Explaining My Research

With the start of a new semester comes the actual start of the research project that I have chosen to occupy my life with for the next four months. It is with much excitement that I can finally say that I would like to do my Ramonat research on Patty Crowley and her life after her participation in the Papal Birth Control Commission and the subsequent decision by Pope John Paul II in his encyclical Humana Vitae.

I first became interested in this topic when we spent time in the Women and Leadership Archives looking through archival boxes, and my group was assigned Patty Crowley’s box. Looking through her belongings and various souvenirs, I could tell that we both shared some common interests, such as public housing reform and an interest in reproductive justice. Patty Crowley was an influential Catholic woman who firmly advocated for the use of birth control and helped normalize it within the Catholic community, and I admire her work and desire to know more about if and how Humana Vitae changed the trajectory of her career and how it affected her on a personal level.

I’m incredibly excited to get a chance to utilize the Women and Leadership archives at Loyola, which will be a fantastic asset to my research, as Patty Crowley’s papers are stored there in her own archive. I am also excited to become familiar with doing archival work, and I believe that due to my interests in reproductive justice within a Catholic context, that this research project will be tremendously enjoyable for me. Here’s to the start of a new semester!


The Issue of School Choice

Alternate blog: I was unable to purchase/watch Inquiring Nuns so I am improvising somewhat and writing on the last optional prompt of the semester.

School choice has been and continues to be a central issue to a large portion of American Catholics. It is also, coincidentally, an issue in which I have personal experience.

When I was younger, I spent half of my life going to public school from pre-K to fourth grade, and then the rest of my secondary schooling in a private Catholic middle school that eventually fed into another private Catholic high school nearby. Although I didn’t understand it at the time, the school choice that my parents made, although they said it was to ensure a ‘higher quality of education’ was unintentionally political and reflected a level of privilege that was not accessible to many children in my town. It also often left me questioning whether the education my parents were shelling money out for was worth the increased cost.

The privatization of education has its roots in the segregation era, when African American educators were forced to rely on private means to provide their children with a quality education in a time when white children could easily receive a quality education at almost any public school and climb socially. These schools established by Black community leaders were meant to prepare students of color to live in the increasingly unequal society of America and later paved the way to the famous Historically Black Colleges and Universities such as Spelman and Morehouse that we know today (Hale). While these schools were meant to help students grapple with the institutional racism and the hostile racial environment of the time, after Brown v. Board (1954), they took on a different purpose as white Americans co-opted this concept to provide their own private schools that could remain unsegregated (Hale). After state courts began implementing desegregation busing policies in the 1960s, private schools and the concept of school choice became a way to avoid desegregation. White flight from public schools hastened as Richard Nixon promoted anti-busing in his campaign for president (Hale).

However, specifically Catholic schools seem to be a completely different beast. Catholic elementary and grade schools were initially founded to help the nineteenth-century Catholic Church grapple with the problems of the time– mass immigration and the need for a united and Americanized community (Baker and Riordan 17). No doubt sparked by the massive migration of Irish immigrants to the United States after the Potato Famine, these schools had provided a haven to immigrant Catholic families and a way to manage not only the outside Protestant population of the United States but also the lack of organization that mass migration brought.

While these schools were meant to be specifically for Catholic families seeking a low-cost way to indoctrinate their children with the Catholic faith, since the 1970s, students enrolled in Catholic schools are far less likely to be Catholic (Baker and Riordan 18). As tuition costs have continued to rise and wages have stayed the same, dioceses have increasingly closed and consolidated Catholic schools due to decreased enrollment (Baker and Riordan 18).

Taking these factors into consideration, there is no doubt that the privatization of public schooling has been an issue for Catholics, although it is not a specifically Catholic issue. Hale’s article points to privatization as more of a reaction to desegregation than a reaction to increased immigration, so I believe this largely depends on context. I do believe, however, that school choice remains to be a political issue, especially in 2018 considering the current education secretary, Betsy DeVos, has lobbied extensively for extending school choice across the country.


Baker, David P., and Cornelius Riordan. “The ‘Eliting’ of the Common American Catholic School and the National Education Crisis.” The Phi Delta Kappan, vol. 80, no. 1, 1998, pp. 16–23. JSTOR, JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/20439355.

Hale, Jon N. “The African American Roots of Betsy DeVos’s Education Platform.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 18 Jan. 2017, http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/01/black-roots-school-choice/513569/.

Homelessness in Chicago


Patty Crowley and her husband Pat

When we explored the Women and Leadership Archives a couple of weeks ago, I was assigned Patty Crowley’s archive box. This box caught my attention because of Crowley’s involvement in various social issues both local to Chicago and worldwide. She was not only involved in campaigns surrounding improving the quality of the Chicago Housing Authority, but also involved in the Birth Control Commission, which sent a recommendation about the outdated nature of Catholic teaching on birth control to Pope John Paul II regarding the encyclical Humanae Vitae. Crowley expanded her work for the homeless population of Chicago and even became one of the founding mothers of Deborah’s Place, a permanent supportive housing facility for women with disabilities in Chicago. Crowley helped found Deborah’s Place in 1985, and her lifetime of work providing care to many homeless women in Chicago likely exposed her to Chicago’s inadequacies inspired her to seek to improve the city’s system of supportive care and make a difference.

The primary source that I found is the draft of a fairly recent (from 2001) document called Getting Housed, Staying Housed: A Collaborative Plan to End Homelessness in Chicago, which outlines the issue of homelessness in the City of Chicago, including specific statistics regarding the average age, race, employment level, and gender identity of homeless people across the city. The draft is part of a larger program that Crowley participated in that focused on expanding the amount of services available to the homeless population of Chicago. The initiative continues today in partnership with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Alliance under the name Chicago’s Plan 2.0– A Home For EveryoneThe report recommends the implementation of alternative models of service for the homeless population of the City of Chicago, citing the importance of stabilizing their needs and focusing more heavily on serving the transitionally homeless population. It also outlines the deficiencies that plagued the system in 2001, including statistics on the number of people who had to be turned away and whether those who were served had their needs met.

Reading this document and then finding out about Crowley’s other work in founding Deborah’s Place, as well as seeing her involvement in the improvement of the CHA in her archive box raised some questions for me, including how have Catholic churches and organizations specifically in Chicago dealt with the issue of homelessness? What kind of involvement have Catholics had in the Chicago Housing Authority? And finally, how much of Chicago’s homelessness problem has to do with the rampant racism and resistance of white residents of Trumbull Park Homes and other housing projects to live alongside African American residents and desegregate their housing projects?





John F. Kennedy and the “Catholic Issue”

John F. Kennedy being greeted by Pope Paul VI at the Vatican in 1963.

John F. Kennedy is often remembered as America’s first Catholic president, but his nomination did not come without its own unique hurdles. Kennedy’s Catholic faith made him stand out from the usual presidential nominee, and not always in a good way. While his popularity post-mortem is quite high, his critics at the time were not enthused about a president whose Catholic identity, they feared, would equate with a conflict of interest between the authority of the Catholic Church and the needs of the American public.

Kennedy himself, however, made it a point to publicly dissociate from his Catholic identity, even calling his religious beliefs an “intrusion” into the campaign for the Democratic nomination (Phillips). This could be attributed to two things– a fear of hostility towards a Catholic candidate or a desire to promote unity and focus on Kennedy’s more relevant qualifications and issue positions. In his famous January 1960 statement announcing his candidacy for President, he makes no mention of his religious faith and instead focuses on the relevant issues of the 1960s as well as his years of service to the United States both as a senator and as a naval officer. He even explicitly states in a 1960 New York Times article, that he is “not the Catholic Candidate for President” (Phillips). He highlights his religious affiliation as a simple fact, and emphasizes that there are more relevant political issues for the American public and the press to focus on. I found this article particularly interesting because Kennedy seldom speaks about his Catholicism in public, instead choosing to focus on aspects of policy preferences and attempting to shift the focus away from the subject of religion, the way he does in his presidential candidacy statement. In this speech, he makes an explicit statement about his religious identity and then goes on to clearly ensure to the American public that it will be a nonissue in his Presidency, if he is elected.

A snippet of Veysey’s Chicago Tribune article, which includes a photo of the ancestral Kennedy family home.

Though he seldom discussed his Irish Catholic roots, Kennedy was not only the first Catholic President, but also the first Irish president, according to a Chicago Tribune article, which provides a detailed history of his ancestral lineage. His great grandfather, Patrick Kennedy, emigrated to America in 1847, attracted to the wealth of American opportunities and the possibility of upward mobility as well as the need to escape famine in his hometown (Veysey). Unfortunately, Patrick may not have gotten as warm of a reception as he would have liked, with the increase in anti-Irish Catholic and anti-immigrant sentiment running rampant in the US at this time. In his book The Irish Way, Barrett emphasizes the blatant xenophobia and adversity that the Irish faced upon their arrival to the United States after the Great Famine (5). Veysey’s Chicago Tribune article makes it clear that once Patrick Kennedy emigrated to America, the American side of the Kennedy family fell out of contact with their Irish roots, and they were clearly fortunate enough to belong to the upwardly mobile “lace curtain” Irish (Barrett). This prevented the Irish and Irish-American sides of the family from getting to know each other very well– despite Joseph Kennedy being the ambassador to Britain’s Court of St. James, he made no effort to learn about his heritage until 1947, and John himself, during his time as Massachusetts Congressman, was still unknown by his relatives in Ireland (Veysey). Patrick Kennedy’s initial emigration and his grandson Joseph Kennedy’s immense success as a businessman and politician enabled the Kennedy family’s worth to soar, and allowed John the privilege to have such a lucrative career in public office, providing the ultimate example of  an immigration success story.

MacLeish Cartoon
A 1960s political cartoon depicting the fear that JFK’s ultimate allegiance as President would be to the Catholic Church.

Despite his efforts to remove his role as future President from his personal role in the Catholic faith, Kennedy still drew sharp criticism and encountered doubts as to whether he could effectively separate the two facets of his life. In a New York Times article, Bishop Oxnam of the Methodist Church questioned whether Kennedy, as president, could be free from Roman Catholic hierarchical control, or if he could exercise independent judgment as an American citizen (“Bishop Asks if Kennedy Can Be Free Ruler”). The Methodist bishop held tightly to the notion that a man ought to be loyal to his faith while simultaneously defending the Methodist church and insinuating that Methodists make no attempts to control their candidates for public office (“Bishop Asks if Kennedy Can Be Free Ruler”) a clear ideological bias against Catholic candidates. Meanwhile, Kennedy consistently tried to dissociate from the power structures of the Catholic Church.

Despite John F. Kennedy’s inherent wealth and privilege, his pathway to the presidency paints a detailed picture of the nuances of running for President while balancing one’s Irishness and Catholic-ness, proving that no matter how much wealth, privilege, and power one holds, the inherent biases of the American people will ultimately become evident.

Works Cited

Barrett, James R. The Irish Way: Becoming American in the Multiethnic City. Viking, 2014.

“BISHOP ASKS IF KENNEDY CAN BE FREE RULER.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), Jan 04, 1960, pp. 5. ProQuest, http://flagship.luc.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/182414367?accountid=12163.

Phillips, Wayne. “KENNEDY, BACKED BY HUMPHREY, HITS ISSUE OF RELIGION.” New York Times (1923-Current file), Apr 22, 1960, pp. 1. ProQuest, http://flagship.luc.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/115014406?accountid=12163.

Special to The New,York Times. “The Kennedy Statement.” New York Times (1923-Current file), Jan 03, 1960, pp. 44. ProQuest, http://flagship.luc.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/114962966?accountid=12163.

VEYSEY, ARTHUR. “Reporter Visits Kennedy’s Ancestral Home.” Chicago Tribune (1963-Current file), May 26, 1963, pp. 1-a3. ProQuest, http://flagship.luc.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/182681207?accountid=12163.





The Modern Catholic Vote in the 2018 Midterms


While voters in North Carolina cast their ballots in an unspecified church, how heavily does their religious identity influence them, and how are they affected by the image of three crosses behind them?

Given the breadth of Catholic opinion throughout the United States, it’s difficult to say exactly how large of a role Catholics as a whole played in this year’s midterm elections. The Catholic Vote itself has been divided for years on a variety of issues– Millies would argue that it has been divided since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. The Catholic vote on abortion and capital punishment, among typically relevant social issues, is almost evenly split according to recent polling data, which would undoubtedly surprise many who assume that the term “Catholic” is synonymous with “conservative.” Catholics are even split down the middle in terms of political party affiliation. This could be attributed to a wide variety of factors, including but not limited to the fact that Catholics today wear many hats, and religion is not always at the forefront of the modern voter’s mind.

Table 1:

While Catholic voters are split almost evenly down the middle in the 2018 Midterms, religious “nones” seem to have an abundantly clear preference for Democrats 


At the “Midterms Post Mortem,” Dr. Murphy pointed to the fact that Catholics may not feel at home in either political party, which could explain the near even split between Catholics who support Republican and Democrat candidates. This is a phenomenon echoed by Millies in his book Good Intentions, where he explains that Catholics have long struggled to accommodate their religious beliefs to the political alternatives among candidates and parties. Being American has won over being Catholic for a number of Catholics (Millies 2). Meanwhile, religions “nones” have clearly favored Democrats over Republican candidates in Midterm election years, as noted by Table 1. Perhaps since religious “nones” do not have a specific set of beliefs they need to accommodate to either political party, they find it easier to make a choice between the two. Given the table, it seems that the Catholic vote has gotten more polarized in both directions since 2006, while the vote of religious “nones” has slowly leaned to the left.

Despite the intense polarization of the Catholic vote on both sides, Catholics as well as other religious groups have strongly pushed people to vote in this year’s midterms, perhaps inspired by Pope Francis’ January 2018 speech at the Rome International Conference on the Responsibility of States where he declared indifference a dangerous enemy (“Pope: Indifference a Virus”).

“The enemy against which we fight is not only hatred in all of its forms, but even more fundamentally, indifference; for it is indifference that paralyzes and impedes us from doing what is right even when we know that it is right” (Pope: Indifference a Virus”).


Catholic groups such as the Franciscan Friars of St. Barbara, California and the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas have taken to social media to encourage Catholic Americans to register to vote and exercise their civic duty (Guidos). Various Catholic organizations  have endorsed a handy voting guide for Catholics created by a collection of National Catholic Organizations including the Sisters of Mercy– A Call to Holiness: A 2018 Guide for Voters, which includes overviews of social issues such as racial justice, economic issues, immigration, healthcare, gun violence prevention, and the environment. While it does not include specific recommendations, it offers Church teaching on several issues along with a set of reflection questions for Catholics to ask themselves while they fill out their ballots. Due to the split nature of the Catholic vote, even today, it is difficult to say how effective these are, but these measures can provide effective guidance for some Catholics around the country.

Works Cited

“2018 Midterm Election Voter Guide: A Call to Holiness.” Sisters of Mercy, http://www.sistersofmercy.org/about-us/news-and-events/2018-midterm-election-voter-guide-a-call-to-holiness/.

Geiger, Abigail. “How Religious Groups Voted in the Midterm Elections.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 7 Nov. 2018, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/11/07/how-religious-groups-voted-in-the-midterm-elections/.

Guidos, Rhina. “Religious Groups Made Effort to Drive Their Flocks to Midterm Voting.” Crux, 10 Nov. 2018, cruxnow.com/church-in-the-usa/2018/11/10/religious-groups-made-effort-to-drive-their-flocks-to-midterm-voting/.

Millies, Steven P. Good Intentions: a History of Catholic Voters’ Road from Roe to Trump. Liturgical Press, 2018.

“Pope: Indifference a Virus That Is Contagious in Our Time.” Vatican News, 29 Jan. 2018, http://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2018-01/pope–indifference-a-virus-that-is-contagious-in-our-time.html.




Understanding the Catholic Vote

Note: This week, I had an alternative assignment, as I was unable to attend the Steven Millies Talk in Hyde Park.

The same photo of nuns voting that Millies uses on the cover of his book Good Intentions.

One of the first discussions that we had at the beginning of the semester was about what we thought salient political issues for Catholic Americans were. I remember a few of my classmates (myself included) saying that we thought abortion and reproductive healthcare were some of the most salient issues today. Healthcare, immigration, and nuclear weapons were also mentioned as salient issue, but abortion tends to be the first one that comes to mind when prompted. Catholics have an incredibly diverse set of political opinions, and there is no way to physically measure them all.  Abortion is not always a make or break issue, as these opinions differ based on every person’s priorities and personal experiences. Nonetheless, Steven Millies uses the abortion decision in Roe v. Wade to discuss the changing tides of Catholic public opinion in the United States.

The Catholic vote in the United States throughout the years has been a constantly shifting phenomenon as Catholics have struggled to gain recognition in mainstream America, and as their priorities have shifted politically. Although the American political system has not always been welcoming to the desires of Catholic Americans, due to its heavy Protestant sway at the time of the American Founding, through lobbying groups, the USCCB, and the power of the Vatican, Catholics have been able to assert their political desires, even if they have seldom been fulfilled.

In his book, Good Intentions, Steven Millies points to a few key events as pivotal to Catholics in America– the Catholic immigrant experience of the 1800-1900s, the ascent of Catholics to mainstream American life during Cold War anticommunist paranoia, and the historic Roe decision of 1973 (Millies 192). All of these events have come together in a culture war over questions of morality that Millies says has led to the election of Donald Trump and the deep polarization of the Republican and Democrat parties. Despite this culture war having an important place in society, he does not specifically point to Catholics as the sole reason for the election of Donald Trump, and this is because Catholicism has always been far to large to fully integrate into American society (Millies 2). One party cannot be seen as the “Catholic party,” although many people have the misconception that being Catholic correlates directly with being a conservative Republican, because religiosity integrates differently with political ideology for everyone. Neither the Democratic nor Republican party offers Catholics a completely comfortable place with regards to issue position, and thus many Catholics have struggled to accommodate their commitment to faith with their public acts as citizens (Millies 3).

Catholic Americans have often been wrongly perceived as a solely conservative religious group, but this is not the case. Millies attributes this to “culture war issues such as abortion, marriage, euthanasia, and others” (24). These issues polarized American Catholic thinking, and this polarization was retained in the American political system. Millies specifically points out the dawn of the twenty-first century in his book, and explains that this point in time allowed two groups of opposing Catholics to form–those who were able to enter the mainstream American life and assimilate, and those who resisted assimilation and have identified with more conservative practices of Catholic identity such as abstaining from meat on Fridays and taking specifically conservative legal and political positions such regarding abortion (Millies 24). This, to me, seems like it could be the reason why people tend to equate increased religiosity (specifically increased Catholic religiosity) with increased conservative opinions. This is a misconception, and the evidence lies in liberal Catholic groups such as Catholics for Choice, a pro-choice Catholic lobbying group in DC founded in 1973, Nuns on the Bus, a traveling Catholic advocacy group that lobbies for social justice, and Call to Action, a group meant to build inclusivity in the Church.


Network's Sister Campbell appears with Nuns on the Bus campaign as it makes stop in nation's capital
Sister Simone Campbell, of Nuns on the Bus

Millies also emphasizes the Roe decision as essentially the final straw for Catholics in the United States, and the moment at which Catholic Americans struggled the most to be heard, after a long history of struggling to integrate into mainstream American life. A cultural turning point had been reached after the Roe decision, and Cardinal Ratzinger feared that the American public were becoming masters of our own destiny who sought to freely exercise control over the things that bind us, such as pregnancy and painful death. These realizations paved the way for Pope John Paul II to write his encyclical Evangelium Vitae (Millies 98). Because American Catholics and Evangelicals both lamented abortion, Pope John Paul II suggested it may be beneficial to build bridges between the two communities in order to work together to reverse Roe. This approach, however, did have its fair share of criticism as it seemed to promote tactics that only increased polarization around abortion (Millies 101). Although the Pope was clearly discouraged about the emergence of the abortion and life/death issue in the United States as well as the vanishing influence of religious traditions in the United States, Millies optimistically refers to the Roe decision as an opportunity for dialogue, and the sign of an American public that now takes the opinions of women more seriously (101), which further illustrates the point that American Catholics can hold a wide range of political views surrounding this controversial issue.

Something that I found interesting, was that Millies, Mills, and Blake all specifically focus on the power of the U.S. Supreme Court in their writings. While I agree that The Roe v. Wade (1973) decision marks a significant change in the polarization of the Democrat and Republican parties, the tricky part about looking so closely at the Supreme Court  is that justices make their decisions based on a variety of different intersecting circumstances. Ideology, policy goals, Constitutional interpretation, and Court politics all intersect to produce these landmark decisions, and it is impossible to say just how much influence religiosity holds on each Supreme Court Justice. Justice Brennan, one of the first American Catholics appointed to the Supreme Court, tended to put his responsibility to uphold the Constitution above his oath to uphold the desires of Catholic hierarchy, no matter how tense the disagreement between the two was (Mills 754). Brennan’s separationism is not inherently unique to the Court, but because he was the Court’s first Catholic, I’m sure there was an expectation that his votes would follow the desires of the Catholic Church, since the Catholic Church has a stronger and more pervasive governing body than other religious faiths. While the decisions in the parochiaid cases and Roe v. Wade (1973) clearly went against Catholic recommendation and were perceived as anti-Catholic by groups such as the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Liberty, they were not intentionally anti-Catholic and simply embraced the principle of separationism (Mills 764).

Robert Bork during his confirmation hearings.

Even the confirmation hearings of Robert Bork highlight this issue. Bork’s confirmation hearings mark a pivotal moment in the history of the judiciary– the first time that a nominee for Supreme Court Justice had been rejected based on ideology alone, which was shockingly conservative and strictly adherent to the original text of the Constitution. The Bork hearings also marked the moment when abortion began being a hot-button issue at every subsequent Supreme Court confirmation hearing. (Millies 111). The abortion issue began pervading every part of politics in the 1980s and 90s, and as the political parties became more and more polarized, they became deeply ensnared in the issue of life versus death, and some Catholic groups lobbied hard to try and get Roe overturned, but despite the Supreme Court having the power of judicial review, the decision could not be overturned the same way that Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) and Lawrence v. Texas (2003) were reversed (Millies 114). The nature of Roe v. Wade (1973) as a privacy case prevented this, but since the ruling, TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws that heavily regulate abortion providers in ways that differ from standard medical clinics, have been a way that more ideologically conservatives states have circumvented the ruling.

Millies’ book points to a Catholic vote that has been largely shaped by Roe v. Wade (1973). He also points to the Pope and the United States Council of Catholic Bishops as major centers of power and influence for American Catholics. The Vatican is an important governing body for Catholics, and although its recommendations do not supersede federal law in the US, the Church and its affiliated groups still have the power to speak out against Catholic candidates who they feel are not taking Church teaching into consideration or bills that go against Church teaching. John Kerry and Mario Cuomo provide two examples of Catholic candidates who have taken positions directly in conflict with Catholic teaching in order to promote separationism, and both men have faced retribution from the Church, with Boston’s Archbishop Sean O’Malley asserting that Catholic politicians who hold public pro-choice positions should not receive Communion (Mills 118-119).

Despite Mills illustrating these extreme circumstances, I believe that the Catholic vote in the United States is diverse. Catholics do not operate at the polls as one big group, and there are many factors that tie in to one’s voting preferences– it is a matter of which identity is the most salient at the time, and this can change as it is affected by the tide of daily life. The abortion issue may be a salient political issue in this post-1973 world, but before that, Catholics struggled to fit into the a world that did not yet embrace them, and immigration may have been a more salient issue to the Catholic vote. Catholic governance in the United States has also been incredibly diverse, with Catholics such as John Kerry, Mario Cuomo, and William Brennan identifying with their faith ideologically, but also ensuring an ultimate separation between their religious ideology and their governance, and other candidates such Marco Rubio, who has taken outspoken anti-abortion positions and endorsed specific fetal-protection laws. The Catholic vote and Catholic governance in the U.S. varies wildly from person to person, and although some have tried to define it, I do not believe that it can ever be defined in its full scope because of the nature of the U.S. as a diverse hub of all sorts of political opinions.


Works Cited

Millies, Steven P. Good Intentions: a History of Catholic Voters’ Road from Roe to Trump. Liturgical Press, 2018.

Mills, S. A. “Parochiaid and the Abortion Decisions: Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. versus the U.S. Catholic Hierarchy.” Journal of Church and State, vol. 34, no. 4, 1992, pp. 751–773., doi:10.1093/jcs/34.4.751.



Catholic Politics Worldwide and In America

This special week of Hank Center programming provided an illuminating look at the way Catholic politics have functioned not only in America but also throughout the world. Although we have taken a largely US-Centric look at the intersection of Catholicism and politics as of late, this week of programming centered around 1968 showed me that there was something unique about the events of 1968 that brought the world together.

Father Aaron Pidel, SJ emphasized in his talk on Tuesday night, that 1968 was a year in which the tensions in the Church finally emerged. After Vatican II and humanae vitae, 1968 became a moment in which the tensions within the Church emerged and people began to truly realize why they wanted change in the world. Humanae vitae came right before a time in the Church when liturgies were highly formal, ritualistic events shrouded in mystery, events that commanded a dedicated and rigorous religious practice (Barrett 8). After Vatican II, Churches became much more welcoming, relaxed spaces with some degree of freedom regarding daily practices, but the Church’s hard line stance on abortion and reproductive health issues tells the story of a Church whose grip on social issues tightens in a new era of abortion and contraception-related legislation coming to light.

humanae vitae

Although the 1968 Week events were centered mostly around the Catholic Church and the Church’s influence and response to the various political events that occurred in 1968, I found myself the most struck by the level of student involvement in protests, demonstrations, political actions, etc. Protest seemed to be a central theme throughout  1968, with student protests specifically leading the charge. With the new social movements involving people of color, women, and LGBT folks came a new awareness of the common world and an imagination full of people power. This encouraged those who once felt powerless to stand up and act and reinforced the idea that ordinary people do matter.

columbia protest
1968 Student Protest at Columbia College, NYC. 

The student protest at Columbia College in New York is the perfect example of a powerful student uprising. The students of the college, motivated by Student Afro-American Society, an African American student group, mobilized and occupied the university in response to its plans to build a mostly-private gym on public land. The students heard the Harlem community’s concerns about Columbia repeatedly encroaching on their land with it’s ivy-league brand of imperialism. This anger over the misappropriation of public land combined with anti-Vietnam war protests by Students for a Democratic Society, another student group that called for Columbia to divest from the IDA caused an extreme rise in tensions that finally came to a head with the occupation of five university buildings (Blakemore).

Student protest in France, 1968

The student and worker revolts of France in 1968, highlighted by Julian Bourg in his keynote address, also provide an example of the power of youth protest across the globe. Bourg emphasized the power of the protest, and explained that it was so large that it almost caused a government collapse, but that it also resulted in the convergence of freedom and solidarity for many people. Students were extremely dissatisfied with the Vietnam War as well as the closure of University of Paris Nanterre, and took to the streets to mobilize, causing a protest that continued all the way through the end of May.

These protests can serve as a powerful example for youth today, especially as student organizing on college campuses seems to be increasing steadily. Perhaps the current political climate could be creating the perfect conditions for a similar phenomenon.


Works Cited

Blakemore, Erin. “How Columbia’s Student Uprising of 1968 Was Sparked by a Segregated Gym.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, http://www.history.com/news/columbia-university-protest-occupation-1968.