Between Peasant and Urban Villager: Italian-Americans of New Jersey and New York, 1880-1980: the Structures of Counter-Discourse

By Michael J. Eula | Go to book overview

7
ITALIAN-AMERICANS AND THE AMERICAN CHURCH

We all looked at the priest. He was a man in his late forties, resolute, aggressive. . . . a laborer, Giuseppe Cautela, in 1928

The gap between the Roman Catholic Church and southern Italians continued to widen in New Jersey and New York at the end of the nineteenth century. The American church, dominated by an educated and nationalistic Irish-American clergy, wielded a-power that was not seriously challenged through 1980. 1 To the Irish-American churchman, the Catholic church was his. It was a church with strong political roots in the resistance against British imperialism in Ireland. 2 It had sustained Irish immigrants in a hostile Protestant America, serving as a central institution in the forging of a strong group identity devoid of the regionalism so prevalent among Italians. Along with the sheer numerical dominance of the Irish, there was again the issue of theological doctrine. Just as in Italy, the church in America engaged in a constant battle with popular religious forms. But the Irish-American hierarchy had no experience with the popular Catholicism

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