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Present at the Creation: Working-Class Catholics in the United States

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Abstract

Although Protestants have always been a substantial majority in the United States, the nation’s industrial working class has been heavily Catholic. By European standards, moreover, and especially in comparison with Italy and France, America’s Catholic workers have as a group been remarkably disciplined in their religious practice. ‘It is not our people who miss Mass on Sunday, refuse the sacraments and vote the Communist ticket’, as Auxiliary Bishop Steven Leven reminded Curial conservatives at the Second Vatican Council. ‘We have not lost the working class. They are the foundation and support of the Church.1 Like most ‘American exceptionalists’, Bishop Leven saw only in part: American Catholics by the 1960s were more disaffected than he evidently knew, while the situation in Europe — even in Italy — was more complex than his rhetoric allowed. Still, Bishop Leven for all his provincialism was clearly onto something, and not only with regard to religion.

Keywords

Ethnic Identity Catholic School Economic Morality Urban Minority Parochial School 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    Quoted in Gerald P. Fogarty, The Vatican and the American Hierarchy from 1870 to 1965 (Stuttgart, 1982), 394.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    The literature here is immense, but as examples of ethnic variations in religious practice see, for the Irish: David M. Emmons, The Butte Irish: Class and Ethnicity in an American Mining Town, 1875–1925 (Urbana and Chicago, 1989), 95–103;Google Scholar
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1997

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