Nationalizing American Catholicism: Irish Power, French Canadians, and the New England Language Wars, 1853-1936

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Pingeon, Maxwell, Religious Studies - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Hedstrom, Matthew, AS-Religious Studies (RELI), University of Virginia

Nationalizing American Catholicism depicts the ethnic conflict between French-speaking Canadian migrants to New England and their Irish-American bishops in the late nineteenth, early twentieth centuries. Since 1853, certain high-ranking members of the Vatican diplomatic corps determined that to advance Catholicism in a majority-Protestant country, Catholics needed to downplay their foreignness and gradually abandon their language identity. That assimilationist agenda was adopted by an "Americanist" faction within the episcopacy who clashed with French-Canadians and other foreign language Catholics in multilingual enclaves such as New England. Between 1865 and 1930, French Canadians migrated to New England in such large numbers that they became either the largest, or the second largest, demographic group, after the Irish, in the mill towns of the six New England states. Proximity to Quebec and its considerable clerical resources facilitated a prodigious expansion of French-speaking educational institutions, press organs, and national societies. An active French-Canadian laity routinely contested the assimilative designs of their Irish-American, Americanizing bishops by countless appeals, petitions, and delegations to Rome, hoping the Holy See would honor their vision of multilingual and multicultural Catholicism. Instead, the Vatican chose to unify and homogenize the faith through mediating Americanist institutions such as the National Catholic Welfare Conference. That assembly of bishops created not only a powerful American episcopacy, it also served as a sophisticated communications and lobbying agency that projected Catholics into the heart of American policy-making during the New Deal period.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
American Catholicism , French Canadian Catholicism , Americanism, French Catholicism in North America, Franco-American, Franco-American Catholicism
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