Continued Research and Scholarly Article

This week I have been digging into the research I have already gathered. I have been looking at what stands out to me from what I have pulled, as well as where there seem to be gaps. In order to do this, I have been working my way through reading all of the sources I have collected and taking notes (Ramonat Notes Collected for Blog 2.3.19) on those documents. One big gap I have come across that I am working to fill is primary sources. Although I have pulled a few primary documents, for example, my next step will be to take the framing I have gathered by examining secondary sources to get more primary evidence.

I have only met with one department specialist as of now, Dr. Roberts. I met with him in the second week of the semester when I was still looking mainly to hone in my topic and get suggestions of where to research. Therefore, from that conversation I was pointed in the direction of some additional sources, including American Jesuits and the World by John McGreevy, Gods of Mississippi by Michael Pasquier, and the Catholic Research Resources Alliance whose catalog of newspapers I will use to expand my search for primary documents. I additionally intend to meet with some of the research librarians at the law library in the near future to get more research.

The scholarly article we read this week followed the general outline for academic writing which I have laid out here:

  • Title – “How About Some Meat?”: The Office of Price Administration, Consumption Politics, and State Building from the Bottom Up, 1941-1946
  • Topic – The OPA, consumption, and power
  • Argument Groundwork
    • Information necessary to understand the argument
  • Argument – “the very way OPA legitimated and constituted its authority contributed to its eventual postwar defeat”
  • Factual Information
    • This information is not explicitly tied back to the argument, but it begins to implicitly lead the reader towards the logic of the argument
      • Growth of OPA
      • Strategies of Appeal
      • Difficulties
  • Interpretation of Factual Information
    • Impact of the Narrative laid out
    • Restating/Proving the Argument
  • True Conclusion
    • Impact of the Study
    • Why it matters
    • What it uniquely adds to the Narrative

Although this structure is common across academic articles published in peer-reviewed journals, it differs from the structure of many papers I have written. The largest and most apparent difference is the length. This article is 33 pages, whereas most papers I have written have been around 10. Another difference is the depth of the argumentation. Meg Jacobs explains far more context, has a more detailed understanding of the historiography and where she fits within it, and has far more evidence to prove her argument than essays I have written in the past. I would assume this arises in part from the length of time spent writing this article, as opposed to, at most, one semester spent working on my own work; as well as her being an expert in the topic she chose to write about. What I have taken away from these differences is the need to be very well-versed in your topic as well as the need to provide detailed evidence. Fundamentally, I think comparing this document to ones I have written, I can see a much greater knowledge and understanding of the topic, an understanding I hope to gather as I continue to work on my topic for this seminar.


Research Questions

In my preliminary research, I have found a wealth of sources on the Catholic experience in antebellum New Orleans. Thus far, a lot of what I have found has focused on the experience of African-Americans, women, and the thriving Ursuline community in the city. I have also gathered information about Voodoo, Spiritualism, and accounts, both primary and secondary, of American Indian, African, and Creole ideas and traditions which interacted in New Orleans. Out of this initial research, my main overarching question is: how did organized religion interact with disorganized, organic, folk expressions of religion? From that large question, I have drawn out the six research questions of who, what, when, where, why, and how.

Who helped spread and shape folk religious tradition and understanding in New Orleans? Under this question some individuals that have come up as significant have been, Marie Laveau, Henry Louis Rey, and Henriette DeLille.


What was done in response to folk tradition? Which institutions, the Church or State, tried to limit it? What parts of folk tradition where willingly included in the Church and in society at large?

When, between the Louisiana Purchase and the outbreak of the Civil War, is most rich with sources? From my preliminary research, I am leaning towards c. 1800-1860 as there seems to be a fair amount written in and around that period, however, I am not yet committed to that time frame.

Where? Given the regionally specific nature of my research topic, I am limiting where to New Orleans.

Why did the Church feel the need to restrict some forms of folk expression and embrace others? I think this question will take up the bulk of my research as I think it is fundamental to understand what amount of syncretism was permissible. Understanding why some folk tradition was allowed and others were restricted can help unveil the power, and lack of power, the Catholic Church felt it had.

Code Noir (1742)

How did the Church and State work together to limit and permit folk religion? Here, I would like to examine the laws that came out of antebellum New Orleans to see how (and if) witchcraft or borrowing Catholicism for magic rituals was as harshly punished as it was in witch trials and heresy inquisitions throughout Europe and the American northeast.


Thus far, I have been looking in the Loyola Library Databases and have been fairly successful finding works about my topic, so I intend to continue utilizing the Library. Additionally, I am going to look at the Catholic Research Resources Alliance’s Catholic Newspapers Program to look at newspapers published in antebellum New Orleans. I also am planning on going to the Loyola Law Library to see if they have any information on laws passed about folk Catholic tradition.

Research Topic

Vintage Mardi Gras postcard, date unknown. Smithsonian Magazine

When thinking about the topic I would like to research for the Spring semester, I wanted to find a topic that would align with my general historical research interests. Those interests are the social history of the southern United States; specifically folk life and rural history. Under this broad umbrella, I wanted to find a way to examine the lens of Catholics and politics. Finding that intersection, between southern social history and Catholic politics, was somewhat difficult initially. I was unsure of if I could find a good connection between Catholics and the American South due to the overwhelmingly Protestant demography of South and the fact that much of the Catholic presence in the United States has been in northern urban city centers, such as Boston or Chicago. However, after some consideration, I ended up on the topic of the Catholic presence in antebellum Louisiana and New Orleans.

I was drawn to this topic for a number of reasons. First, Louisiana is one of the few parts of the South which has a strong tradition of Catholicism due to the large Spanish and French colonial presence. Second, I was drawn to Louisiana because of its complex folk life and “cultural” Catholicism, the clearest example of which is Mardi Gras celebrations. Louisiana and New Orleans are one of the few places in the United States which participate in Catholic cultural festivals with elements of folk culture and syncretism. Given my interest in folk life, I thought examining Louisiana’s unique Catholic folk culture would be worthwhile. Third, I wanted to research this part of America due to its unique political climate. The confluence of French, Spanish, and American influence on Louisiana created an interesting political system which I would like to explore further.

Given the very early stages of my research, I do not know what exactly I will look into. However, as general research questions, I would like to examine the rise of the unique “Catholic” folk life in Louisiana. In addition, I would like to examine how, and if, that folk culture interacted with the political and religious establishment of early Louisiana. Although I am not sure where exactly this research will take me, I am looking forward to learning more about this unique part of the United States.

Women and Leadership Archives: Primary Source

In browsing the Women and Leadership Digital Archives here at Loyola I found quite a few sources regarding the charity 8th Day Center for Justice. This charity, and specifically the document, “Good Friday Walk for Justice”, represents both continuity and change from earlier iterations of Catholic social work. There is continuity insofar as both the 8th Day Center and earlier Catholic charities emphasized Catholicism as the motivation for their charity work.  The main change is seen in the fact that the focus of this document is on international struggles for justice, as opposed to previous Catholic charities focus on domestic struggles for material comforts.

8th_Day_good_Friday_Justice_Walk_1987_flier1 (1)8th_Day_good_Friday_Justice_Walk_1987_flier2 (1)

Throughout the semester we have discussed many people and organizations whose social justice actions were explicitly motivated by their faith in a Church who argued for helping the poor and those on the margins. Papal encyclicals such as Rerum Novarum, which argued for assistance to those in industrial poverty, further drove home to Catholics the need to focus on urban industrial poverty. This theological focus on poverty inspired many Church members to work in charity. Those members, both lay and clergy, founded charities such as, The St. Vincent de Paul Society (McGreevy, 128), the Catholic Youth Organization, and the Guardian Angel Mission (Gilbert, 37). These charities were explicitly founded as “Catholic” charities. They worked, therefore, to promote not only material well-being, but also Catholicism. Similarly, the 8th Day Center for Justice was specifically founded in terms of faith. In their founding document they wrote,

One of the most exciting things about the creation story is what happens after the seventh day. God didn’t say the job was all finished. In fact He has said many times in many ways that creation is still in process, and WE are called to accept the responsibility of building his kingdom. The staff of the 8th Day Center for Justice in Chicago accepts that challenge and recognizes that the 8th day is now, and our task is to build the world.”

It is clear from their founding charter that the 8th Day Center intended to be religious. This is also seen in the document I chose which called for a march of the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday. Although some Protestant denominations also practice the Stations of the Cross, it is more commonly seen in Catholic Churches. This explicitly Catholic action further illustrates the tie between the 8th Day Center and Catholicism.

Despite the similar emphasis on the Catholic faith, this document is not completely in line with previous works of Catholic charity. The main difference is that this specific march is very internationally focused. This march calls for attention to be paid to Apartheid, Korea, the Philippines, human rights, Central America, South America, refugees, and Palestine. Previously, although certainly acknowledging the ethnic diversity of its membership, the Catholic church and its charitable functions were focused inward on helping Catholic citizens in America (Gilbert, 31). The Church looked to provide the needed social safety net for the citizens of the United States (Meyerson, 41). It did not trouble itself too much with overarching struggles for international human rights. For much of the 19th and 20th century, the focus of the charity work by Catholics and their Church was building schools, hospitals, orphanages (McGreevy 128-130), and settlement houses (Gilbert, 37-38) for the many Catholics in the United States facing urban poverty. This document, however, reflects a shift away from a focus on assisting domestic poverty alone towards international human rights. The 8th Day Center does mention homelessness and hunger in Chicago, however, it also talks about international struggles, which earlier charities would not have. Although they do not ignore domestic problems, domestic poverty is no longer the sole focus, and that focus is not filtered through the lens of helping only Catholic poor.

This change likely arises in part due to the fact this charity was founded in the 1970s. By the 1970s, Catholic John F. Kennedy had been elected, white ethnics had effectively been assimilated, and the Church had loosened its liturgy in Vatican II. This shift meant that Catholics in 1970s America were no longer facing a crisis of poverty and an unsympathetic government. As a result, the focus of Catholic social work shifted away from Catholics in the United States to greater problems of injustice and poverty abroad. Although not all Catholic charities in the United States have this international focus, the 8th Day Center’s broadened scope reflects the decline in Catholic poverty in the United States.

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Week 12: Primary Source

Tennessee Pulpits Ring as Pastors Pour Out Anathema Upon Al Smith

Arthur Sears Henning, “Tennessee Pulpits Ring as Pastors Pour out Anathema Upon Al Smith”, Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), (September 28, 1928).

This article, “Tennessee Pulpits Ring as Pastors Pour Out Anathema Upon Al Smith” published by the Chicago Daily Tribune in 1928 touches on many of the themes of anti-Catholicism we have discussed thus far this semester. The author of the article, Arthur Sears Henning, does not appear to be spouting his own anti-Catholicism, rather he is reporting on the opinion of Tennessee pastors. Although one man he quotes, Senator Borah, only opposed Smith on political grounds, every other voice that Hennings records fears Smith for his Catholicism. One fear these pastors express is the fear of undue papal influence on Al Smith. They also mention fears over prohibition and Tennessee’s place as a dry state. The pastors remind their audience that Catholics have killed Protestants before and they seem to fear this killing will start again. They even claim every previous Presidential assassination had been carried out by a Catholic.

All of these theories reflect the pattern of anti-Catholic rhetoric that we have seen throughout our readings. Particularly these theories arise from a more old-fashioned brand of anti-Catholicism which touts vast powerful conspiracies of Catholics. In more recent years fears surrounding Catholic candidates are less grand and complex. After the election of Kennedy, likely going hand-and-hand with the decline of Church power, people who oppose Catholic candidates no longer do so because they fear a vast Catholic plan to kill Protestants. Instead, more modern fears arise from disagreements with the Church on specific issues such as women’s rights or sexual freedom.

A final interesting part of this article is its internal irony. The Tennessee pastors cited by Henning fear the Church influencing politics when they themselves are mouthpieces of the Church influencing politics. This goes back to the larger question of what exactly about Catholics is objectionable. What these pastors reveal, by being willing to preach politics from their pulpit but disallowing Catholics from taking politics from pulpits of their own, is that the fear of the Catholic Church arises from its power structure, not from the concept of religion. The ties to Rome, the necessity of alcohol, and the possibility of a vast murderous conspiracy are the objectionable elements of Catholicism, not the idea that religion influences politics. Today many modern voters balk at the idea of faith in public life, whether that faith be Catholic or Protestant. In 1928 however, voters were willing to accept religion on their ballot so long as it was not a murderous, papal conspiracy-bound, alcohol-soaked religion.

Week 11: Running for Office

Voting Booths

The 2018 midterm elections were called historic long before the first ballot was cast. Political pundits insisted this midterm would be an awakening of a new voter base to upend the current political establishment in favor of fresh new policies and candidates. There were predictions of a so-called blue wave, of women taking over the Congress, and of new diverse candidates to wining around the country. These predictions, on the whole, hardly played out as explosively as proponents anticipated. Instead of a blue wave, the midterms saw more of a blue splash with Democrats taking over the House of Representatives, but Republicans maintaining control of the Senate. As for diversity in this election, women won, according to the Los Angeles Times running count, one hundred and twenty-two seats yet they still make up only around a fifth of Congress at large. Although some people of color won seats in 2018, the Congress is still nowhere near equal racial representation. The 2018 midterm elections can, therefore, be seen as measuredly historic. To flip the House of Representatives was certainly a difficult proposition. Today, many more women and people of color are set to serve in the government. In the face of this somewhat historic election, the question our seminar was posed was if Catholic voters had an impact on these results.

I have found that Catholic voters did not sway the 2018 election. What we see instead, is that Catholic voters were split almost in half among Democrats and Republicans. As Elizabeth Podrebarac Sciupac and Gregory A. Smith at the Pew Research Center found in their initial post-election polling, Catholic voters broke down fifty percent Democrat and forty-nine percent Republican.

Pew Research Center

This even split means that Catholic voters could not have swayed the 2018 midterm election as they did not throw their electoral weight in one direction or the other. This is reflective of the overarching trend among Catholic Americans we have discussed throughout the semester. Across history, we have found that individual Catholics, in particular practicing Catholics, view their faith as motivating them to take different political stances. Some Catholics see their faith pulling them left, others see their faith pulling them right, and still others are not motivated by faith at all in political decision-making.

This week we attended a roundtable discussion of the 2018 midterms entitled “Behind the Tweets: Midterm Postmortem Roundtable”. There we heard various panelists talk about the midterm and how certain groups voted. The groups discussed included women, the Hispanic population, and Catholics. Dr. Michael Murphy, who spoke on the Catholic voting population, made the argument that in 2018, and historically, Catholics did not have a clear political home. That is to say a practicing Catholic who takes the dictates of the Church seriously in their political considerations is not effectively represented by the Republicans nor the Democrats. This conclusion is reflected by the actual results of the election, given Catholics voted almost exactly halfway split between the two major parties. As Dr. Murphy argued, some Catholics focus on pro-life candidates, some are motivated by anti-death penalty politicians, still others focus on immigration as their primary issue. This diversity of emphasis leads the Catholic voting population to not have a clear party allegiance. As argued in a previous post, “The Catholic Vote” as an ideologically consistent bloc does not exist. This lack of singularity among Catholic voters is further reflected in the Pew Research Center’s expansive Religious Landscape Study which found Catholic political ideology closely matches the general population.

Political ideology

Political ideology by religious group
Pew Research Center: Religious Landscape Study

As seen above, in 2014 Pew found that thirty-six percent of the general population and thirty-seven percent of the Catholic population considered itself conservative. They found that thirty-three percent of the general population and thirty-six percent of Catholics viewed themselves as moderate. Finally, Pew found that twenty-four percent of the general population and twenty-two percent of Catholics saw themselves as liberal. This insignificant, less than five percent, disparity illustrates that Catholic voters do not vote any more predictably than the average non-demographically specified voter. The Catholic voter is not strongly called to one side of the political spectrum.

The 2018 midterm elections are not an anomaly in their lack of specificity among Catholic voters. Instead, there has been a growing trend of Catholic voters voting more equally for Democrats and Republicans over the past fifty years. Although particularly “Catholic” elections, such as John F. Kennedy and his former vice president Lyndon B. Johnson, certainly pull Catholics in one direction, from 1948 to the present the Catholic vote is progressively less specified, less predictable, less unique.

Catholic vote 1952-2016
National Catholic Reporter

Analysts of Catholic electoral habits have known for a long time there is no specific “Catholic Vote”. Publications from the National Catholic Reporter to the Brookings Institute have argued in pieces like, “Pollsters confused about Catholic voters” and “There Is No ‘Catholic Vote.’ And Yet, It Matters“, that Catholics do not vote as a bloc. Polls and surveys conducted by the Pew Research Center have confirmed this argument. What is clear, therefore, is that exactly as the 2018 election has illustrated, Catholic voters matter, the “Catholic Vote” does not.

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Week 10: Catholics, Conservatives, and the Courts

Nuns Voting

Over the past ten weeks, we have examined what it means to be an American Catholic navigating the political spectrum across time. We have looked at how and if people’s faith has impacted their involvement in and their opinion on politics. Scholars have tended to see a link between Catholicism and political opinion. They have agreed that Catholicism shapes people’s politics inspiring both conservatism and liberalism. In my own examination of Catholics in America, I have found a somewhat different story. Although faith, being a strongly held belief, can and does affect people’s politics, throughout our study this semester I have found that grouping Catholics into one voting bloc is problematic at best. We have seen diversity among Catholics on all fronts, both in how they vote and how they govern.

This diversity is not a new phenomenon. Although scholars have tended to group Catholic voters together, I have found that what tended to bind the “Catholic” vote historically were non-religious issues. Catholics in the past were concentrated in cities and tended to vote union and Democrat. This is not because Democrats and unions were, or are, representatives of Catholic faith tenants, but rather they spoke to the needs of poor urban populations. Insofar as Catholics have ever voted in a bloc, that bloc arose from class interest and urban location, not faith.

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Urban Poverty among Recent Immigrants in the late 1800s

This is further evidenced by the fact that Catholics, when they were influenced by faith, often reached differing conclusions. This became especially clear in our study of war. Thus far the most explicitly religious political actions we have explored have been war activism. These activists, on both sides of the issue, quite explicitly cited their faith as causing them to act. Yet, their deep considerations of Catholicism did not lead to consensus, rather quite the opposite. When faith is articulated as the motivating factor, it motivates all sides equally. The diversity in war activism, compared to the unity of urban immigrants, shows that when Catholics vote as a bloc, it is because they are motivated by external factors, not faith. If a large group of people tries to examine a complex and ancient faith tradition as their basis for political action, they will inevitably arrive at different conclusions. If, on the other hand, a group of poor, recent immigrants, living in an urban setting examine their class status as motivation for political action, they are more likely to come to a consensus.

Good Intentions: A History of Catholic Voters’ Road from Roe to Trump by Steven P. Millies

As Catholics have assimilated and no longer share class solidarity, there is even less of a Catholic vote. The institutions and social locations that gave Catholics a reason to vote together have largely disappeared. What is left is a complex faith tradition to guide voting. The inherent multitude of ways to understand faith means that when faith is the only unifying factor, the politics of Catholics are not unified. This week we went to the Seminary Co-op Bookstore at the University of Chicago to hear Steven P. Millies, discuss his new book Good Intentions: A History of Catholic Voters’ Road from Roe to Trump. In this work, Millies traces the history of Catholics voting and tries to articulate why they voted for Trump. In his talk at Seminary Co-op, Millies argued one of the reasons that Catholics supported Trump was because the Church hierarchy made the election a one-issue election, with that issue being abortion. However, it is important to note the difference between hierarchy and the laity. This difference is vital, not only because the hierarchy is inherently male, and the Church is not, but also because religiosity varies for people who call themselves Catholic. No Catholic does everything the Church dictates. To know which dictates of the hierarchy, if any, one given Catholic is swayed by is impossible. Each individual voter is influenced by faith differently.

Official Portrait of the Supreme Court of the United States as composed April 10, 2017

Another place to possibly see a Catholic political bloc is to examine how they act when in the government. Historically, there was a virulent strain of anti-Catholicism within the United States, therefore Catholics have only gained a strong foothold in government recently. That said, today Catholics have a very large presence in the courts. Six of the nine Supreme Court Justices, if you include Neil Gorsuch who was raised Catholic, are Catholic. A Catholic court ought to result in a court that follows Church dictates. However, if we examine what scholars have found about Catholics on the court, we find no true consensus. William Blake, in his article “God Save This Honorable Court: Religion as a Source of Judicial Policy Preferences“, argues that Catholic justices are influenced by their faith. Blake states that,

The data reported herein largely support the hypothesis that religion is a source of judicial policy preferences, independent of underlying differences in ideology and justice-specific fixed effects. Religion may not be as powerful an influence as ideology, but religion might shape the development of judicial ideology…Religion is a complex factor that influences justices to vote in the liberal direction on some issues and conservative votes on others. But unlike judicial ideology, the influence of religion on judging is not universal. Religion should exert an influence on judicial behavior only if there is a connection between theology and law.”

On the other hand, historian Samuel Mills in his article, “Parochiaid and the Abortion Decisions: Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. versus the U.S. Catholic Hierarchy” found that for Justice Brennan, the Church did not influence his decision-making. In fact,

In his nearly thirty-four years on the Supreme Court, Justice Brennan faced a number of cases that forced him to choose between following the mandates of the Constitution as he viewed them and following the will of his own religious leaders … Justice Brennan found himself in fundamental disagreement with the U.S. Catholic hierarchy … [When] asked if there were any cases in which he, in retrospect, might now decide differently if given the opportunity, Brennan retorted, ‘Hell, no … I never thought I was wrong.’ Such resolute conviction no doubt sustained Justice Brennan in courageously adhering to the principles of the Constitution as he viewed them, particularly when pressure from his own religious leaders grew exceedingly intense.”

What this scholarly disagreement shows is that, yet again the “Catholic” bloc does not exist. Some Catholic justices are influenced by their faith and others are not. Even those who are influenced are not united on one side of the political spectrum but rather find that Catholicism asks them to be in some cases liberal and others conservative. This diversity makes it difficult to put Catholic governance on the political spectrum.

Catholics on all Sides of the Political Spectrum, (source: left, right)

Our examination of Catholics in American politics has revealed that, like many parts of our history, the issue is more complex than it might seem. Catholicism has always been diverse. What the hierarchy says, and the laity does have always differed. How much faith impacts a person’s politics changes from person to person. Even when faith is a predominant factor, people are pulled to the left and to the right by their convictions. Therefore, to say there is a “Catholic” bloc is inaccurate. One cannot assume a person’s political convictions by faith alone.

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