennedy begins to not see his faith as a total negative in his life. While he accepted his Catholic identity, he had to face the same anti-Catholic attacks. The article makes it evident that some elements of the nation were not keen on seeing a Catholic in the White House. In these attacks, one can find remnants of the anti-Catholicism seen in the 1928 election.

Another way that the article points out the shift from detriment to tool in American Catholic politics is that Nixon did not know about the propaganda. If the highest levels of the party were not aware of the anti-Catholic bias, the propaganda might have come from grassroots and local sources. The implication is that Catholics were becoming more accepted on the national level of politics. By becoming more accepted, Catholics might be able to use their Catholicism in certain contexts.

The road that Catholics have walked in 20th century America is a fascinating one. While Catholics were originally wary to discuss their faith on the public stage, modern Catholic politicians will use it in some contexts. The article from 1960 charging anti-Catholic bias within the Republican party fits perfectly as a moment of transition from the old anti-Catholicism of the 1928 election to the more accepted context of today.

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Anti-Catholic Cartoon

The 2018 Catholic Vote – Diversity in Numbers

First of all, I hear that when you meet as a church there are divisions among you, and to a degree I believe it – 1 Corinthians 11: 18

The 2018 Mid-term election was one of the most important in recent American history. The “Blue Wave” that many people were anticipating materialized in some way through the Democrat’s taking of the House. The Republicans were able to continue their hold of the Senate. This political shift has the chance of blocking Donald Trump’s legislation from making its way into policy. What were American Catholic’s role in this political moment? According to Pew, Catholics voted almost 50/50 for Republicans and Democrats. This differs from other religious groups such as Evangelicals who voted predominately Republican or Jews who chose Democrats.

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From the chart, one can see that this is a relatively new phenomena. In 2014, the Catholic vote was skewed Republican. Why has this changed in the last few years? I believe that there are two possible factors that has lead to Catholic polarization. One was the emergence of Pope Francis. Before Pope Francis, One could argue that the emphasis the Catholic tradition places upon abortion skewed the vote conservative. While Pope Francis also continues this tradition, he has pushed faithful Catholics to consider other “life” issues as well. In his recent exhortation on holiness in the modern world. the Holy Father wrote that people should place the fight against abortion on equal terms with the fight against poverty. I believe that Pope Francis’ teachings might push people to vote for candidates outside the traditional right wing conservative.

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Gaudete Et Exsultate – Pope Francis’ recent exhortation

The second reason is that the 2016 and 2018 election were hot political moments that brought people to the polls who otherwise would not have gone. Pro-life Catholics are dedicated to the polls and making their voice heard. These unusual political moments might have had people come to the polls who care for other issues. For example, environmentally conscious Catholics or Catholics who are wary of capital punishment. These two reasons might lead to the recent polarization of the Catholic Vote.

While there was a shift in the Catholic vote towards greater polarization, what was the actual role of the vote? I argue that the Catholic vote had an important role in the election because it covers so many sectors of the population. According to Pew, there are about 51 million Catholics in America. This makes Catholic a large sector of the population. The sheer number of Catholics makes the Catholic vote important. The frustrating part of the large number of Catholics is the large political divide. This made them unpredictable in their voting habits. In other words, I believe that the Catholic vote’s role was important because of the quantity of it. What the ramifications of a polarized church and vote will be left for future historians to understand and study.

The 50/50 vote followed the ideas of scholars. As a Ramonat Scholar,  I attended a Mid-terms post-Mortem where Dr. Micheal Murphy of Loyola University Chicago’s Hank Center for the Catholic Intellectual Heritage mentioned that Catholics are never really at home in the American political world. Due to a Catholic’s commitment to life, they might feel uneasy with the mainstream Democratic party’s position on abortion. The Catholic Church also has strong anti-death penalty and ideas popular with Republican voters. This uneasiness with the political scene may lead to the 50/50 vote. Without having a political party that exactly lines up with their interests, Catholics are left to picking either party. Dr. Murphy’s words reveals an interesting element of being Catholic and political in modern America.

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Mid-Term Post-Mortem

Catholics are confusing. Unlike other political parties, they do not vote in a unified bloc. Despite their diversity, they make up a large portion of the American population which subsequently makes their role in elections important. The 2018 Mid-term election provided the opportunity to see the polarized Catholic vote in action.

A “Catholic Vote” – Diversity of Opinion

If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit. Let us not be conceited, provoking one another, envious of one another – Galatians 5: 25-26

In the Catholic Calendar, it is the feast of All Souls where we remember our departed dead. I thought it would be appropriate to share this week a piece of Catholic Culture along with my blog. Shepard Me O God is a recent church hymn that is synonymous with Catholic funerals. While Catholics may vote differently on different subjects. There are some things they can come together on like music.

This week the Ramonat Scholars attended a presentation by Steven Millies on his new book Good Intentions: A History of Catholic Voters’ Road from Roe to Trump. This presentation and this semester’s various readings has taught me a very important thing about the Catholic vote in america; its diverse. The main point that I gathered from Millies presentation is that the Catholic vote has been split since the passing of Roe Vs. Wade. While Millies seems to place abortion as the most important issue facing Catholics, our semester’s readings has shown that Catholics will vote for a variety of different issues. In the first week of class, we read “Another peek inside the Brain of the Electorate” where the author wrote that most people will vote on one or two issues. Catholics are not exempt from this phenomena.

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Steven Millies’ presentation at the University of Chicago

In the conservative world, Catholics in the past were passionate about aid given to parish schools. This issue is explored in Samuel Mills’ article on Parochiaid and Abortion. While not as much of a heated issue in contemporary America, it was an issue of concern for Catholics in the past. An issue that captured Catholics attention in the past was the rise of Communism as was described in Colleen Doody’s Detroit’s Cold War. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, this issue has also taken a backseat, but you could argue that the conflict still lives on today. Many Polish Catholics continue to honor the legacy of Catholics who are commonly seen as bulwarks against Communism such as Pope St. John Paul II.

There are also issues that are still hot button issues in contemporary America. For example, the use of birth control by Catholics was controversial in the 70s and remains to be today. The diversity of American Catholic political thought is evident in an interview with Father John O’Brian by Studs Terkel. In the interview, Father O’brien responds negatively to the Pope’s recent proclamations regarding the sinfulness of birth control. The diversity of the Catholic vote is not just about what issues to think about, but also opinions on specific issues.

The Diversity of Catholic opinion spans past the ballot box. In his research on the supreme court and religion, William Blake finds that a judge’s religious preferences has a direct impact on his or her judicial rulings. While Catholic judges have a tendency to vote certain ways on certain issues such as abortion, it is important to note that there is still  a popoundence of diversity within the Catholic judicial world.

The diversity of the Catholic vote extends to liberal voters as well. One may find liberal Catholic voters fired up by the Pope’s recent encyclical on the environment Laudato Si. There are also Catholics who are radically skeptical of nuclear weapons or systematic racism. With Catholics fired up about so many singular issues, it is difficult to establish a concrete view of the “Catholic vote”!

While there is a diversity within the Catholic vote, I believe that commentators on the Catholic vote overlook the voice of the modern United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Their website contains a guide for Natural Family Planning. The conference also hosted an event celebrating Humanae Vita’s 50th anniversary. This is the document that outlined the church’s opposition to birth control. The USCCB is a powerful voice in Catholic America, and it is important to note that it has concrete views on these controversial issues. Regardless of the diversity of opinion in the Catholic laity, the opinion of the hierarchy should be noted. While the hierarchy’s voice might not be important to politicians who swear independence from them, it has an important role in the ideas and thoughts of everyday Catholics. The Catholic church has a powerful hierarchy, and it should not be overlooked.

An Instagram Post by the USCCB which references their commitment to life

In sum, the Catholic vote has been defined in the past and the present by its diversity. My time has a Ramonat scholar has solidified this opinion to an even greater extent. There are so many issues that individual Catholics find value in that it is impossible to establish even an illusion of a monolithic voice. The closest thing that one gets to in regards to a monolithic voice is the hierarchy which has stated opinions on a variety of different issues. While this voice is strong, there is still a concrete diversity within American Catholic political life.

Learn More

The USCCB’s page on Marriage and Family – http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/index.cfm

Studs Terkel Interview on Humane Vite – https://studsterkel.wfmt.com/programs/interview-father-john-obrien

 

Grassroots Catholicism – 1968 and Its Legacy

 

(I will open this post with my favorite Protest Song)

A word that kept coming to my mind during the Hank Center for the Catholic Intellectual Heritage’s programming on the legacy of 1968 was “grassroots”. While I was unable to attend the “Catholicism at the Crossroads” event attended by the other Ramonat Scholars due to a choir performance, I attended the panel on Chicago in 1968, the keynote speaker on time and space in 1968, and the tail end of the panel featuring student activists from 1968 and today. The idea of “grassroots”, personally defined as movements formulated from the bottom up, kept appearing throughout the week’s programming, the readings for the week, and the course in general.

David Farber’s presentation on coalition building in Chicago demonstrated how people were able to unite across differences. Farber described how the Black Panther Fred Hampton was able to unite groups of different backgrounds into a “Rainbow Coalition”. This group demonstrated that Chicago’s ethnic enclaves could unite around common goals. In previous weeks, the Ramonat Scholars have discussed how Catholic Chicago was formed by ethnic enclaves centered around parish communities. While Hampton’s coalition did not constitute Catholics per say, it shows that the communities formed around parishes are able to unite from the bottom.

Peter Pihos’ talk during the same panel on Chicago policing reflects the same grassroots ethos. I learned for the first time that African American police officers organized together against the discrimination that they saw in the department. While Hampton was able to organize the diverse ethnic groups through the city, these officers were able to build a movement from within the police department. One can argue that this echos the tendency for Catholics in similar organizations to unite against oppressive struggles. I think of Catholic members of the working class joining unions to fight for their rights.

The working class in Chicago is a powerful force behind grassroots movements. James R. Barrett recounts in his article “The Blessed Virgin Made Me A Socialist Historian” his experience growing up in working class Catholic Chicago. The parochial organized working class society influenced him to take up his particular take on history. Similar to the Chicago discussed by the panelists mentioned above, Barrett brings alive a Chicago of different backgrounds working to better their lot in life. This occurred at the parish or local level. Once again, the theme of grassroots emerged this week.

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Keynote Speaker Julian Bourg

While a lot of the movements of 1968 were started from the bottom, they demonstrated an amazing ability to have international effects. A note that has stuck in my mind from Julian Bourg’s keynote speech was that a member in the crowd at an Irish civil rights rally shouted “don’t forget the Mexicans” in reference to the protests occurring across the globe in Mexico. This interconnectedness of protest movements may be overlooked in our modern hyper connected world, but it is remarkable that movements were able to have an effect across the globe. What does the grassroot becoming international mean for Catholicism? I believe that it meant that Catholics can come together for shared political goals and see the shared impact. One such way Catholics came together at the grassroots level was the Catholic Worker Movement. In his article “The Family. The Gospel, and the Catholic Worker”, Daniel McKanan argues that the Catholic Worker succeed better than most in combining Christian idealism with the family unit. I understand grassroots movements to be organized from the bottom. What is the most preliminary unit of society than the family? Similar to how political movements were able to unite ethnic groups together, movements such  as the Catholic Worker demonstrated that families can also come together. One should not overlook the troubling aspects of the protest movements of 1968. In the Catholic world, the protests of the Berrigan brothers had tendency towards the hyper masculine. Described by Marian Mollin in her article “Communities of Resistance: Women and the Catholic Left of the Late 1960’s, many women felt overshadowed by the men in the Catholic Left. While the protest movements did have its problems, it is important to note its ability to bring people together and go international.

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Front Page of the Catholic Worker Newspaper

These protests are not a relic of 1968. The spirit of protest is still alive and well in Modern America. Hearing the testimonies of modern activists, I was struck by how these protest movements do not disappear, but transform. In some ways, the movements have become even more grassroots. Modern activists use social media which allows for participation of people of diverse backgrounds. The digital dimension of protest has allowed for demonstrations to become even more international. The religious dimension of some of the protests is also still alive. From my personal friendship with one of the panelists, I know that his Catholic faith informs a great deal of his activism.

Grassroots. The word means many things to many people, but one can not help but apply it to the protests discussed last week. The grassroots protests were able to unite people from different backgrounds and go international. Some of these protests also had a religious dimension, and are similar to many Christian protests of the contemporary period. 1968 was a year of protest, but that spirit is not dead in 2018.


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Jesus, The Greatest Advocate for Peace

Learn More:

Information on 1968 Symposium https://www.luc.edu/ccih/homenews/theglobal1968symposium.shtml