American -- Archbishop Corrigan and the Italian Immigrants by Stephen Michael DiGiovanni

By D Agostino, Peter R. | The Catholic Historical Review, April 1996 | Go to article overview

American -- Archbishop Corrigan and the Italian Immigrants by Stephen Michael DiGiovanni


D Agostino, Peter R., The Catholic Historical Review


Archbishop Corrigan and the Italian Immigrants. By Stephen Michael DiGiovanni. (Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division. 1994. Pp. ix, 272. Paperback.)

In this study of Italian newcomers to New York during the episcopate of Archbishop Michael A. Corrigan (1885-1902), Stephen DiGiovanni contributes to a balanced understanding of the encounter between Italians and the American Church. Mining the archives of Propaganda Fide, the Apostolic Delegate, male and female religious congregations, and the Archdiocese of New York, DiGiovanni reveals the international dynamics of pastoral care for Italians. The result is not a social history of Italians, a diocesan history, nor a biography, but the story of "the formulation of a general project in favor of the Catholic Italian immigrants by the Church authorities in Rome, to the administrative and practical applications of that project in the Archdiocese of New York" (p. 13).

Three themes dominate DiGiovanni's narrative. First, DiGiovanni is persuasive in his argument that the Holy See intended to promote neither European nationalisms nor a coercive program of Americanization within the American Church. DiGiovanni interprets this ethnic neutrality to indicate that the Vatican was inspired solely by the "desire to preserve

the immigrants'

Catholic faith and to work for the salvation of souls" (p. 63). Nevertheless, if neutral with regard to ethnicity in America, the Vatican's pastoral program was developed within the context of an uncompromising struggle against the modern Italy. DiGiovanni maps out this ecclesiopolitical context but backs away from its full implications: "the fact that Leo XIII singled out the Italians for special assistance may have had ties to the entire Roman Question. The fact that the Italians were in the worst condition of all other immigrant groups, however, must be been as the basic motivating force for the Church's efforts on their behalf" (p. 66).

Second, DiGiovanni claims that "only the padroni

Italian labor bosses

and the priest had any lasting effect on the lives of the Italians in America" (p. …

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