Title

State of faith : Irish-Catholic Church hierarchy of New Jersey and reactions to civil government initiatives, 1946-1962.

Date of Award

5-1-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

School

Caspersen School of Graduate Studies

Degree Name

Doctor of Letters

Abstract

This dissertation focuses on the dynamics of church and state relations in New Jersey during the mid-twentieth century as it relates to the complex and varied aspects of secularism. At this time, the lure of material rewards, expanded opportunities, and broader awareness of society outside of the Roman Catholic Church, and other challenged traditional devotion and sacrifice for a new generation of Americans who had survived the Great Depression and World War II years. American Catholic assimilation, especially among those of Irish extraction within American society, took on greater stature during the mid-twentieth century. New Jersey in particular became a microcosm of the American democratic experience, as evidenced in a wide range of civil government programs such as the GI Bill, suburbanization, and a boom in white collar employment. If not overtly found during the working week and not named explicitly as a motive for political action, religious influence often permeated policy matters, whether commercial, judicial or educational in origin. This study looks at how the bishops of New Jersey attempted to curtail the intrusion of governmental initiatives into Church-related matters, and in what manner they were able to co-exist with their secular counterparts in cases where their moral and spiritual arguments were frequently ignored. In response to the hierarchy, clashes of conscience sometimes occurred whenever secular and sacred leaders had to work around and with each other in various ways. These factors contributed to the long-standing American debate over how church and state are reconciled. This will be illustrated through study of the Games of Chance Bill (1953) involving legalized bingo contests; Sunday closings, or "Blue Laws" (1959); and the Seton Hall Medical School experiment (1956-65). The final section will center upon the election and governorship of Richard J. Hughes who became the first Irish-Catholic chief executive in New Jersey history and the state of New Jersey Catholics as they went through a transition in worship in the wake of the Second Vatican Council during the 1960s, and what Church reforms would carry into the present day for the hierarchy and laity alike.