The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
The Catholic mafia in America
Jacobs goes on (p79) to give a flavour of the Catholic political sway in the US during the 1950s:
With strength in numbers, improved schooling, and crescendoing economic power came political clout. The Catholic grip on local political machinery in some states, notably Connecticut, was nearly absolute. By 1960, twelve Catholic senators and nine-one representatives served in Congress - a representation greater than American Catholics had achieved previously, albeit one in proportion to their numbers. In terms of orientation on the left-right political spectrum, Catholic legislators ranged between two McCarthys, Eugene on the left and Joseph on the right, most tending to cluster the conservative pole. Even liberal cold war congressmen like John F Kennedy and Mike Mansfield were spirited in their hawkishness, while Senator Patrick McCarran of Nevada frequently out-McCartheyed McCarthy in his red-hunting exertions and in the Internal Security Act of 1950 that bore his name.
...Charles Morris notes, "[b]y the 1950s, the Catholic Church was the country's dominant cultural force. No other institution could match its impact on politics, unions, movies, or even popular kitsch." Books with explicitly Catholic themes like Francis Spellman's The Foundling and Thomas Merton's The Seven Storey Mountain numbered among the biggest best-sellers of the fifties. Red Foley's song "Our Lady of Fatima" made the Hit Parade in 1950 and was recorded a dozen times throughout the remainder of the decade by artists as diverse as the Ray Charles Singers and Andy Williams. In 1959, the Catholic Press Association reported a record total of over twenty-four million subscribers to 580 Catholic newspapers in the United States. That same year, more than 150 radio stations carried "The Catholic Hour" to an estimated four million listeners. Bishop Fulton Sheen's "Life Is Worth Living" series not only captured the largest television audience of the mi-1950s, with over thirty million viewers per week, but also won every major TV award, many of them several times...hugely popular television personalities - Jackie Gleason, Ed Sullivan, and Perry Como, to name but three - made no effort to disguise their identity as Catholics, as they might have in an earlier time; on the contrary, they spoke openly of their devotion to the Church. Depictions of Catholic priests and nuns in the movies were overwhelmingly favorable, in sharp contrast to the brutish interpretations set forth in films from the thirties like Little Caesar and Public Enemy. Significantly, the Hollywood Catholic priest of the cold war era was a virile figure, prepared to back up his principles with his fists. In the film On the Waterfront (1954), Karl Malden's Father Barry flattened a form prizefighter. After viewing this multiple Academy Award-wining movie, Marty noted, "Catholicism tends to dominate the mass media."
Sez Jacobs, at least. Is his analysis representative, and not cherry-picked?
Not sure. For instance, on the change between the pre-war and Cold War movie priest, which unfortunate who has sat through Boy's Town fails to note that the Spencer Tracy character gets a pretty good angle? And Bing Crosby in Going My Way is not exactly a cipher. (Though neither resorts to physical violence, as I recall.)
And what about the unions? How did left-footers get on in the Communist-dominated CIO in its breakthrough years in the Popular Front period?
As for favouring the dictators, what part did national origin, as distinct from religion, play in this? Italians supporting Musso, Germans - plenty of whom who have been Catholics - backing Hitler as a badge of community identity?
As for the Irish, they might  well have viewed the UK as a likely target of Hitler's aggression, and supported him on the old ground that England's difficulty is Ireland's opportunity.
free website counter