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

8
THE MATURING OF ITALIAN CATHOLICISM IN THE POSTWAR PERIOD

My home, which by no means was a retreat for the devout, still had its share of artifacts. We had saints all over the place, here a statue, there a painting. Jerry Della Femina, An Italian Grows in Brooklyn ( 1979)

Italian-American Catholicism, surface modifications to the contrary, did not undergo radical changes in the second half of the twentieth century. The main thrust of this religious system -- its use as a protective device by workers who perceived themselves as particularly vulnerable to the arbitrary wielding of power -- continued uninterrupted. In order to facilitate the attainment of this protection, Italian-American workers continued to see saints as powerful representatives to a mysterious and vague world beyond. Attendant rituals continued to play an important role. Not surprisingly, Protestantism and Irish Catholicism were still looked upon as incomprehensible systems emphasizing a personal path to moral absolutism which did

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