This semester instead of exploring Catholicism and its effects on politics around the city of Chicago, we’ll be conducting a research project on the topic of our choosing. I have chosen to look into the religious and cultural ties to Chicago’s Balbo Monument and the relationship it had and continues to have, on the Italian Catholic population. The monument stands on the Lakefront Trail, not too far from Soldier Field. The monument is a large column dating back to over 2000 years and came from an ancient port in Rome. The large stature has become a controversial symbol of Fascism as it was a gift from Benito Mussolini to commemorate Italo Balbo’s trans-Atlantic flight to the Century of Progress World’s Fair. The gift had fascist wording placed on the front which was later removed by the recommendation of the post-WWII ambassador to the US from Italy after Mussolini’s death.
Outside of the fascist ties through the wording on the Bablo Monument, Italo Balbo, whom the monument was honoring, was a prominent Italian Blackshirt. The Italian Blackshirts were a paramilitary wing of the National Fascist Party. To some, the monument represents the complicity the American government took place in at the beginning of fascism and Nazism before WWII broke out. Others were supportive of the gift because to them it represented growing relations between Italy and the United States.
In recent years there has been a resurgence of calls to remove the monument altogether, in response to calls for Confederate monuments to be taken down from public areas and placed in museums. Bishop Gregg Greer from Chicago stated “Chicago stands with all the communities around the country, to stay monuments have to go, especially when they represent a racist history of America” in an ABC article from 2017. Recognizing America’s racist past and tendency to be complicit in these actions around the globe have been a hot debate topic. In response, a defender of the monument in it’s standing, Lissa Druss, stated: “When Mussolini went pro-Nazi, Balbo said absolutely no way.”
Due to the new generation’s push to eliminate racist monuments from the past, there’s a growing amount of information on the topic of the Balbo Monument in Chicago’s Burnham Park. For my spring research project, I intend on using the varying research outlets that are offered throughout the city including many universities, institutions, and libraries. As this project progresses I look forward to refining my knowledge of these monuments that were once viewed as a positive relationship between two countries and how we interpret these monuments in the 21st century.
“Are you happy?” This simple and yet poignant question is what Sisters Marie Arne and Mary Campion asked Chicagoans in the politically turbulent year of 1968. Inquiring Nuns, a film by Gordon Quinn, showcased the idea of what it means to be happy from a random sampling of people. Throughout the documentary, the audience was introduced to a man who expressed his affinity for Chicago sports, a couple who were happy to have raspberries, a child who was unhappy because she was in school, and a woman crying in the Art Institute due to her newfound loneliness. This wide array of people all found happiness and unhappiness within different things. When asked why they were happy, most people responded with personal connections, but when asked why they were unhappy they responded with international or national conflicts that don’t exactly affect them directly. Interestingly enough, many people tailored their answers based on the fact that two nuns were asking them the question, as participants mentioned their religiousness, or lack thereof when answering Sisters Marie Arne and Mary Campion.
In week seven we explored the gendering of American Catholics and their politics. In Suellen Hoy’s “The Journey Out: The Recruitment and Emigration of Irish Religious Women to the United States” the importance of early waves of Irish women and their impact on American Catholicism were delved into. Hoy recognizes the crucial role the early nuns played in recruiting other young women and the importance of this ongoing cycle to uphold the Catholic role in American politics and social work. The first wave contributed to education along with the opening of “employment bureaus, houses for unwed mothers, makeshift hospitals for epidemic victims, and adult education courses for green immigrants.” (Hoy 83) Also in week seven, we examined Kathleen Bronson’s “Public Presence, Public Silence: Nuns, Bishops, and Gendered Space of Early Chicago.” She explored the role of Catholic nuns in Chicago during the Civil War. The nuns stepped outside of what a woman would do at the time and participated in the war effort by helping on the front lines and risking their lives to serve their country and fulfill their religious duty.
This semester we’ve focused on the importance of Catholicism in the foundation of the United States and moreover the significance of Catholic women in Chicago. These impressive women have contributed to the betterment of women and children in the city through social service and action, including education, orphanages, and women’s shelters. Sisters Marie Arne and Mary Campion contributed their time to this project to further understand and unpack why people are happy, which would align with their “Catholic duties.” Their selflessness is remembered fifty years after the documentary was released and their genuine interest in what makes people happy is reflective of their goodness and achieving their true religious potential through social activism and service. The readings from Hoy and Bronson both draw on the importance of early nuns and their ability to move an entire generation through education and general social service, which can be seen in the Inquiring Nuns film, making the audience ask one final question: “Am I happy?”
This week I looked through Loyola’s Women and Social Justice’s online archive and after analyzing our assigned readings the pivotal role of Catholic women stood out. Throughout the semester these women have been important to Chicago’s history and the church’s. When we toured around the city for Open House Chicago, I went to the Catholic Charities, founded in 1881, where the building served as a maternity ward, orphanage, and a place for emergency food and housing for women. While searching through the online archive I found an interesting newspaper article written about Renee Golden, a Catholic nun and social activist. Unfortunately, the database has no information on when or where this article was published, but it’s housed in Renny Golden’s Paper, a collection of documents from 1969-2003.
‘One is both walking toward a future in which there is .justice for all and walking away from things too. Every step that you take, walking away, is scary, but more and more liberating.’
Renee Golden had a unique story of activism that stemmed from her entrance into the Dominican order of nuns when she was only nineteen years old. She left her fiance and taught the first grade at the peak of the Civil Rights movement, which caused her to question her own involvement in the convent and pushed her into doing more for people on a larger scale. Golden’s goal was to “to find God among the poor,” and in order to do so, she had to “chose the street over the antiseptic and timid discipline that protected me [Golden] from the world.” Golden left the convent and returned to the West Side of Chicago to teach, but eventually decided on educating her student’s parents that hadn’t received their high school diplomas. After success in Chicago, Golden moved to Central America to assist with the troubles facing the citizens due to “the killing of thousands of peasants and organizers by the military in El Salvador.” She assisted with the creation of crisis centers in synagogues and churches for fleeing Guatemalan and Salvadoran refugees in the United States.
In 1985 Golden went to El Salvador to interview women on the front line of the resistance movement. She was inspired by their different occupations, they were “political organizers, pastoral workers, martyrs, and militants,” they were “under great risk, talking to a North American, so the narratives had to be gathered clandestinely.” After Golden’s interviews with these brave women on the front lines, she wrote a book about the resistance movement, “The Hour of the Poor, The Hour of Women” in 1991. Since then she’s published books on children in the American social welfare program and the effects it’s had on the youth. Golden, at the time of the article publication, was a professor at Northeastern Illinois University and encouraged her students to become social activists to reignite their vision of humanity.
In conclusion, Renee Golden was a woman that found her humanity within the church but understood the need to expand her knowledge to the rest of the world to ensure their own safety and education. Much like the nuns that founded the Catholic Charities in 1881, they expanded their humanity to the women within the community to secure their futures.
Hamburg, Gail Vida. “Golden- ‘A Quest for Justice’” Feminism in Chicago: Connie Kiosse, content.library.luc.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/coll7/id/17/rec/5.
In the United States in the 1960s some of the most important movements were going on and with the help of the country’s first Catholic President running for office, the barriers seemed to be breaking even further. John F. Kennedy would’ve been incredibly shunned only 40 years prior due to his Catholic identity. While American Catholics were happy with JFK’s election bid, people practicing other religions weren’t. Retrospectively, we’re able to see that his speeches given to many different churches, including Protestant, helped win the Presidency. In a piece published in 1960, the American people were asked about their voting preferences and looking back at their reactions to a Catholic candidate is astounding and expected all at once. One of the first ideas that the article brings to light is that Kennedy’s Catholicism will make a difference in the upcoming election. Other worries included Kennedy’s “mushrooming” or the idea that he grew politically too fast. After looking through the article published by Stewart Alsop in the Saturday Evening Post, it’s clear that hostilities towards Catholics were still prevalent and still a deciding factor for many. While we like to agree that anti-Catholic sentient has somewhat come to a halt in American politics, Mitt Romney was the target in the 2012 Presidential election for his Mormon beliefs. While he gained quite a bit of momentum, he also received endless pushback from the American people for his religious affiliation. In conclusion, Alsop’s Saturday Evening Post publication, “Nixon or Kennedy?”, made clear that anti-Catholicism was a deciding factor in which person the American people were going to vote for.
During the Behind the Tweets event on Wednesday night, four panelists brought their ideas about the midterm into the light and Dr. Michael Murphy specifically discussed the Catholic vote. He began by attempting to understand the difficulty Catholics feel when it comes to politics because of the 50/50 split. Dr. Murphy explained the idea of humanism being attached to American liberalism which includes equality, rights, and virtue which then stands for the idea of tribalism that both Americans and Catholics feel. Catholics trying to decide if they should vote with their religion in mind, which may be supporting Trump, or identifying with their American identity and voting for what’s best for all people in the nation. Dr. Murphy ended with a list containing how Catholics should vote based on the teachings of the Bible. They were life and dignity, call to family and community, honoring of rights and responsibilities, preference to protect the poor and vulnerable, right of workers, solidarity over nationalism, and care of all of God’s creations. While I agreed with Dr. Murphy on the idea of Catholics having to choose between which identity to choose in the voting booth, I feel as if a lot of people don’t believe they need to choose and remain complicit in the horrors this administration is allowing. While 50% voted Democratically, another 49% still voted Republican, which in most states meant going against the 7 ideals that he presented so proudly. While it’s nice to accommodate both sides, in this political climate it’s nearly impossible to do so. If one side is attempting to dehumanize people seeking asylum, putting children in cages, and refuses to condemn Neo-Nazis marching through Charlottesville, and you, as a Catholic, are stuck in the middle, there needs to be some better reflection on the ideals that you practice and attempt to show to others.
In conclusion, while this was a short blog it was not a short election cycle, this election brought new, fresh faces into Congress who are eager to make changes throughout the country. NBC has stated that this year’s Congress reflects the American people more than it ever has in the past, which is a refreshing turn after the past two years under Trump. While we still have a long way to go this election was a reminder that the American people have not lost hope and are eager to fix what’s been broken in this country for so long. Even though the Catholic vote was 50/50, seeing the change from the 2010 and 2014 elections show progress within the church, which can be most noted by Ben Johnson at the Behind the Tweet event, where he credited Pope Francis for focusing on issues other than abortion and instead on the nativist politics that have stained the world.
The Catholic vote is one that is epically undefinable because of the historically ethnically diverse Catholic population. While contemporarily Catholics are believed to be rich white men due to Trump’s following, they have a past history of campaigning through their religious beliefs. In our readings, Samuel A. Mills and William Blake describe the importance of the Supreme Court and their religious affiliations and Patrick Allitt and Colleen Doody both bring insight to the beginnings of Catholic conservatism. After attending Milles Co-Op Bookstore event in Hyde Park, the idea of divides within the Catholic left and right became more prevalent.
In William Blake’s “God Save This Honorable Court: Religion as a Source of Judicial Policy Preferences,” he explains the importance of the Supreme Court’s religious preferences. Blake opens by explaining the role of the Supreme Court in the United State’s as being the worldview of the country, which is comparable to scripture in the Catholic church. (814) The data Blake collected shows that religion is important in judicial policy preferences, even when the justice is unaware of the side they’re choosing. (822) In Samuel A. Mills’ “Parochiaid and the Abortion Decisions: Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. versus the U.S. Catholic Hierarchy,” he puts a spotlight on the unique politics of Justice William J. Brennan, who chose between Constitutional relevancy and the leadership of Catholic clergymen. Mills focused on the two most relevant cases where Justice Brennan went against the Catholic Church, abortion and aid to parochial schools. (772) Mills compares Brennan’s ideals with New York Governor Mario Cuomo’s, where he personally doesn’t support abortion, but votes in the best interest of the people and therefore the legality of abortion carries on. Although, after his retirement in 1990 Brennan showed no remorse when asked if he would’ve voted differently stating “Hell no…I never thought I was wrong.” (773) Mills concluded with praising Brennan for standing up to the church and voting based on what the people of the United States would benefit the most from. After visiting the Seminary Co-Op Bookstore field trip to see Milles discuss his book “Good Intentions: A History of Catholic Voters’ Road from Roe to Trump,” the ideas presented by Mills and Doody came together even more. Milles discussed the division of the Catholic church and political activism caused by the Roe v. Wade decision. The cracks are seen due to the inability to separate political and religious beliefs, which led to a confusion among Catholic voters on which side is more “correct.”
In Colleen Doody’s, “Detroit’s Cold War: The Origins of Postwar Conservatism,” she presents the formation of Catholic participation in the conservative party. Doody explains that Detroit Polish Catholics came together to band against anti-communism in the United States during the Red Scare. While the Catholic church had support with their anti-communism when the Cold War began the church’s beliefs were better received, as they were seen as “true defenders of ‘Americanism.'” (92) Doody explains the idea of ‘Americanism’ as a “return to timeless values,” which meant turning against the New Deal and essentially the Democratic party, making them Republican. In Patrick Allitt’s, “American Catholics and the New Conservatism of the 1950s,” he showcases the origins of Catholic conservatism through Goldwater, who won the 1964 Republican ticket for president. The nomination is viewed as a victory because it was the first time conservative ideology was seen in an American political party. (36) Allitt explains that after Goldwater’s victory, even though he didn’t win the election, the conservative party gained momentum through the “Vietnam War, black militancy, and urban riots.” (37) Additionally, the importance of religion for “social stability and political resolution” was seen when the party attracted a larger following. Allitt concludes that the conservative party was majorly controlled by Catholics in the 1950s, but changed to evangelical Protestants by the 1970s and 80s.
To conclude, after visiting the Co-Op bookstore and reading the ideas presented by Mills, Milles, Doody, Blake, and Allitt it’s easy to understand where the confusion and frustration with overlapping of political and religious beliefs start. Ultimately, I agree with the explanations given by each scholars’ interpretations of the Catholic conservative struggle. As the midterms are coming up in only two days, it’s important for every person to vote and decide on which side they want to vote with: their religious beliefs or personal beliefs, which can easily be on opposite sides. While it’s a tough decision for many devoutly religious and politically active people in the United States, it’s absolutely necessary that each person votes to make their voice heard on November 6th!
This week our class was mixed with Chicago Open House, one of the best events the city offers. For this two day event, buildings around the city open up for visitors to freely walk through. All of the buildings are historically significant and represent a specific time in the city’s past. While exploring around Chicago with Spencer and Sydney, we started to notice a multitude of similarities and differences based on the area we were in, what kind of building we were looking at, and the time that it was built. Because I’m taking another class based on Chicago’s metropolitan architecture, looking at these seemingly mundane buildings from the outside was even more interesting.
The first place we went to was the Holy Name Cathedral in the Gold Coast. We were amazed by the entire structure of the building. The outside of the building was created using concrete from Elgin, a neighboring suburb an hour away, in 1874 when it was opened to the city after the original was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1871. The church is meant to carry the motif of the “tree of life” in the building, seen with the heavy wood usage throughout the structure. The high arched ceiling was made to resemble the inside of a ship, the dark wood with the golden accents, the marble columns, and the stained glass all came together to give the church a “holy feel,” as as if anyone that came in through the doors would be blessed with the building’s beauty.
Our second location was City Hall, which I was extremely excited for. City Hall was finished in 1911 and the structure is reminiscent of the classical revival period the building was constructed in, to pay homage to the Columbian Exposition in 1893. When we first walked into the building the decorations had a vintage feel to them, which ended up being carried throughout the building. When we got up to the third floor there was a large mural showcasing the city’s past and present skyline. The mural is appropriately named Chicago Architecture by the artist, Richard Haas. There were then different plaques giving small historical background on City Hall, where Richard Daley was mentioned in almost every single one. After following through the rest of the floor, we were lead back to the City Council Chambers, where I lived my Leslie Knope dreams. I was actually surprised by the amount of excitement I felt when we walked into the Chambers. After walking back through the doors and out onto the street, I was overwhelmed by the amount of history that has taken place in that building, and perplexed by the amount of history that could be taking place in the future.
Our third stop was the Catholic Charities in the Gold Coast. The first thing I noticed was the bench, where there a sculpture of Jesus asleep, and I thought it was a person at first. When we walked inside the building it was much smaller than it looked from the outside, but as we walked up to the chapel it became clear that it was in fact very large. The building has an impressive history of being a maternity ward for single mothers, day care, a home for the sick, and a place for emergency food and housing. The chapel was on the fifth floor, which I didn’t think of the significance of until a woman leading the tour said it was because the chapel was meant for the people inside building. The chapel was small, but there was an obvious sense of community you could feel by just walking in. The interior was mostly red with gold accents, which was absolutely beautiful, and one of the first times I had seen red used throughout the entire chapel.
Our fourth stop was St. Stanislaus in West Town, when we finally arrived after a 45 minute bus ride, I realized I had never been to this area before, which made it even more exciting. After getting off the bus and walking a couple of blocks, we seemingly stumbled upon one of the most beautiful churches I had ever seen. After a quick Google search I found that St. Stanislaus and Holy Name Cathedral were both designed by Patrick Keely, and I was able to see similar motifs and integrated decorations throughout the church. The first thing we noticed when we walked in was the beautiful white and gold alter at the end of the aisle. The designs were extremely intricate and tied the entire room together. The stained glass was extremely impressive, which then drew your eyes to the ceiling where there were more green colored accents than there were in any other parish. Additionally, there’s a sign outside of the church with the mass schedule and shows that the masses are given in three different languages: English, Polish, and Spanish.
Our fifth and final stop took us back past City Hall and to St. Peter’s. The first thing we noticed was the giant sculpture of a crucified Jesus outside of the church. When we walked in the cathedral was smaller than the other’s we had seen, but it was still a relatively large area. When we walked into the chapel, there was white Jesus, which contrasted very nice with the amount of bronze and brown throughout the room. This was also the only church where the fountain of Holy Water was at the entrance of the parish.
After the day ended, I was surprised by the information I had learned and the amount of the city I was able to see in a single day. When we discussed our readings the next day in class it was seemingly difficult to pull the open house and the readings together, but it seems that politics remain local if a person’s roots are attached to something locally. For instance, if someone is very religious and their life takes place in a local parish, their politics are more likely to follow what their other local parish-goers agree with. When exploring Chicago’s politics, there are further distinctions because of the history the city has with churches and politics. While there are many ethnicities in the city, there is a large Irish population because they established Chicago. When the Irish got to New York and Boston, the cultures for those cities were already established, but because Chicago was a newer city, the culture was waiting to be universally formed by a large group.
In John D. Buenker’s Dynamics of Chicago Ethnic Politics, he explains the importance of the Irish as a large ethnic group in the formation of Chicago politics. Buenker emphasizes on the importance of coalitions for ethnic minorities to find a voice in a upcoming metropolitan area. The example he gives focuses around the anti-prohibition coalition, which was lead by the Irish and followed by German, Slavic, Italian, Polish, etc. groups to come together as a group of over 200,000 people. Because the Irish were seen as the ideal/average immigrant, their persuasion over newer immigrants was pivotal in the formation of a new political machine. These ideas show that politics remain local because of the influence based on who’s around to promote the ideas, but it’s important to note that it’s easier to keep politics local when there’s no social media, or easy access to a plethora of information. Additionally, it’s important to note that the politics in Chicago remained neighborhood-ized because ethnic minorities lived in the same area and were taught to believe the same things. In Patrick D. Kennedy’s Chicago Irish Americans, he includes the difficulty of Irish American Democrats on whether or not to endorse Roosevelt because of his anti-machine beliefs, which directly contrasted the politics in Chicago.
In modern day, it’s more difficult to keep political beliefs local because of our ability to find any piece of information with a couple Google searches and a spare ten seconds. Additionally, after growing up in Illinois my entire life in a post Daley, Blagojevich, and Rauner state there’s a general mistrust of politicians. Also it’s difficult to get the rest of the state to vote in presidential elections because we’re aware that Chicago will always vote Democrat, and therefore we end up being a blue state (which isn’t a bad thing, go Obama!) When it comes to voting in local elections it’s difficult, especially for younger people who are in college and aren’t in their home state. While there are some young people who care for their local politics, it’s difficult to get them to vote for smaller positions because they don’t believe it will have an affect on them, whereas in national or state-wide elections it’s easier to be able to see the direct outcome of having different politically affiliated candidates in office (ie: the jump from President Obama to Trump).