The Party Or The Pope: Montana Catholics In The Age Of McCarthyism

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Barnhardt, Karen
Robert Archibald
Rev. Jeremiah Sullivan
Fr. James McCarthy
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The Party Or The Pope: Montana Catholics In The Age Of McCarthyism
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Catholics are believed to be the most ardent supporters of anti-Communism and McCarthyism. American Catholics had long been questioned about their loyalty to the United States as many people had misgivings about Catholic allegiance to the Pope in Rome. The Catholic Church had always been opposed to the institution of Communism because of its atheistic teachings. Father Donald F. Crosby concluded, Long before the Cold War years, Catholics stood in the vanguard of those dedicated to eradication of Communism. In the McCarthy era, this impulse reached its zenith, for true Americanism and true Catholicism both found a common base in the drive against the Communists, and what was more verifiably anti-Communist than McCarthyism.7 Crosby touched on an important concept of Catholicism in the United States. American Catholics had discovered in anti-Communism a means of identifying themselves with the greater American society. David O'Brien stated, "In fighting the red peril the Catholic could dedicate himself to action which was both Catholic and American. Few would disagree that he was proving his worth as an American and demonstrating the compatibility of faith and patriotism."® Anti-Communism within the Catholic community found reinforcement in the secular anti-Communism of American political culture. Catholic leaders successfully combined these elements into a concoction that excited the emotions of Catholics for years to come. In Montana, the Republican Party employed McCarthy-like tactics in an attempt either to unseat or to discredit Democratic candidates. Evidence of these methods is easily discernable in the 1952 and 1954 senatorial elections. For the most part, these tactics did not affect Montana voters in a positive manner. Catholics in the state seemed to share the same reaction. Although just as anti-Communist as their fellow Catholics across the nation, the Catholic community in Montana, as a whole, still supported the party they had always traditionally supported-the Democratic Party. Despite the war McCarthy waged the Truman Administration, the State Department, and liberals everywhere, Montana Catholics valued partisanship over the prevailing cloud of anti-Communist hysteria.
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