What Catholic Ghetto?

A standard reply of “progressives” and many “conservatives” to traditionalists and/or to those of us who say we should be at least a little less “in the world” and a little less “of the world”:
“You don’t want us to return to the Catholic ghetto, do you?”

What did the “Catholic ghetto” give us?
First, Catholic families lived close together and supported each other. You could walk to Mass at your local neighborhood parish. You had a whole community of neighbors and extended families to help when times were tough. One man’s “ghetto” is another man’s Jeffersonian “homogeneous community”.

But the “Catholic ghetto” comment is used to raise the spectre of “anti-Catholicism,” of lack of acceptance in pluralistic American society. . . .

Were we really that “outcast?”

Let’s look at movies (I’m watching Going My Way as I write this):

Let’s start with directors. Frank Capra and Alfred Hitchcock were both Catholics, whose films tend to see the world from a Catholic lens (Capra’s from an optimistic Catholic lens; Hitchcock’s a pessimistic one, but both are Catholic). Highlights include It’s a Wonderful Life (Capra) and I Confess (Hitchcock)

The movies:
The Song of Bernadette (1943)
The Sign of the Cross (1932)
The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
A Man for All Seasons (1966)
The Miracle Worker (1962)
Going My Way (1944)
Diary of a Country Priest (1950).
Angels with Dirty Faces (1938).

The Bells of St Mary’s (1945)
The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima
The Miracle of Marcelino (1955)
Lilies of the Field (1963)
The Robe (1953)
Becket (1964)
The Keys of the Kingdom (1944)
Quo Vadis (1951)
The Trouble with Angels (1956)
Joan of Arc (1948)
Angels in the Outfield (1951)
Come to the Stable (1949)
The Miracle of the Bells (1948)
Francis of Assisi (1961)
The Flowers of St. Francis (1950)
The Detective (1954)

Let’s not forget all the biblical epics and Christian films that weren’t specifically “Catholic.”
Now, granted, researching this article, I was shocked at how many good Catholic films really have been made in the past few decades.

But we got all those films accomplished in the time when Catholics were supposedly second-class citizens and social outcasts, and these were mainstream major motion pictures, many of which are popular today. Also, their *view* of Catholicism is very optimistic, and they’re often films about priests and nuns who are very saintly and trust in Providence.

Then there were the TV series: Fulton Sheen’s Life is Worth Living, Fr. Peyton’s Catholic Family Theatre, and The Catholic Hour.

Celebrities: Danny Thomas, Bing Crosby, Loretta Young, Jane Wyman, and so on. .. . . They weren’t always exactly super Catholics, but much better than most “Catholic” celebrities today.

And the popular music: not only were many of the top performers practicing Catholics, but you had non-Catholic singers like Andy Williams and Johnny Mathis singing “Ave Maria,” and songs about the Rosary and St. Bernadette.

So, why exactly were things so bad?

4 responses to “What Catholic Ghetto?

  1. Great article! BTW, you just laid out my Netflix queue for the next three months or so!

  2. Theodore Seeber

    Here’s the problem as I see it.

    “In the world, not of the world”: We have to be really careful with it. The contemplative life should lead to charity- should lead to involvement IN the world, despite not being of the world.

    All to often in this culture of death and debt, this Protestant Heresy of Americanism, it leads to a callous disregard for the poor instead.

    As you say, though, true conservative Catholics aren’t disconnected from the world- they’re IN the world fully. Just not of it.

    • Again, as I often point out, the Legion of Decency, which, for a time, basically ran Hollywood and was the infamous “Censors”, was a Catholic organization, later merging with the various organizations that became the USCC, which later merged with the NCCB, and is now the milquetoast USCCB Film Review Office–and of course notoriously endorsed _Brokeback Mountain_ a few years back.

  3. Well, charity is one thing. Getting involved with all the world’s busy-ness, activities, entertainments, conspicuous consumption, etc., and compromising values to “get along” and “assimilate” is the epitome of “being of the world.”

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