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Catholic Studies | Political History | United States History


The chapter opens with a discussion of the Great Railroad Strike of 1877 in which questions regarding the social order, class, equity, and like matters arise. The coincidental arrival in Indianapolis of Denis Kearney and the new bishop of the diocese, Francis Silas Chatard, on 17 August 1878, extends the discussion and the role that the Catholic Church and its laity would and should play. Kearney, an immigrant Irishman, at the time was notorious as an agitator for the working class, while the Chatard was a scion of a prominent Baltimore family. The contrast in their biographies and in the reception in the city each received in the next few days illustrates the alternatives at stake. What each thought the laity owed the hierarchy as well as their convictions about the social order were miles apart. Chatard’s family and educational history is discussed, especially the influence that a papal representative to the United States in the 1850s, Gaetano Bedini, had on his thinking. The attention given to the Irish is justified on the ground that during the Gilded Age and later, their numbers led to the habit of conflating “Irish” with “Catholic,” ordinarily to the benefit of neither. Their prominence in the trade union movement and in the secret societies working for Ireland’s independence (to be taken up in the next chapter), and the problems they caused Chatard, are other reasons.


Copyright 2017 William Doherty.


William Doherty is Professor Emeritus within the Department of History and Social Sciences, teaching from the Fall of 1963 to December 2000.