GOD, CHURCH, AND FLAG: Senator Joseph R. McCarthy and the Catholic Church, 1950-1957 by Donald F. Crosby

GOD, CHURCH, AND FLAG: Senator Joseph R. McCarthy and the Catholic Church, 1950-1957

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The author, a Jesuit priest and assistant professor of history, is among those closely re-examining post-1945 American anti-Communism in general and ""McCarthyism"" in particular. Here, each incident contributing to McCarthy's rise is found to be devoid of influence from Church leaders; no evidence proves, moreover, that Catholics voted for McCarthy and his supporters, or against his foes, in disproportionate numbers. Crosby is most effective separating the Wisconsin Republican's specific actions from church or Catholic associations; there is, for example, no substance to the oft-told tale of Father Edmund Walsh persuading McCarthy in January 1950 that exploiting anti-Communism would salvage his political career. McCarthy's own Catholicism bore no relationship to his politics, he also demonstrates: McCarthy was a ""Sunday Catholic"" who knew little church doctrine and derived no notions from Cardinal Spellman, et al. Unfortunately, all of Crosby's effort is not so tightly argued. His attempt to calculate Catholic electoral support for McCarthy and his followers is weakened by primitive data analysis and the absence of original measurements (he settles instead for the crude surveys of 1950s observers like Louis Bean). Though Crosby shows the insignificance of Catholic voter ties to McCarthyism, he fails to do so in anything approaching a systematic, conclusive manner. The balance of the book is flawed by jarring inclusions and exclusions. Crosby writes extensively on the liberal editors of Commonweal and America, who represented only a very small segment of Catholic opinion. John F. Kennedy's passive stance on McCarthy's activities receives a long treatment, yet Kennedy was only one of eight Roman Catholics in the Senate in 1954. Repetitions and defensiveness also render the work wearisome. Although Crosby largely succeeds in clearing Catholics of responsibility for perpetuating a domestic wave of terror, this is not the thoroughgoing study of McCarthyism and religiosity that it might have been.

Pub Date: June 5th, 1978
Publisher: Univ. of North Carolina Press