Catholics and the Politics of Citizenship

Immigration and citizenship have been large and controversial topics in the news recently because of Donald Trump’s separation of immigrant children and their parents at the borders.  Months later there are still children that have yet to be reunited with their parents.  Catholics and all other people in this situation are not being treated as full citizens.  Many of these families are of Catholic decent, stated in the article “A closer look at Catholic America” by Michael Lipka, 27% of Catholics in America were born outside of the United States and 15% of Catholics in America have one parent born outside of the country.  The population of Hispanic Catholics has grown in the past 5 years from 29% to 34% and it is not suppose to stop there.  This growth will effect the Catholic vote, especially in the upcoming midterm election.

When more than three  million Irish immigrated to the United States in a span of fifty years, everywhere you went you ran into an Irish person.  Growing up in a Irish neighborhood, I know what this feels like.  For a long time I thought all people were Irish people.  My teachers were Irish, my friends were Irish, my priest was even Irish.  When I found out times were very difficult for my ancestors when the first came to the States after the potato famine, I really couldn’t believe it.  But Irish in America faced problems even before the famine.  In the 1830’s Protestant gangs would demonize the Irish Catholic neighborhoods by starting fires on homes and Catholic churches.  In James Barrett’s book The Irish Way, he said that derogatory terms like “celtic mind” “Irish nature” and “Irishism” were used against the Irish.  They often times had hard working and low paying jobs and many times worked alongside African Americans.  Irish Catholics in the 1800’s felt the same discrimination African Americans faced.  I do believe the reason John and Bobby Kennedy did so much for African American’s during the civil rights movement was because of their Irish heritage and experiencing discrimination themselves.  I think that JFK and Lyndon B Johnson’s Civil Rights Act of 1964 which “ended segregation in public places and banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin” ( had a large impact on how citizens treated citizens of different religions.



During this time many immigrants stayed in Jane Addam’s Hull House.  The first picture in my collage.  Many Catholics, back then and still today, joined unions to gain worker’s rights.  There are still many Irish Catholic men and women on the Northwest side of Chicago and the whole city that join unions right out of high school.    From the 1800’s to today it seems treatment of Catholics has not changes much, however I do not think their Religion is the man influencer on how they are treated.  I think their ethnicity is the main influencer.  By this I mean that Irish were not treated unethically because they were Catholic, they were treated unethically because they were Irish.  In my opinion people become full citizens of the United States when they are granted the right to vote.  This is a different time for different groups of people, African Americans got the right to vote in 1965 and women got the right to vote in 1918.

An Introduction to Catholics in America Politics


When I found out the topic of this years Ramonat Seminar I immediately wanted to apply.  I grew up in an Irish Catholic household on the Northwest side of Chicago.  I am the duaghter of a small business owner and grandaughter of a former Chicago police officer.  I also attended Catholic school most of my life, including an all girls catholic high school in the north suburbs of Chicago, gradudating with only 68 other girls.  At Regina Dominican I fell in love with American history so I believe this topic is perfect for me.

With the amount of school shooting and gun violence that has plauged this country these past few years I believe that gun control and the second amendment are important topics in politics.  Immigration has also shown up in the news after Trump seperated families at the border and more recently with the Mollie Tibbetts case.

There are many political issues from the past that are still present today, such as abortion and war.   Workers’ rights and childrens’ rights have also came up in politics in the past.  Catholics vote with morals.  For example they most times will vote for a pro life candidate because of the moral questions that come with abortion.  As for gun control Catholics tend to side with stricter gun control because of the amount of gun related murders in recent years.  The Catholic church even has a set of standards for just war.

I am very intersed in Catholics in politics and I am very excited to learn more about it and to see where my research takes me.


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