Talk:History of Roman Catholicism in the United States

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Abuse by Irish-American clergy[edit]

Has anyone ever written about why a disproportionate amount of clerical abusers were of Irish ethnicity or Irish ancestry ? It has already been said that many abusers were gay, but how about being gay and Irish at the same time ? Are Irish clerics more susceptible to deviant, pedophile sexual behaviour than clerics of other ethnicities ? Why have comparatiely few Italian-American, Hispanic-American, African-American, Asian-American (etc) clerics been caught engaging in illicit or illegal sexual behaviour ? The ethnic and cultural element in this is interesting because it tends to indicate that some cultures are more prone to being sexually deviant than others. ADM (talk) 18:12, 6 April 2009 (UTC)

As an Irish-American I find this comment to be very offensive with its overt anti-Irish, anti-Catholic implications. I would be willing to bet that you would not dare accuse other ethnicities or religions of being prone to sexual deviation, but I suppose to you the Irish are seen as fair game.--Jeanne Boleyn (talk) 05:44, 7 April 2009 (UTC)
Er, regardless, what is the point of mentioning this? You ask "Has anyone ever written about why a disproportionate amount of clerical abusers were of Irish ethnicity or Irish ancestry ?" Who knows? I doubt you're going to find someone to help you search for such a thing here; you'll get reactions like the one above. A Werewolf (talk) 06:08, 7 April 2009 (UTC)
I don't think it's anti-catholic, he/she mentions Italians afterall. 167.1.176.4 (talk) 11:49, 7 April 2009 (UTC)
But I think it's understood that the comments are decidedly anti-Irish.--Jeanne Boleyn (talk) 12:03, 7 April 2009 (UTC)
If you have reliable sources who discuss this topic, feel free to list them on the talk page for the sex abuse cases. But be aware of the guidelines on undue weight. I'm sceptical it would merit much more than a sentence or two, but again, sourced information is always welcome. Recognizance (talk) 18:34, 9 April 2009 (UTC)
Instead of asking for reliable sources, why don't people ask ADM to stop trolling and then refuse to give him the time of day. Jack forbes (talk) 20:16, 9 April 2009 (UTC) Jack forbes
Certainly a disproportionate amount appear to be Irish, but who can say how many other abusers were not caught? Best to leave it to the readers' judgements.Red Hurley (talk) 14:37, 13 April 2009 (UTC)
Jack Forbes' suggestion is the best course of action to take.--Jeanne Boleyn (talk) 06:53, 14 April 2009 (UTC)

A search of Google and Google Scholar for the search terms ("Irish-American" "sex abuse" Catholic) turns up practically nothing (only one blog entry) and the raising of the question in the introduction of one book. I would say that, at this time, the answer to ADM's original question is "No but that doesn't mean there isn't a connection". Any further discussion at this time is speculative and not within the scope of article Talk Pages per WP:TALK. --Richard (talk) 14:41, 16 May 2009 (UTC)

I believe the LA Times did address the subject some time ago. As the comments above noted, I thought the article was grounded in bigotry, both toward Irish and Catholics. The disproportion of Irish priests involved is nothing like the disproportion of gay priests involved, but I doubt the Times ran or would run an article on that subject. Mamalujo (talk) 20:13, 16 May 2009 (UTC)
I think the problem with discussing this in the article would be giving the issue undue weight. Without some sort of scholarly analysis to suggest a causal relationship, this falls into the category of "correlation without causation". --Richard (talk) 03:45, 17 May 2009 (UTC)

Charles Coughlin given undue weight in this article[edit]

Charles Coughlin is given undue weight in this article. He has an entire section devoted to him and, to give an example of how it is given undue weight, the subject is about 4-5 times as long as the matter about Al Smith. In light of the subject's relative importance to this article, I think it should not have its own section and it should be greatly abridged.Mamalujo (talk) 20:20, 16 May 2009 (UTC)

I agree that there is (was) a problem but I disagree with Mamalujo's assessment of the cause and the remedy. First of all, there is darn little available on the web about Al Smith's Catholicism. It seems his defeat was as much due to his Tammany connections if not more so. I would be happy to expand the section on Smith but I just can't find anything that is relevant to the topic of this article.
Second, Coughlin was a prominent figure on the national stage for 13 years. He deserves two or three paragraphs as a summary of the much longer article on him.
The real problem, as I see it, is that the coverage of the rest of the 20th century is anemic. I have added sections on the National Catholic War Council and the Catholic Worker Movement. This helps diminish the overweighting on Coughlin. However, there is a big gap between the 1930s and the 1960s and even between the 1960s and the present-day. I have tried to beef up the section on the 21st century by copying over some text from Criticism of the Roman Catholic Church but that puts too much weight on controversy.
In summary, rather than trim the section on Coughlin, let's find ways to expand the rest of the article.
--Richard (talk) 03:54, 17 May 2009 (UTC)
Good solution. Beefing up the rest of the 20th century history is needed and diminishes the relative weight to Coughlin. I also agree that the 21st century section is now overweighted on controversy and criticism. Mamalujo (talk) 21:06, 18 May 2009 (UTC)

After thinking about it and looking at the article, I think Coughlin still has undue weight. He certainly does not warrant his own section. Fulton Sheen, also a media priest who actually won an Emmy, beat Milton Berle (then the #1 show) in the ratings, became an Archbishop, has a cause for canonization, and unlike Coughlin had and has the support of the Church and continues to influence it, is not even mentioned. Sheen was more influential and had a media career which lasted three times as long as Coughlin. This also supports an argument that the undue weight to Coughlin, a man of much less import to the American church, is not NPOV. Mamalujo (talk) 21:11, 22 May 2009 (UTC)

After thinking about it some more, I've come to the same conclusion. The section was about Coughlin, a Catholic priest who was a notorious anti-Semite; however, I realized that the Coughlin story was not actually about the Catholic Church itself. He wasn't speaking on behalf of the Catholic Church and there doesn't seem to be any allegation that the Catholic Church as a whole was anti-Semitic during that period (at least not any more so than the American populace at large). I suppose some hay could be made about the fact that it took so long for the Catholic hierarchy to rein him in but I haven't seen anybody else raise that charge so I guess it's just OR on my part. I've removed the entire section on Coughlin as not terribly relevant to the scope of this article. --Richard (talk) 23:35, 23 May 2009 (UTC)

Issues not peculiar to the United States[edit]

I think the parts about contraception, homosexuality and abortion are not terribly relevant in this article since they are not at all peculiar to the ecclesiastic situation of the United States of America. In fact, they affect most of the Western World and it is rather short-sighted to see it as merely an American problem. Also, it can be argued that it is more of a social and political matter than a purely ecclesiastical issue, since it did not originate within the internal structure of the Church, being instead a product of modern-day secularism and liberalism. Furthermore, it can be said that these problems or sins have always existed to a certain extent within wordly society, albeit to a far lesser degree. Finally, the fact that many people dissent from a discipline or doctrine may signal that there is an ongoing schism within the people of God, but it doesn't completly define the Church, since the dissenters remain completely free to leave the institution. ADM (talk) 09:13, 26 May 2009 (UTC)

The last sentence has overtones of the patriotic jingoism as embodied in the slogans "My country, right or wrong. Love it or leave it."
Martin Luther was "completely free to leave the institution" and he did ultimately do so. Some of the reforms that he championed were valid and necessary. Dissent can be a good thing. The Church is not always right.
That said, the rest of your point about contraception, homosexuality and abortion not being peculiar to the United States is true as far as it goes. However, to fail to mention these issues is to omit an important part of the religious discourse within the Catholic Church in the U.S. For example, a recent survey indicates that a large majority of Catholics in the U.S. and Europe reject the Church's stance on contraception. [1] Where it is appropriate such as in the discussion of contraception, we should include Europe so as not to imply that the U.S. is unique in cases where it is not.
--Richard (talk) 17:14, 26 May 2009 (UTC)
Richard, do you think it would be a good idea to tranfer some of that material into Sex, gender and the Roman Catholic Church ? It contains more culture-specific information, while the history entry should essentially focus on general content. ADM (talk) 03:44, 29 May 2009 (UTC)
I was just looking at this same material and thinking the same thing - this is generic to the Catholic Church globally. It'd be better to discuss how the Church has been involved in the politics and public discussions of these issues. Everything from the Comstock Laws and no-fault divorce down to abortion and California Prop 8. There must be plenty we can say that is unique to the US.   Will Beback  talk  04:52, 29 May 2009 (UTC)
Maybe, but there is already Catholicism and American politics for that. In a secular democracy like the U.S., I think it is unhealthy to spontaneously mix religion and politics like some people do. While on the contrary, in a country like Malta, Catholicism is the official state religion and these discussions would be much more normative. But since America is not Malta, I don't see the point of going into these small details without any preliminary political justification. ADM (talk) 05:08, 29 May 2009 (UTC)
I agree that these are global issues. Moreover, much of the text was copied from other articles such as Criticism of the Roman Catholic Church. I have deleted some of the text that was copied from other articles and what's left could probably be summarized further. However, to argue that the issues are global is not an argument to drop these sections entirely. We should leave out text that is discussed elsewhere in the coverage of the global debate. However, there are local aspects of the global debate that should be discussed in this article. One example is the campaign of Catholic bishops to convince Catholic voters not to support candidates who were pro-choice (Kerry and Obama in particular). Another example is the fact that the USCCB contributed funds to support the passage of Proposition 8 in California. --Richard (talk) 05:26, 29 May 2009 (UTC)

1960s anti-war activism[edit]

Several Catholic priests and insitutions were involved prominently in the anti-war activism of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Philip Berrigan and Daniel Berrigan are obvious examples, but I believe there are others. I believe that Catholics were also involved notably in the civil rights campaigns of the 1960s. I'm not an expert on the topic but it'd be helpful if someone could add a bit about this aspect of US Catholic history.   Will Beback  talk  20:16, 27 May 2009 (UTC)

See also Catonsville Nine and Thomas Merton.   Will Beback  talk  20:28, 27 May 2009 (UTC)

Hi Will. I had forgotten about the Berrigans. However, on further reflection, I wonder if their case is not similar to Charles Coughlin (see above). I removed the section on Coughlin on the grounds that, although he was a Catholic priest, the actions that he was notable for were the actions of himself as an individual not on behalf of or directed by the Catholic hierarchy. In essence, describing Coughlin's actions says relatively little about the Catholic Church (except for the fact that the hierarchy was willing to allow him to continue for 13 years until the beginning of WWII which might arguably reflect a latent tolerance for anti-Semitism among the clergy at the time). At the end of the day, Coughlin was a Catholic priest who happened to be a pro-fascist, anti-Semite but this is not generally considered to reflect the official position of the Catholic Church.
I think you can say similar things about the Berrigans. Their actions were not official actions of the Catholic Church nor, I assume, were they directed by the Church hierarchy. I'm not sure if they were ever censured or ordered to scale back their activities as Coughlin was. At the end of day, the Berrigans were Catholic priests who happened to be anti-war activists but this is not generally considered to reflect the official position of the Catholic Church.
--Richard (talk) 21:15, 27 May 2009 (UTC)
If this article were named "History of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States" then that would make sense. Should we consider moving the article to better define its content?   Will Beback  talk  00:09, 28 May 2009 (UTC)
I'd note that the currect sections on the 1930s, 1960s, and 1980s do not concern acitons by the hierarchy either, but rather those of individuals such as Day, Kennedy, and Fife. Perhaps restricting the article to activities of the hierarchy would be too limiting?   Will Beback  talk  00:34, 28 May 2009 (UTC)

Hi Will, I'm not horribly opposed to changing the title to History of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States although that seems a bit too limiting. I would like to get the opinions of other editors before we make such a move.

First off, I should say that my opinion about not including the Berrigans is based partly on the fact that I had just removed the section on Charles Coughlin (I was the one who put Coughlin in this article in the first place). I figured that we should be consistent in having both of them or excluding both of them.

As for Day, Kennedy and Fife, they are only included because they represent a larger phenomenon that involved a significant portion of the Catholic Church in the United States at the time.

Day's Catholic Worker Movement is part of an overall movement for Social Justice. We should emphasize that more. See Catholic social activism in the United States.

Kennedy is important because, as the first Catholic president, he disproved the assumption that a Catholic could not be elected President. It's a commentary about a shift in anti-Catholicism. The general argument seems to be that Al Smith couldn't get elected because he was Catholic while Kennedy did get elected despite the fact that he was Catholic. (In truth, Al Smith probably lost more because of his connections to Tammany Hall than because he was Catholic.)

As for Fife and Corbett, neither of them are Catholic. However, I think there was a significant Catholic component in the sanctuary movement. If this is true, it should probably be mentioned explicitly and discussed in greater detail. If it is not true, then the entire section should be deleted.

Getting back to the Berrigans, the point is that, it is not clear to me, that the anti-war movement mustered a particularly large support among Catholics. If someone wishes to educate me otherwise, I'm willing to reconsider.

As for Catholics in the civil rights movement, this is something that I don't know a lot about. The involvement of Jews in the civil rights movement is well documented and well known. If you can point me towards some information about Catholics in the civil rights movement, I'm open to learning more on this topic.

--Richard (talk) 05:29, 28 May 2009 (UTC)

Rather than going in that direction, maybe it'd be simpler and more comprehensive to restore a short section on Coughlin. He was probably the most prominent priest in the U.S. in the first half of the century. I think all of the major TV and radio priests should be mentioned, though probably little needs to be said about them.   Will Beback  talk  05:42, 28 May 2009 (UTC)
I've had his name on the tip of my tongue for weeks now - I kept thinking "Father...". But of course I was really thinking of Bishop Sheen. No history of the Church in the U.S. is complete without mentioning the impact of the mass media clergy, including Coughlin and Sheen. I don't think we need to belabor it, but their names should be included and at least a sentence or two devoted to explaining their reach and influence.   Will Beback  talk  09:34, 14 June 2009 (UTC)

Couglin and Sheen[edit]

Both Mamalujo and Will Beback have mentioned Bishop Fulton Sheen. Sheen was an important figure on the Catholic landscape. Will Beback suggests restoring a brief mention of Charles Coughlin and adding some mention of Fulton Sheen. This isn't a horrible idea; I could live with it but I'd like to argue against it for now on the grounds that history should be about major trends not about important people. Mention of important people is only useful to the extent that discussion of their actions is a discussion about helps illustrate major trends in the larger historical context. Put another way, there have been many important and influential Catholics in American history. IMO, what we should look for is how the article would be written if the names of all individuals were removed from the article.

For example, how would you treat Charles Coughlin? Would you say "there were a number of influential priests who used radio to galvanize anti-Semitic sentiment among Catholics in the period between the two World Wars"? Well, I don't have any way to gauge how much anti-Semitic sentiment there was among Catholics in the period between the two World Wars. Obviously, there must have been some or Coughlin would not have been so popular. However, asserting that there was a strong anti-Semitic sentiment among Catholics during this period seems to be a bit over-reaching and that is the implication made by mentioning Coughlin.

We mention John J. Burke, John A. Ryan and Dorothy Day but we don't say much about them as individuals. Instead, we mention them in the context of a larger historical event and mention what they did in that context. Even Al Smith and John F. Kennedy are mentioned in the context of their Presidential campaigns rather than focusing on them as individuals.

My assertion, therefore, is that, if we are to mention Fulton Sheen, we should do so in a similar manner to the other individuals. So, my question is: what larger historical context, if any, is Fulton Sheen a part of?

I'm also wondering if Father Coughlin and Bishop Sheen are examples of a phase of Catholic history that has passed. What I mean by this is that tele-evangelism is a prominent feature in Protestant America (Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell, Robert Schuller et al) but is it a feature of Catholicism in America today? If my assertion is accurate, do we mention Coughlin and Sheen as two examples of Catholic tele-evangelists who were superstars in their day but who have not been succeeded by anybody of similar prominence and popularity today?

--Richard (talk) 16:34, 14 June 2009 (UTC)

Yes, I was thinking of something along the lines of your conclusion. We don't need to make assertionas about televangelism in general, just say that there have been a couple of Catholic clergy who had popular shows. Since the article is arranged chronologically, I'd say it'd be best to have separate mentions. So, in the 1930s section something like "Father Coughlin reached a wide radio audience and was an early support of Roosevelt, but later became known for his anti-semitisim and was forced off the air by his bishop." and then in the 1950s section something like, "Bishop Sheen reached a wide audience during his 16 years on TV, and has been called one of the first televangelists". I don't think we need to say much more than that.   Will Beback  talk  18:01, 14 June 2009 (UTC)

Dominance of Irish Americans[edit]

The text reads:

Beginning in the 1840s, although outnumbered by the German American Catholics, Irish American Catholics comprised most of the bishops and controlled most of the Catholic colleges and seminaries in the United States.

Does anybody know why the Irish Americans dominated the American Catholic Church even though they were numerically inferior to the German Americans? I'm guessing that it has to do socio-economic differences, most notably having to do with language (English vs. German). The fact that Irish culture and language was closest to the British antecedents of American culture are probably the dominant force here. However, this is just speculation on my part. Are there any reliable sources that can shed light on this question? As the current text stands, it's a bald assertion without any support. I don't doubt the veracity of the assertion. It's just that it kinds of begs the question: "Why was that so?". We should provide some sort of explanation to answer that question for the reader.

--Richard (talk) 16:52, 27 September 2009 (UTC)

Good points; I agree. The fact that the Irish were English-speaking and familiar with Anglo-type culture is probably the explanation for why they were also successful in politics in America. By the way, Irish Catholic immigrants outnumbered those of German Catholic origin in the 1840s and 1850s, although the Germans started to outnumber the Irish slightly for the rest of the 19th Century. If any one doubts this, just peruse U.S. immigration statistics (by country of origin) for the 19th century. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 140.211.82.5 (talk) 20:09, 23 June 2010 (UTC)

19th and 20th centuries[edit]

There ought to be separate material on the 19th century history of the Catholic Church in the United States and 20th century history of the Catholic Church in the United States, as well as the Catholic Church in the Thirteen Colonies. The current text is written more like a small unfinished book than an encyclopedia article, which requires adequate concision so that appropriate segments are dedicated for each historical period. On top of that, there is no introduction in the version that user:Richardshusr had left, so it obviously needs to be written. ADM (talk) 07:07, 13 October 2009 (UTC)

Your criticism (that the current text is too long) is on the mark. However, your deletions were too radical. There ought to be at least a paragraph covering each of the major sections that was deleted. WP:SUMMARY suggests that this article should be a summary of the subsidiary articles. The version that you created did not do that. Now, I admit that I am not strong at writing summaries so I am grateful for any help that I can get.
I am open to rewriting this article to be much more concise. I created this article back in March of this year because there was no article that focused on the topic. The fact that we are now complaining that it is too long and now need to work on summaries of subsidiary articles shows that we have been successful in covering the topic. Let us now take it to the next level and get the article to be more encyclopedic rather than a "kitchen sink" mish-mash of stuff. --Richard (talk) 07:36, 13 October 2009 (UTC)

Copyright problem removed[edit]

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Organization[edit]

This article is not very well organized, and the current lead paragraph is inadequate as an overall summary... AnonMoos (talk) 08:01, 23 July 2010 (UTC)

Ven. Mary of Agreda[edit]

So, apparently Mary evangelized Native Americans? I don't know how credible the accounts are, but I was wondering if we should discuss Agreda's inclusion in this article. I'd be for the inclusion if 1) there was solid evidence for the mystical experiences and 2) the article needed the inclusion. Oct13 (talk) 17:32, 5 October 2012 (UTC)

Original Research[edit]

This article is full of statistics, specifics, and POV but few aligning citations. Quotes like "the building is a lasting memorial..." just smack of professional, POV writing. Has this all been lifted from one article? If not, this all appears to be original essay. EBY (talk) 16:16, 12 June 2014 (UTC)

Full of POV??? and just a two-word example given (not a very controversial one). Need more specifics re a POV problem. Rjensen (talk) 19:39, 26 June 2014 (UTC)