Roman Catholicism and the American Way of Life

By Thomas T. McAvoy | Go to book overview

RAYMOND F. COUR, C.S.C.*


VIII. Catholics and Church-State Relations in America

Finley Peter Dunne's unforgettable character, Mr. Dooley, was once asked the question: "Are you a Roman Catholic?" His immediate and emphatic reply was: "No. Thank God, I am a Chicago Catholic." Surely by these words this transplanted fountain of Irish wisdom intended no offense to the Holy See or to the Eternal City or to the homeland of his imbibing and philosophizing acquaintances of Italian ancestry on Archey Road. He was merely expressing a preference for membership in the Catholic Church combined with the general spirit and mode of life of the great Midwestern metropolis on the banks of Lake Michigan.

States differ from one another not solely or even principally because of climate or geography or even governmental forms. They differ chiefly in the general spirit and characteristics of the people who compose them, the men and women whose ideals and aspirations beget and inform their social and political institutions. The joining of the words, Chicago and Catholic, or, more broadly, to fit the theme of the symposium, American and Catholic, introduces one of our social and political institutions -- our system of relations between Church and State. What is the American system of Church - State relations which is the object of Mr. Dooley's preference? Would his views receive a sympathetic hearing from his fellow Catholic laymen, from the American hierarchy, and from the popes of this century? These are the questions which this paper will treat and in a modest way endeavor to answer.

Perhaps a key to the answer to the question, What is the American

____________________
*
Father Raymond Cour, C.S.C., is Assistant Professor of Political Science in the University of Notre Dame.

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