A Catholic New Deal: Religion and Reform in Depression Pittsburgh

By Kenneth J. Heineman | Go to book overview

2
Social Reconstruction The Moral Basis of Economic Reform, 1933-1935

Religious activists like Father Carl Hensler and the editors of the Pittsburgh Catholic cheer Franklin Roosevelt but warn New Dealers that improving the material conditions of ordinary people is not enough. Poverty, according to Pittsburgh's clergy and lay reformers, is a product of an unjust wage system and immoral, self-destructive behavior. Federal programs must be designed to nourish the body without, in the process, killing the spirit. Additionally, so far as Pittsburgh activists see matters in the first three years of the Roosevelt administration, Washington liberals and conservative industrialists should cease their bickering and, instead, embrace the encyclicals of Leo XIII and Pius XI.

The Scotch-Irish Presbyterians who settled Pennsylvania in the years before the American Revolution called their new home "The Best Poor Man's Country." For Ulster's indentured servants and tenant farmers Pennsylvania offered enormous economic opportunities. Ulster men such as James Laughlin, Thomas Mellon, and William Thaw prospered as iron makers, real estate speculators, and bankers. Subsequently, Pennsylvania became the American center of Scotch-Irish Presbyterianism. Best of all, deep in William Penn Western Woods, there were few Irish Catholics. This was an important consideration given that the Irish had never accepted military defeat at the hands of John Calvin's faithful servants. Secure and prosperous, the Scotch-Irish annually celebrated their victory over the Papists at the Battle of Boyne. By

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