The Archivist’s Nook: Stirring the Irish Cauldron

“The Cork Landlords Stirring up a Devil’s Cauldron.” United Ireland, October 3, 1885. From the Irish Home Rule Political Cartoon Collection, American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.
“The Cork Landlords Stirring up a Devil’s Cauldron.” United Ireland, October 3, 1885. From the Irish Home Rule Political Cartoon Collection, American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

This week’s post is guest authored by Marielle Gage, a CUA graduate student in History.

Saint Patrick’s Day is a beloved holiday, but for many Irish-Americans their heritage intersects with their daily lives more than once a year. Whether you grew up amused or irritated by a certain cereal leprechaun, or found that friend who couldn’t tell the difference between a Mc- and a Mac- adorable or infuriating, life as an American of Irish descent is filled with constant awareness. Or, at least, my own has been. I think I knew about the Potato Famine before the American War of Independence, and I still have an instinctive, furious reaction if anyone ever dare suggest that Oliver Cromwell ever did a good thing in his life.

Interest (as well as pride) in Irish heritage and history is nothing unique or special about me; it has a long and rich tradition in the Irish-American community. Here, at the American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives, we house several historical collections directly dealing with Irish and Irish-American history. A particularly fun collection is the Ancient Order of the Hibernians (founded 1836), but in deference to the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising, a seminal moment in the march towards an autonomous Irish state, I will direct your attention to our various exhibits in honor of Irish Independence.

Prison Pass, April 6, 1869. Thomas C. Luby Papers, American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.
Prison Pass, April 6, 1869. From the Thomas C. Luby Papers, American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

First, we have our physical exhibit, organized by our wonderful Katherine Santa Ana, “Sworn to Be Free: Irish Nationalism 1860-1921,” currently on display in the May Gallery of Mullen Library (first floor). The exhibit shows a selection of items from our holdings: letters, Gaelic alphabet cards, political cartoons, photographs, medals, and more. “Sworn to Be Free” looks at the cause of Irish Independence from an American Irish viewpoint: some of our records come from Irish immigrants, but most come from first or second-generation descendants who still maintained keen affection and concern for their motherland. When the struggles for independence became fraught, Irish republicans often looked to their American brethren for material, intellectual, and spiritual support, and the exhibit highlights several Americans offering that support. For those unable to visit “Sworn to Be Free” in person (and if you can, you really should), there is an online version of the exhibit available.

United Irish League of America 5th Biennial National Convention Delegate Ribbon, September 7-28, 1910. From the Terence V. Powderly Papers, American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.
United Irish League of America 5th Biennial National Convention Delegate Ribbon, September 7-28, 1910. From the Terence V. Powderly Papers, American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

To complement the online exhibit,  we are offering a document-based online exhibit, “Exploring Irish Nationalism with ACUA: An Academic Resource”, for use of teachers, students, and the interested public who might wish to explore Irish independence (and CUA’s connection to it) deeper. Offering certain, select examples from the James Aloysius Geary Papers and the Thomas J. Shahan Papers, both housed at ACUA, this second online exhibit is intended to provide background for the Easter Rising and later War of Independence. Included in Geary’s papers, for example, are minutes and publications of The Friends of Irish Freedom, an American group that watched the Rising and subsequent events with great interest. Shahan preserved several issues of the Irish Bulletin, a publication of the Irish State during the war with Great Britain which often dedicated its pages to illustrating the crimes the English had committed against the Irish people. Impartial news it may not be, but they do serve as a reflection of very real opinions and attitudes present both in Ireland and in sympathetic Irish-Americans.

Neither exhibit is — or claims to be — the whole picture of Irish nationalism and Irish-American sympathy with it. But we have tried to highlight interesting individuals, events, and organizations. We hope our exhibits will not be the end of your curiosity, but the beginning.

The Archivist’s Nook: Married Priests – Crisis or Opportunity?

Mary Alma and James at Mass, “Mary Alma receives the Sign of Peace from her husband, 30 June 1982, The Leaven, ” James Parker Papers, The Catholic University of America (CUA).
Mary Alma and James at Mass, “Mary Alma receives the Sign of Peace from her husband,” 30 June 1982, The Leaven. James Parker Papers, The Catholic University of America (CUA).

This week’s post is guest authored by Marielle Gage, a CUA graduate student in History.

On Wednesday, 30 June 1982, Mary Alma Parker went to Mass. I do not know what the sermon was about, or what songs were sung, but I know she was there because a local newspaper reporter was there, and took her picture receiving communion from the officiating priest. This small, everyday event was hardly newsworthy, save that the celebrant was Reverend James Parker, her husband. He was the first married former Episcopalian clergyman in the United States to be ordained a Catholic priest. Under a program known as the Pastoral Provision, Rev. Parker had been accepted into the Church first as a convert and then as a consecrated priest. He remained deeply involved with the Provision, as well as the various conservative Episcopalian organizations he had associated with before his conversion, until his retirement in 2005. His papers, donated to ACUA by his wife, are a veritable treasure trove of information on the Pastoral Provision and the related Continuing Anglican movement.

“Episcopalians, Are You Unhappy?” Advertisement appealing to discontent within traditional Anglican circles, 18 April 1979, Albany Herald. James Parker Papers, The Catholic University of America (CUA).
“Episcopalians, Are You Unhappy?” Advertisement appealing to discontent within traditional Anglican circles, 18 April 1979, Albany Herald. James Parker Papers, The Catholic University of America (CUA).

The 1970’s had been a decade of crisis for the Episcopalian Church. Everything, it seemed to some, changed: the decade saw revision of the Book of Common Prayer, the easing of remarriage rules for the divorced, the ordination of women, and more. These issues’ passage into Episcopalian practice was met with consternation in more conservative circles. Some grit their teeth and bore it, some formed splinter groups that either petered out or limped on into the present day, but some took a more radical step: they returned to Rome. But these new converts specifically, the converting Episcopal churchmen presented a challenge to the Catholic Church. These men, who had been priests under their old religion, wished to continue their ministry under the new. But many of these men were married, as had been permitted in the Protestant sect, but emphatically was not in the Catholic. Could these men be somehow squeezed into the Church structure? The answer, tentatively, was yes. And thus the Pastoral Provision was born.

Parker Letter of Resignation Father Parker explains his resignation to his Episcopal parishioners, 20 April 1981. James Parker Papers, The Catholic University of America (CUA).
Parker Letter of Resignation. Father Parker explains his resignation to his Episcopal parishioners, 20 April 1981. James Parker Papers, The Catholic University of America (CUA).

Parker was heavily involved in the “Anglican Crisis” of the 70’s. As provincial of the Society of the Holy Cross an organization of Anglo Catholic priests Parker watched the radical departures from old practices with alarm: our collection reflects in particular his concerns surrounding women’s ordination. One particularly interesting item we received from Mary Alma is a journal he kept recording reactions he encountered on the topic. He also was an eyewitness to the 1977 St. Louis Congress, where the issue came to a head. Soon after, splinter groups began to separate themselves from the mainstream Episcopal Church, or look to join alternative Christian traditions. The Society of the Holy Cross elected Parker to represent their cause to the Catholic Church. While not everyone involved in the Society converted, Parker did, being ordained a Catholic priest on 29 June 1982. He continued to be involved in both the Continuing Anglican Movement he had left behind and the Pastoral Provision, serving for a long time as the secretary of Bernard Law (bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau at the time of Parker’s ordination), who had been appointed to oversee the Provision. His collection, which we have just finished processing, is an intriguing account of the ebbs and flows of ecumenical politics, the challenges of modernity, and the spiritual life of one remarkable priest.

The Archivist’s Nook: From the Pew to Our Living Rooms – Broadcasting the Mass

Rev. Frederick R. McManus performing a Television Age Mass, 1960s, McManus Papers, ACUA.
Rev. Frederick R. McManus performing a Television Age Mass, 1960s, McManus Papers, ACUA.

This week’s post is guest authored by Chelsy Tracz, a CUA graduate student in Theology.

The twentieth century witnessed an explosion in the growth, development, power and influence of various forms of media in our world. While we might be most familiar with the digital revolution—which we, as archivists, are working to take full advantage of—the explosion of radio and television preceded the rise of the internet.

The development of radio and the advent of television didn’t just change the landscape of American popular culture, but had such influence that even the Catholic Church had to reckon with this new form of communication.

The highly influential Msgr. Frederick Richard McManus (1923-2005) was one of the many leaders of the Church that offered guidance about these new forms of media. Having received both his bachelor’s and doctoral degrees from The Catholic University of America (CUA), he later returned to CUA, serving as the Dean of Canon Law from 1958 to 1993. McManus is most notable for his leadership in the twentieth century Liturgical Movement and for his role as peritus (or expert) on Sacred Liturgy at the Second Vatican Council. He would prove to be integral in implementing the reforms of Vatican II in the liturgy of the United States, celebrating the first official English-language Mass in 1964. Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: From the Pew to Our Living Rooms – Broadcasting the Mass”

The Archivist’s Nook: If This Table Had Ears!

The Table, up close and personal, photo by Angela Geosits, 8-13-2015.
The Table, up close and personal, photo by Angela Geosits, 8-13-2015.

This week’s post is guest authored by Angela Geosits, archives assistant and doctoral student in English.

Any visitor to McMahon Hall is likely familiar with the massive marble table which dominates the central foyer. Set between the two great staircases out of the flow of foot traffic, this stately table blends in with the neutral colors of the space and feels as if it has always been there. But contrary to all expectations, this 2 ½ ton marble table is surprisingly well traveled, and even enjoyed a misspent youth loitering in the lobby of Loew’s Capitol Theatre, the last surviving Broadway vaudeville house. Some traces of this thespian origin can be seen in the detailed carvings of Comedy and Tragedy on the table’s supports.

But how on earth did our table get from a vaudeville theatre in New York City to an academic building at Catholic University in Washington, DC? The story begins in the winter of 1967, when the roof of the Army surplus theater the Drama Department had been using as their performance space collapsed under a heavy load of snow. Enthusiastic fundraising efforts began in order to fill the desperate need for a new stage. CUA Drama alumnus Ed McMahon (no relation to Monsignor James McMahon for whom the building is named) knew the Loews and organized a special benefit for the CUA Drama Department on the last night of performances at the Capitol Theatre. Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: If This Table Had Ears!”

The Archivist’s Nook: Legion of Decency Keeping the Big Screen Clean

Cleopatra, 1963
Cleopatra (1963), scourge of the National Legion of Decency [source: wikimedia commons]

This week’s post is guest authored by Vitalina A. Nova, Archives assistant and LIS graduate.

Regardless of your opinion of Motion Pictures Association of America (MPAA) movie ratings, you’re likely familiar with them and know the MPAA reviews film content to determine suitability for specific audiences. What you’re less likely to know is that the indignation which led to the formation of the MPAA’s predecessor, the Hays Code, also led to the formation of the National Legion of Decency, a Catholic interest group with similar goals.

The Hays Code imposed restrictions on the film industry beginning in the early 1930s, aiming to align content on the big screen with moral standards codified as the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors Association (MPPDA) Don’ts and Be Carefuls.  The Hays code was replaced by the MPAA in 1968.  The full list of Don’ts and Be Carefuls is available from the School of Media Arts at the Santa Barbara City College.

In contrast, the National Legion of Decency maintained an interest in advising the American public on the morality of films long after the Hays Code went out of use.  Formed in 1933, the Legion was initially composed of religious and laity of Jewish and Christian faiths concerned that exposure to immoral material harmed viewers’ quality of character.  Censurable material included the discussion or depiction of childbirth, immodest dress, and a lack of ultimate judgment on characters’ questionable behavior (as defined by the Legion).  Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: Legion of Decency Keeping the Big Screen Clean”