American Catholicism and Social Action: A Search for Social Justice, 1865-1950

American Catholicism and Social Action: A Search for Social Justice, 1865-1950

American Catholicism and Social Action: A Search for Social Justice, 1865-1950

American Catholicism and Social Action: A Search for Social Justice, 1865-1950

Excerpt

The pages that follow present the Roman Catholic contribution to the social justice movement in the United States. Since by common consent the contribution has been an impressive one, especially in recent years, the time has come to recount the story of its genesis and development. No study to date has attempted to give a general description or interpretative synthesis of the Catholic social movement in its entirety. Although a few excellent monographs have been written on various phases of Catholic social thought and action, these studies cover only a small part of the field and, with an exception or two, do not employ the social justice approach; that is, they do not view human welfare in its social aspects as a mutual sharing of burdens and benefits by interrelated persons, groups, and public authorities.

I have endeavored to tell the story of Catholic social reform in its integral fullness, somewhat on the model of my study, The Urban Impact on American Protestantism, 1865-1900, Harvard Historical Studies, LIV (Cambridge, 1943). As in that book, so also in the present volume, I try to make the reader constantly aware of the dynamic interplay of "charity" or social service, labor association, and state action as the great propulsive influences in social reform. As chiefly wage-earning immigrants, American Catholics displayed many radical tendencies on the industrial front. This fact presented the Church with a double problem: how, on the one hand, to champion the cause of the poor without endangering the public interest or the common good, and, on the other, how to oppose socialism without negating or ignoring the claims of social reform. The ways in which Catholicism attempted to meet this ever present challenge form the major theme of this essay. Only less important is the theme of Americanization in Catholic thought and action. As a religious minority against which opposition was easily aroused, American Catholics were ever obliged to appease public opinion. To this end, Catholic . . .

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