The Archivist’s Nook: Universitas Monumenta Administratione – Records Management at CatholicU

Scary Shot of the Archives Stacks, Aquinas Hall, ca. 2020, Catholic University Special Collections

Proactive management of records is a responsibility shared by every department and unit at Catholic University, if not every entity across the Catholic world.  Can this be true, you ask? Well, see statements of both the Vatican and the American Bishops.  We understand that record keeping can appear to be an intimidating – perhaps even impossible – task, particularly when a long period has passed without any active sorting and archiving of office records.  The staff of the University Special Collections, which includes University Archives, would like campus offices to know our staff is available for consultations, including on-site visits, regarding best practices for records retention and disposition.  We can also remind each office what records they already have archived with us, and how to access such if needed. Despite the heat, summertime is generally the most convenient time to review and decide on records disposition or archiving.

A Warm View of the Archives Sorage Space, Aquinas Hall, ca. 2020, Catholic University Special Collections

CatholicU’s archives was founded in 1949 to serve as the university’s institutional memory with authority to acquire and administer records with enduring evidential, legal, informational, and intrinsic value. Holdings date back to records to the founding of the university in the 1880s, such as the first volume of the minutes of the Board of Trustees, and extend forward to include correspondence, photographs, film, and digital records detailing growth and operations well into the twenty first century. The Archives is a resource for administrators seeking important legal documents, professor researching departmental histories, public relations looking for old photographs, alumni searching for information on former students, students who want to review university publications, and all others interested in CatholicU’s past.

Your Friendly Neighborhood Archivist, 2021, Catholic University Special Collections

Proper disposition of university records is paramount. Those of permanent historical value are to be transferred to the Archives while, after consultation with Archives and General Counsel staff, others can be shredded. Records deposited in the Archives are only accessible to the people in your office unless they are more than fifty (50) years old and not legal or personnel files. Anyone else seeking access would require official permission from the head of your office directly communicated to your friendly neighborhood University Archivist. Donating office of creation retains rights of controlling access and borrowing back for office use, but such university offices may NOT destroy any records once in the custody of the Archives.

Archival Record Center Box, 2024, Catholic University Special Collections

Your office is responsible for the moving and transfer of records to the Archives. Please use 12 x 15 inch record center boxes. If you do not have boxes of this size, we can provide them to you. Types of records for consideration include annual reports, meeting minutes, correspondence, student records, non-academic staff records, academic/faculty records, faculty activity reports, faculty tenure and promotion files, search committee files, requisitions/purchase orders, budget files, newspaper clippings, office publications, university publications, audio/visual records, research grants project files, and digital/electronic records. Please note that there is no currently stated official university policy for digital records, including born digital records, but we will provide the what advice we can based on best practices. For more information, please email at any time.

The Archivist’s Nook: Inquisitio – Rare Book Acquisitions, 2023-2024

Special Collections, which includes Rare Books, had a bumper crop this past reporting year of carefully considered rare book acquisitions via purchase, fourteen items from nine both nationally and internationally respected vendors. The latter include new dealer contacts in England, France, Holland, and Italy. Several examples are reviewed in some detail while others due to space constrains are briefly noted in the footnotes. For additional information, see our previous related blog posts and, as always, thank you to both Special Collection and University Libraries staff who help make these vital additions possible. We also appreciate the university faculty members who advise us on potential books to appropriate.

Mexican Catholic publications, 1658, 1812, 1927. Special Collections, Catholic University

We were fortunate to obtain three works via McBride Rare Books of New York, related to the history of Mexico. The first item is Oracion panegyrica en gloria de la sagrada virgen Clara, hija emuladora con iguales volantes plumas en santidad, a la del seraphin padre fuyo Francisco…by Francisco de Torres, published Puebla: Por la Viuda de Juan de Borja, y Gandia, 1658. With 11 leaves and binding remnants along the spine, this is a rare Mexican sermon written in honor of Saint Clare of Assisi (1194-1253), one of the first followers of Francis of Assisi. There are known copies at the Bancroft and Lilly libraries and some Mexican institutions. The second item is the Apologia de Santa Teresa de Jesus, que dirige a las RR. MM. Carmelitas Descalzas de la ciudad de Mexico by Jose Maria de San Pedro, published Mexico City: En la Oficina de Ontiveros, 1812, and considered scarce. There are 44 pages with an engraved plate of this first and only edition of a biography of St. Teresa de Jésus (or Teresa of Avila), a sixteenth century Carmelite nun, who later was made the first female Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI. Her reformation of the Carmelite Orders of both men and women prompted the foundation of the Discalced Carmelites. The illustration depicting the Saint praying in her garden was engraved by Manuel de Araoz, one of the first students of the Mexican Academy of Painting. The third item is the Galeria de martires mexicanos 1926-1927, published 1927 in San Antonio by Imprenta Universal. Printed in blue ink with and 124 pages, this is a biographical work with portraits documenting those killed defending the Catholic Church during the Cristero War following the Mexican Revolution of 1917. There are only a few copies known to exist.

Pedro Manso de Tapia. De virtutibus infidelium ad mentem P. Augustini. Reflexio vindex pro eminentiss. cardinali Henrico de Noris Salmanticae, 1721, Special Collections, Catholic University.

A notable piece related to the history of Jansenism, this is a first edition of a good copy in contemporary limp vellum of De virtutibus infidelium ad mentem P. Augustini. Reflexio vindex pro eminentiss. cardinali Henrico de Noris Salmanticae [Salamanca], ex officina Francisci Garcia Onorato & San Miguel, Anno 1721. The author, Pedro Manso de Tapia (1669-1736), was an Augustinian theologian defending Cardinal Enrique Noris from Jesuit Jansenist accusation due to the Cardinal’s works Vindiciae augustinianae and Historia pelagiana. These accusations of heresy became known to the Roman and the Spanish Inquisition in about 1695. A couple of years before, Pedro Manso had met the cardinal in Rome and, having become a professor in Salamanca, he decided to organise the defense of his superior in Spain. He defended the theology of Saint Augustine with “Sanctus Augustinus gratiae sufficientis assertor et vindex” (Salamanca, 1719) and “Sanctus Augustinus sanctae vocationis exaltator” (Salamanca, 1721), and proceeded to defend Noris in the present work, which ended up soon in the Index of Prohibited Books, already in 1723. Obtained with generous terms from Orsi Libri of Milan, Italy, there are no known copies in the United States nor anywhere else outside of Spain.

Giovanni Giustino Ciampini. De sanctae Romanae ecclesiae vicecancellario illiusque munere Auctoritate, et Potestate…1697. Special Collections, Catholic University.

An edition of an early monograph, 240 paged bound in contemporary vellum with two engraved plates and a repaired spine, De sanctae Romanae ecclesiae vicecancellario illiusque munere Auctoritate, et potestate Rome: Bernabò, 1697, by Giovanni Giustino Ciampini (1633-1698), describes the offices and duties of the Papal Vice-chancellor, historical title for the head of the Cancellaria Apostolica after A.D. 1220. This coveted ecclesiastical position produced official copies of Papal documents and raised funds for the Papal Army. The present work was composed during the vacancy of the office in the 1680s under the reforms of Pope Innocent XI and the author dedicated it to Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, newly promoted to the position in 1689, which he held until 1740. Usually the signatory on Papal Bulls and other official documents, the Vice-chancellor also had other duties listed on pages 97-137. Ciampini’s also traces the historical development of the title from the Middle Ages, and the engraved plate provides a view of official Vatican proceedings behind closed doors.  There are a few monastic ex-libris stamps of German Franciscan institutions as well as the personal stamp and signature of later owners, this copy was acquired from Editio Altera of Bronxville, New York. At present only one known copy in auction records, sans plates, and only other copy in an American library, at Emory University.

Various Titles via Asher Books of the Netherlands. Special Collections, Catholic University.

A banner year of acquisitions was capped by four notable works generously provided by Asher Books of the Netherlands. The first is the Theologiae mysticae, cum speculative, 1556, the last uncensored folio edition of the principal collection of great Flemish mystic Franciscan Hendrik Herp, or Harphius, (ca. 1410-1478) a popular and important work of mystical religion first printed in 1538. This 1556 edition was the last before the censored Rome edition of 1586 that later versions followed. The second is the Tractatus de auctoritate, ac necessitate episcoporum, four treatises on the authority and importance of bishops, published together in 1669 by Joachim van Metelen, a Catholic publisher in Amsterdam, plus three additional works including the third edition of Tractatus de missionibus (originally 1626), in which Philippus Rovenius (1573-1651), an apostolic vicar of the Dutch Mission instructs missionaries how to preach to unbelievers and heretics. The third is the Counter-Reformation work, In omnes psalmos dilucida explanation of Jesuit Cardinal Robert Bellarmino, published in 1611, a rare first edition with no other copies in the United States. Lastly, is a work in Dutch by Charles Nerinckx, Nagelaten brief van der weleerw, in leven missionaris in Kentucky, aan zijne bloedverwanten en vrienden in Nederland, 1825. This is a rare first and only edition of a posthumous publication of letters from an influential Belgian Catholic missionary in Kentucky reporting home on the state of the Catholic Faith in Kentucky and Missouri. Nerinckx (1761-1824) was instrumental in the development of early nineteenth century Catholic Faith in the United States. Known as “the priest in the saddle,” he founded ten churches and spent his last years ministering to Native Americans.

Thank you for reading and we look forward to another stellar year of collecting Rare Books.

Notes and Asides:

(1) Another edition, this one from 1749, of The Christian pattern, or the Imitation of Jesus Christ (originally published in 1418 by Thomas a Kempis, was obtained via Rulon-Miller Books of Minnesota, and subject of its own recent blog post.

(2) Affaire de Religion, obtained from Librairie Hogier of Paris, is a bound volume of 60 pamphlets, 1680-1733, related to Quietism and Jansenism.

(3) An American anti-Catholic Harvard lecture, The Authority of Tradition Considered…,by Edward Wigglesworth, printed by Thomas & John Fleet, Boston, 1778, and acquired from Capitol Hill Books of Washington, D.C.

(4) A Life of Saint Anthony, the fourteenth century Portuguese Franciscan friar, titled Vita Miracolie e Privilegi di s. Antonio de Padova Espresi in XL rami, by Gio. Antonio Conzatti, Padova, 1786, from Second Story Books of Maryland.

(5) John Garth’s Tolkien at Exeter College: How an Oxford undergraduate created Middle-earth, 2022 edition, from John Garth of England.

(6) Special thanks to our staff, especially Alex Audziayuk and Hannah Kaufman. Thanks also to those who make the acquisition process possible, Steve Connaghan, Kate Benedict, and Emir Isakovic.


The Archivist’s Nook: Young Catholic Messenger – “Seek, and Ye Shall Find”

Young Catholic Messenger, v. XI, n. 2, January 15, 1895. Ratisbon Cathedral. Special Collections, Catholic University

Catholic University of America’s Special Collections is home to wide and diverse cultural and historical materials, including devotional museum objects, meeting minutes of the American bishops, correspondence between notables such as George Higgins and Richard Neuhaus, rare renaissance books, and, among all of this, the Young Catholic Messenger, the premier publication, 1885-1970, of Catholic publisher, George Pflaum, of Dayton, Ohio. The Young Catholic Messenger, or YCM as we call it, is a staff favorite and subject of previous blog posts in 2017 and 2020. We return to it again as we recently obtained a missing volume, number 11, 1895, via a kind donation from the University of Dayton.

Young Catholic Messenger, v. XI, n. 4, February 15, 1895, honoring George Washington’s birthday. Special Collections, Catholic University.

The Young Catholic Messenger Collection at Catholic U. is complete from volumes 40 through 85 with an online finding aid. It has also been digitized and can be accessed via individual volume listing in the finding aid or by going directly to the online digital collection. Unfortunately, even with the acquisition of volume 11, we are still missing 34 of the first 39, 1885-1923. Therefore, we are making a renewed effort and reaching out to all sources in the hope that someone is willing to sell, donate, or loan missing copies to us. In particular, if academic institutions holding copies we are missing here at Catholic can work with us we hope to find a way to digitize their copies while sharing access, and are willing to consider reasonable compensation.

Returning to 1895, which in America witnessed the first professional football game and granted the first patent for an automobile (1), we include three pictures in this post from twenty four (2) YCM issues published during the calendar year. As in other years, the themes of this volume include a blend of saintly tales, historical places, and animal related stories to thrill and instruct young Catholic readers. Each issue is relatively short in length, about 8-10 pages and well-illustrated with black and white prints. A major focus, given the strong presence of German immigrants in Ohio and the Midwest, is on German Catholicism and the main event of this publishing year was an English translation by the mysterious ‘Uncle John’ in fourteen parts of a novel, titled in English ‘Nightingale,’ by a German priest, Franz von Seeburg, about village life and piety in Bavaria. Apparently, this work has never been published in English anywhere other than The Young Catholic Messenger.

Young Catholic Messenger, v. XI, n. 9, May 1, 1895. The first part of ‘Nightingale,’ by Franz von Seeburg. Special Collections, Catholic University

This volume was recently digitized and joined its mates online. We sincerely hope to add other years soon. If you have any of the missing volumes (3), or have other questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at Now, we bid you Auf Wiedersehen with a quote from page one of volume 1 of the 1895 YCM:


Young Catholic Messenger, v. XI, n. 24/25, Christmas 1895. Special Collections, Catholic University

“We hear and heed him, as firm and true, we start on the upward path anew.”


(1) This same year also saw the first visit to his mother’s homeland by a young British army officer, Winston Churchill, enroute to Cuba to observe Spanish military operations.

(2) Issue 24 was listed as 24/25.

(3) We can provide a detailed list of needed volumes upon request.

(4) Special Thanks to Shane MacDonald, Hannah Kaufman, and Shanyun Zhang.

The Archivist’s Nook: CatholicU Lays Down the Law

CatholicU’s Special Collections includes rare books, museum, university archives, and manuscripts. University archives and manuscripts, the latter donations of non-university institutional records and personal papers, document the American Catholic experience from  education and labor to politics and social justice, including secular and canon (church) law, which often overlap.  University archives include three sets of record groups relating to secular or canon law. These by nature are sensitive with restrictions, generally fifty years, and permanent for case files or personnel records, although access can be requested via the university administration. The first is the Office of the General Counsel, documenting university legal history, including property transactions.  The second is the law school founded at CatholicU (1897) and the separate Columbus University Law School (1922), with the two later merging on campus. The third is the School of Canon Law, whose centenary we covered in a recent blog post.

CatholicU First Law Dean, William C. Robinson, 1896. Special Collections, Catholic University.

Other institutional Records or Manuscripts Collections 

There are three non-institutional legal history donors, The Sisters of Life, the Thomas More Society of America, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USSC).

Sisters of Life:

Pro-Life materials donated by The Sisters of Life of New York were formerly part of their archives now concentrated at Harvard’s Schlesinger Women’s History Library. The Sisters of Life (Sorores Vitae), a uniquely American, Roman Catholic religious institute, include sisters in Canada, Australia, Ireland, and the Philippines.  The collections at CatholicU include the Abortion Parental Consent Legal Research Case Files from the University of St. Thomas Law School, Center for the Rights of the Terminally Ill Collection, The Long Island Grass Roots Pro-Life Collection, March for Life Memorabilia, National Right to Life News Complete Collection, Natural Family Planning Archival Collection, and Pro-Life Movement Newsletters and Periodicals.

CatholicU President William Byron, SJ, presents Gibbons Medal to Nancy Reagan, 1986. Special Collections, Catholic University

Thomas More Society of America (TMSA) 

TMSA is a non-denominational organization promoting interest in Sir Thomas More (1478-1535) relevant to contemporary moral issues. They confer with lawyers, judges, and other public figures and scholarly papers are disseminated through the newsletter and The Thomas More Gazette. London native More was an internationally recognized intellectual and government figure immortalized in literature and stage as “A Man for All Seasons”. Unfortunately, he famously lost his head by defying Henry VIII, over papal rights. The Society’s annual dinner has a notable list of speakers, including Antonin Scalia (1995), Michael Novak (1993), and CatholicU president William Byron, S.J. (1983). TMSA records at CatholicU, include board of directors minutes, correspondence, financial reports, photographs, and publications.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Legal Department/General Counsel and Office of Government Relations

The USCCB was founded in 1919 as the National Catholic Welfare Council. An original department was Laws and Legislation, becoming the Legal Department (1926) and split (1966) into the Office of the General Counsel and Office of Government Relations.  It represented the Bishops in litigation and promoted public speaking on policy issues affecting the Catholic Church, notably the 1920s Oregon School Case. Additionally, it recorded federal legislation provided extensive legal research and advice. Records include correspondence, publications, and subject files including education, social security, and taxation.  The separate and independent Office of Government Relations records document legislative activities such as migration, religious liberty, and social justice.

William Montavon lobbies Massachusetts Senator David I. Walsh, n.d. Special Collections, Catholic University.

Personal Papers

The collections of personal papers include William Bentley Ball, Mary Ann Glendon, Msgr. Thomas Green, Msgr. Frederick R. McManus, William F. Montavon, Msgr. Hugh L. Motry, Rev. James H. Provost, and Judge William C. Robinson.

William Callyhan Robinson 

Connecticut native Robinson (1834-1911) was a law professor, legal scholar, and judge who was also the first dean of CatholicU’s Law School. A graduate of Dartmouth College, he was a Protestant convert to Roman Catholicism who practiced law in New Haven, Connecticut, and was Dean of the Yale University Law School. He also was a prolific writer with his Notes on Elementary Law (1875), a textbook popularly used in American law schools.  Bishop John Keane, rector at CatholicU, contacted Robinson in 1891 requesting he organize a school of social sciences, which would contain a department of jurisprudence that was later expanded into a law school. The Robinson Papers include his genealogy and CatholicU has a lecture series in his name.

William F. Montavon

Montavon (1874-1959), Ohio native and Notre Dame graduate, also studied at CatholicU. He was superintendent of Philippines schools, a U.S. Commercial attaché and oil executive in South America, and thereafter (1925-1951) director of the NCWC Legal Department (now Office of the General Counsel). He accompanied Fr. John J. Burke, NCWC general secretary, and Ruiz y Flores, Archbishop of Morella, on negotiations with Mexican revolutionary leader Calles that eased religious restrictions in 1929. He was also an expert on church-state relations in Spain, traveling there as correspondent of the NCWC News Service. He was honored by the Pope as Knight Commander of the Order of St. Gregory the Great (1929) and was a member of the Knights of Columbus and the Catholic Association for International Peace. The Montavon Papers are mainly correspondence and addresses concerning the Church in Mexico and Spain.

Hugh Lewis Motry

Motry (1884-1952), a priest of Columbus, Ohio, was a CatholicU, alum, professor, and dean of Canon Law. He founded the Canon Law Society of America (CLSA) and the canonical review, The Jurist. Motry was also a Chaplain to the Army Corp of Engineers at Fort Belvoir and with the Richmond Diocese as Judge, Advocate,  and Procurator.  He was honored as Domestic Prelate the Pope Pius on the fortieth anniversary of his ordination. The Motry Papers includes correspondence, financial information, photographs, lecture notes, publications, and a number of Catholic University diplomas. There are also many transcripts, in both Latin and English, of Canon Law cases and doctrine.

William B. Ball in his office, c. 1970. Special Collections, Catholic University.

William Bentley Ball

Ball (1916-1999) attended Western Reserve University (now Case Western Reserve University), where he was President of the Young Americanist League, opposing extremist groups. He served in the U.S. Navy in World War II. Thereafter, he taught at Villanova, and was general counsel for the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference. In 1967, he worked on his first Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) case, Loving v. Virginia, representing the Bishops against anti-miscegenation laws. The Pope made him Knight of the Order of St. Gregory the Great (1974) and Ball was considered for the SCOTUS associate justice seat that went to Antonin Scalia (1986).  The Ball Papers, contain case files, correspondence, and photographs. Additionally, there are research materials of Bruce Dierenfield and David Gerber for their 2020 book Disability Rights and Religious Liberty in Education.

Frederick Richard McManus

McManus (1923-2005) was a respected scholar, noted canonist, and tireless liturgical reformer. The Massachusetts native served in the Archdiocese of Boston before earning degrees at CatholicU. At the latter, he was professor of canon law, Editor of The Jurist, dean of the school of canon law, and Academic Vice President. Besides these duties, he served on the Bishop’s Committee on the Liturgy and was involved with the Canon Law Society of America (CLSA) and the Second Vatican Council. In addition, he published continuously, contributing to American Ecclesiastical Review, Commonweal, The Jurist, The Living Light, and Worship. The McManus Papers include correspondence, subject files, meeting minutes, printed material, photographs, and memorabilia.

Frederick R. McManus, 1960s, Special Collections, Catholic University.

James Harrison Provost

Provost (1939-2000), priest of the Diocese of Helena and educated in Louvain and Rome, headed the Canon Law Society of America, was Canon Law Chair at CatholicU, and managing editor of the The Jurist.  Provost addressed difficult questions, such as abortion, and his writings were challenged in the 1980s during his ultimately successful tenure battle at CatholicU when the Vatican criticized his assertion the Church “discriminates” against women by denying them entry to the priesthood.  The Provost Papers, contain materials related to tenure review, synod, and publications.

Thomas Green

Green (1938-2018), a priest of Bridgeport specialized in penal law and published  commentaries on the New Code of Canon Law (1983). Educated in Rome, he served as Bridgeport vice chancellor, then taught canon law at St. Louis University before going to CatholicU where he was Canon Law department chair as well as a consultant on the NCCB Canonical Affairs Committee and to the Board of Governors of the Canon Law Society of America. He became a Chaplain of His Holiness, with the title of Monsignor, by the Pope (1996) and also served as editor of The Jurist. The Green Papers include correspondence, reports, and publications on penal law, the revised code, and the role of women in the church.

Mary Ann Glendon with Pope Francis, 2013. Special Collections, Catholic University.

Mary Ann Glendon 

Massachusetts native Glendon practiced law in Chicago and served pro bono as a volunteer defense attorney for civil rights workers in Mississippi during the Freedom Summer (1964). She was the first woman faculty of Boston College Law School and later went to Harvard, developing a public profile through her writings, including Abortion and Divorce in Western Law (1987). In 1994, the Pope appointed her to the newly formed Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences (PASS), where she served as president, 2004-2014, only the second woman to preside over a pontifical academy.  Under Bush (43), she served on the U.S. President’s Council on Bioethics and was U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See. The Glendon Papers include correspondence, speeches, and photographs.


This diverse assemblage of collections with both institutional records and personal papers is an important resource for the canon law and secular legal history of the American Catholic Church. For more information, please contact Special Collections at CatholicU at This post is a condensed version of the recent article:

Shepherd, William John. ‘Collectiones historiae iuris: Canon Law and Legal History Collections at The Catholic University of America Archives,’ U.S. Catholic Historian (41:4) Fall 2023, pp. 123-136.

The Archivist’s Nook: What’s Wrong With Freud? Catholic Professor Rudolf Allers Knows

December 14, 2023 is the sixtieth anniversary of the death of Dr. Rudolph Allers, Austrian born psychiatrist, surgeon, author, and professor of Georgetown and Catholic universities.  A refugee from Nazi occupied Austria, and, initially a Freudian, he became increasingly opposed to Psychoanalysis, notably publishing several critical articles and books based upon a Catholic philosophical perspective.

Rudolph Allers, Studio Portrait, 1942, Special Collections, Catholic University.

Allers was born in Vienna on 13 January 1883, the son of Mark Allers, a doctor of Jewish extraction, and Augusta Grailick. He was a graduate of the Vienna Gymnasium and university medical school, earning his M.D. in 1906. In 1908, Allers married Carola Meitner, a sister of famed nuclear physicist Lise Meitner, who, like Allers, later taught at Catholic University. He served as an assistant in the clinic for mental and nervous diseases at Prague and in Munich, 1908-1918, and head of the department of medical psychology at the Institute of Physiology in Vienna, 1919-1938. During the First World War, as a surgeon, he served in a military field hospital on the Eastern Front, and was honored with the Golden Cross of Merit with the Crown and the Medal of the German Red Cross.

Modern reprint of an Allers book critical of Freud, n.d. Special Collections, Catholic University.

After the war, Allers’ students included both Viktor Frankl and Hans Urs von Balthasar. Balthasar and Allers’ friend, the future saint, Edith Stein, both lived at his home in Vienna in 1931. A devotee of the method of St. John Bosco, Allers studied the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan, Italy, taking a Ph.D. in 1934. Allers was the only Catholic member of the Freud’s first Psychoanalysis group. Later, he and Alfred Adler moved away from Freud, with Allers eventually separating himself from Adler as well. Essentially, whereas Freud simplifies all neuroses into a physical common denominators, Allers argued mental disorders are radically metaphysical. Though not as prominently featured, Allers was also critical of Carl Jung view that God was not a transcendent reality of future life but an archetype of a subjective human need. Though born and educated as a Catholic, Allers stated he “had not developed a real faith” until later as his career progressed and study deepened. Eventually, he moved towards Catholic intellectual circles, becoming a dedicated follower of Scholasticism.

Rudolph Allers, Class Reading List, 1959, Special Collections, Catholic University

After the annexation Anschluss (annexation) of Austria by Nazi Germany in 1938, Allers emigrated to the United States, where settled in the area of Washington, D.C., teaching first at Catholic University, 1938-1948, and then at Georgetown University, 1948-1963. Among the courses he taught at CatholicU were Psychology and Philosophy of Mind and the Seminar in Psychology. One wonders if a troubling incident involving Allers in the summer of 1948 had any bearing on his decision to leave CatholicU for Georgetown that same year. According to the 6-26-1948 issue of The Washington Post, Allers called the Police stating he had been called by a Major Francis Riley of Columbia road threatening to “kill some people and myself.”  After being promptly arrested, Riley admitted he had called Allers and threated to kill “some people,” but never claimed he would kill himself!

Allers became a Guggenheim Fellow in 1958 and was a member or high ranking officer of the Washington Philosophical Club, Metaphysical Society of America, New York Academy of Science, American Philosophical Association, and the Medieval Academy of America. He was fluent in German, English, French, Italian, and Latin, writing more than a hundred articles in German and dozens more in English. He also wrote several books, including two highly critical of Freud and his methods: The Successful Error: A Critique of Freudian Psychoanalysis. Sheed and Ward Inc, 1940, and What’s Wrong With Freud? A Critical Study of Freudian Psychoanalysis. Roman Catholic Books, USA, 1941.

Allers’ Article ‘Does Human Nature Change?’ in the CU Bulletin (14:2), September 1946, pp. 6-9. Special Collections, Cathoilic University.

Allers died at Carroll Manor, the Archdiocese of D.C. Home for the Aged and Infirm in Hyattsville, MD. Services were held for him at Holy Trinity Church in Georgetown and burial in St. Mary’s Cemetery. Special thanks to Claudia Allers for her recent donation of Allers materials, and to Hannah Kaufman for everything else. For more information, please contact Special Collections at Catholic University.

The Archivist’s Nook:  Digital Dreams – New Deal and Postwar Era Labor Collections  

A previous blog post recounted CatholicU’s Gilded Age and Progressive Era Labor Collections, part of Special Collections that includes materials from the New Deal and Postwar Era. These include the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), 1935-1955; three high ranking CIO officials, Phillip Murray, John Brophy, and Harry C. Read; and Joseph Daniel Keenan of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Finally, there are collections connecting the Catholic Church and labor via ‘labor priests’ Msgr. John Augustine Ryan, Bishop Francis Joseph Haas, and Msgr. George Gilmary Higgins. CatholicU has online guides (or finding aids) to the collections, with select scanned content online, while others are being systematically digitized in partnership with ProQuest’s History Vault, as previously done with the Gilded Age and Progressive Era Collections.

Congress of Industrial Organizations (1935-1955)

In 1935, critical of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) refusal to organize industrial workers, disgruntled AFL leaders, including John L. Lewis of the United Mine Workers (UMA), formed the Committee for Industrial Organizations (CIO). Encouraged by worker activism and federal recognition, the CIO evolved into an independent federation confirmed by their 1938 name change to the Congress of Industrial Organizations. The CIO promoted collective bargaining in mass industries such as steel and auto and their commitment to organizing unskilled, semi-skilled, and skilled workers, including African-Americans, demonstrated egalitarian goals. The CIO merged with the AFL in 1955 and CIO records were transferred to CatholicU in several installments between 1962 and 1976.

CIO leaders, with Lewis in the middle, Brophy far right, Murray second from left, 1937. Special Collections, Catholic University.

Philip Murray (1886-1952)

In 1904, Philip Murray, a young Scottish immigrant coal miner in western Pennsylvania, terminated from his job and evicted from his home, thereafter devoted his life to unionism. He became one of the most important labor leaders in twentieth century America as Vice President of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), 1920-1942; second President of the aforementioned CIO, 1940-1952; and first President of the United Steel Workers of America (USWA), 1942-1952. He supported civil rights, fought Communism, and smoothed relations with the rival AFL leading to the merger of 1955. His vision of social justice derived from family union tradition and Catholic faith inspired by papal encyclicals. A member of the NAACP, Murray was also a naturalized American citizen who spoke with a Scottish accent. His papers at CatholicU are described in an earlier blog post.

John Brophy (1883-1963)

The Lancashire born John Brophy began working in the coal mines of Pennsylvania in 1894. As a union activist, Brophy was elected president in 1916 of UMWA District 2, representing Central Pennsylvania and advocating for health care until 1926 when he unsuccessfully challenged John L. Lewis for the UMWA presidency. Brophy later worked for the fledgling CIO, often traveling abroad to meet with international labor organizations. His autobiography, edited and rewritten with the help of John Hall, was published in 1964 as A Miner’s Life. Like Murray, Brophy’s vehement advocacy for workers’ rights was influenced by his deep Roman Catholic faith. There is a previous blog post about his papers at CatholicU.

“Msgr. Higgins and George Meany, president of AFL-CIO. Picture taken at AFL-CIO convention in Atlantic City, 1958, before Mass for Catholic Participants.” Special Collections, Catholic University

Harry Cyril Read (1892-1957)

Read, a Chicago-born Catholic newspaper editor and author, was also a World War I soldier, noted labor leader, and oddly a friend of notorious gangster Al Capone. Read worked at several Chicago newspapers and after a CIO sponsored strike in 1938 instead began writing for several labor-affiliated newspapers. He was a member of the CIO delegation to the 1945 San Francisco United Nations Conference, and relocated that same year to Washington, DC. In 1948, he represented the CIO at the World Federation of Trade Unions in Rome, being received by Pope Pius XII in private audience. Read also served as a member of the Catholic Interracial Council of Washington, DC.  There is a related blog post about his papers at CatholicU.

Joseph Daniel Keenan (1896-1984)

Keenan, referred to by a biographer as ‘Labor’s Ambassador,’ was an important labor-government liaison during the Second World War and a key advisor to George Meany, long-time leader of the AFL-CIO. An electrician by trade, Keenan was a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers’ (IBEW). In 1940, he moved to Washington, DC, to work with the National Defense Advisory Commission and later the War Production Board. Keenan served in postwar Germany as both an advisor to the American commander and as President Truman’s special coordinator between labor and industry. He later served as labor liaison with Democrat presidential campaigns, 1960-1972. He also was IBEW International Secretary, 1954-1976 and Vice President of the merged AFL-CIO after 1955. An active Catholic layman, he was honored with the papal medal, Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice in 1973, and an honorary doctorate from CatholicU in 1974.  He supported civil rights and helped found Jobs Corps, which trained millions of the disadvantaged for employment.  The Keenan Papers are subject of an older blog post.

Labor Priests and Social Action

The notable pro labor activities of the aforementioned Catholic union men were tied to their Catholic faith and various Papal Encyclicals, including Rerum Novarum and Quadragesimo Anno, but also via the phenomenon of ‘the labor priest,’ working to mediate between owners and workers. Three of the most notable were Msgr. John A. Ryan, Msgr. Francis J. Haas, and Msgr. George G. Higgins. Additionally, we have the records of the Social Action Department (SAD) of the National Catholic Welfare Conference (NCWC), later the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), which Ryan and Higgins both headed.

Msgr. John A. Ryan, ‘Right Reverend New Dealer,’ ca. 1940s. Special Collections, Catholic University


Msgr. John Augustine Ryan (1869-1945)

Ryan was the leading expert on social and economic questions as well as one of the strongest advocates for workers in the American Catholic Church of the first half of the twentieth century. An alumnus of CatholicU, he also taught there and was the first head, 1920-1945, of the NCWC’s Social Action Department. He wrote sixteen books, including Living Wage (1906) and Distributive Justice (1916), and spoke frequently in public and on the radio. In 1936, he defended President Roosevelt against the rabble rousing priest Charles Coughlin. In 1919, Ryan wrote the draft of the Bishops’ Program for Social Reconstruction, which advocated national health and old age insurance, minimum wage, factory safety legislation, and labor’s right to organize. The Ryan Papers at CatholicU have recently been digitized by ProQuest.

Bishop Francis Joseph Haas (1889-1953)

Priest, educator, and labor relations advocate, the Wisconsin born Haas a Milwaukee priest and doctoral student of Msgr. Ryan at CatholicU. Haas authored Man and Society (1931), which reflected the social teachings of Ryan and recent Popes. In the 1930s Haas directed the National Catholic School of Social Service (NCSSS) and the School of Social Science at Catholic U, and was Bishop of Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1943-1953. He strongly supported the New Deal and served in several programs, including the National Recovery Act’s Labor Advisory Board, where he wrote codes for equal racial employment and child labor; Senator Robert Wagner’s National Labor Board where he mediated several labor disputes; and at the helm of the President’s Fair Employment Committee where he actively fought racial hiring discrimination. After becoming Bishop, he also served on President Harry Truman’s Committee on Civil Rights. The Haas Papers include both personal and professional correspondence, notebooks, publications, and photographs.

Msgr. later Bishop Francis J. Haas. 1936. Special Collections, Catholic University.

Msgr. George Gilmary Higgins (1916-2002)

Higgins, a priest of Chicago and alumnus of CatholicU, worked for the Bishops’ Conference, including the Social Action Department, as a specialist in Catholic social teachings and labor relations. He was a champion of farm labor where he was the moving force in the Church’s support for Cesar Chavez and his union movement and human rights for Latino workers as well as supporting Lech Walesa and the Solidarity movement in Poland. He served on several committees, including the Bishops’ Committee for Catholic-Jewish Relations, the Bishops’ Committee on Farm Labor, and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. He was especially noted for his published book reviews as well as his highly regarded syndicated column, ‘The Yardstick.’ The Higgins Papers comprise correspondence, sermons, reference files, publications, awards, and audiovisual materials.


As mentioned above, in addition to the earlier project with ProQuest to digitize the Powderly, Mitchell, and Hayes papers, similar work has been completed for Ryan and is currently in process for Haas. ProQuest, which includes Ex Libris, is well known for curating digital collections strong in coverage of social movements, especially racial justice, women’s rights, and organized labor.  The Ryan Papers and others will join the Powderly, Hayes, and Mitchell papers as part of a module Labor Unions in the US, 1862–1974: Knights of Labor, AFL, CIO, and AFL-CIO.  Original papers remain available for research at CatholicU’s Special Collections in Washington, D.C.(1)


(1)This blog post is a condensed version of the article, William John Shepherd. ‘New Deal and Postwar Era Labor Collections at The Catholic University of America,’ Pennsylvania History, 2023, Vol. 90 (3), p. 488-502. See also CatholicU University Libraries Labor Materials Guide.

The Archivist’s Nook: Consequor – Rare Books Acquisitions, 2022-2023

Several previous blog posts have highlighted select rare book acquisitions via purchase on an annual basis since the department joined Special Collections in 2019. The most recent reporting year, which ended April 30, 2023, saw three very significant additions. This was assisted in part by the welcome promotion of Alex Audziayuk from Rare Books Technician, where he had partnered with Special Collections Archivist, Shane MacDonald, to Rare Books Librarian. Both continue to work as key members of our Rare Books team, assisted by other Special Collections staff, and supported by the library administration.

Manuale parochialium sacerdotum, Title Page, ca. 1492. Special Collections, Catholic University.

The gem accession of this cycle, if not the last half decade, is the incunable Manuale parochialium sacerdotum, Reutlingen, Johann Otmar, ca. 1492, 12 leaves and six by eight inches, obtained from David Rueger of Antiquariat Inlibris Gilhofer Nfg., Vienna, Austria, in May 2022. This early edition of a manual for the Holy Mass, first published about 1483, was once part of a made-up volume and still contains early handwritten pagination. The title-page is browned and a little stained with an old library shelf mark in brown ink. The text has been preserved variously, in a 13th century vellum manuscript in the British Library and a 14th century manuscript in the Bürgerbibliothek in Berne. It was probably first printed in English in London in 1636 as part of an anonymous collection Fasciculus Florum. This Middle Latin poem also known as “Versa de monachis et clerico”, an example of the literary cliche of the wayward nun, has nine distichs forming a dialogue (“monialis dicit”/”juvenis respondet”) between a nun and a pious young man. She offers to throw off her habit and enter his bed, but he refuses, reminding her she is a Bride of Christ, and she demurs. While clearly out of place in a liturgical manual, this ironically placed depiction of a sensual woman of this era should be of interest to medieval and women studies scholars.(1)

Versa de monachis et cleric, Manuscript of the Poem of the priest and the wayward nun, ca. 1492, Special Collections, Catholic University.

The second arrival, purchased from the Roger Friedman Rare Book Studio of Tuxedo, New York, in October 2022, is the popular De Imitatione Christi (The Imitation of Christ) by a German-Dutch canon know as Thomas à Kempis, first composed circa 1410-1425, which was chronicled in a 2022 blog post as we already house several versions.  This newcomer was published in Venice, 1573, by Luigi di Granata da Thomaso Porcacchi da Castiglione Arretino, with nine full-page woodcut illustrations.  It has an extra gathering bound in after the text with manuscript material in two distinct hands. The author of the earlier pages wrote in a readable, italic hand discoursing on twelve virtues, probably aimed at prelates, including chastity, patience, mercy, simplicity, avoidance of sin, and correcting dangerous behavior. A second text in the same hand, dated 27 April 1577, is a translation of a papal decree that permits certain ritual acts, like the Rosary, to function as indulgences. A third text, still in the same neat hand, is a list of protections, such as forgiveness of sins, grace to resist temptation, and protection for pregnant women. It is followed by several benedictions, and more pages in a messier hand giving account of moments from the life of Christ, with the last leaf missing. This devotional book probably belonged to a prelate in the first decades after it was printed, with a second owner a close contemporary, who used the remaining blank pages to fulfill a perceived obligation to enumerate Christ’s life. The book is a living artifact of people committed to post Tridentine Catholicism in the era of Pope Gregory XIII. (2)

De Imitatione Christi (The Imitation of Christ), Collage of select pages, 1573, Special Collections, Catholic University.

The third purchased acquisition, from The Kelmscott Bookshop of Savage, Maryland, in February 2023, was, and this is a mouthful, Les Oeuvres du Bien-Heureux François de Sales, Evesque et Prince de Geneve, Instituteur des Religieuses de la Visitation de Saincte Marie. Revenuë; & Tres-exactement Corrigées sur les Premiers & Plus Fideles Exemplaires. Enrichies Nouvellement de Plusieurs Emblémes & Figures Symboliques; des Citations de l’Escritures Saincte, & d’Annotations en Marge; Avec un Abbrege de la Vie, & une Table tres-ample des Matieres, & des Choses plus Remarquables, qui Manquit -Cy-devant à cet ouvrage, an uncommon edition of work by St. Francis de Sales published in Paris by Sebastien Hure, 1652, with over 1,000 pages and measuring 10 by 15 by 3.5 inches. Francis de Sales (1567-1622) was Bishop of Geneva, revered as a saint for his deep faith and his gentle approach to religious divisions of the Protestant Reformation. He is also known for his writings on spiritual direction and formation, and the Hure edition is important as a comprehensive compilation of these writings, published after various complaints from religious communities about the multiple errors present in previous similar publications. Bound in contemporary full brown leather, there is a penned ownership name from 1751, and there is also a small stamp of the Library of the Sulpician Seminary of Washington. (3)

Les Oeuvres.. Francis de Sales, Collage, including title page, 1652, Special Collections, Catholic University.

As we begin yet another academic year in Rare Books, we are already in the process of adding new and exciting titles that will be shortly cataloged and described in our 2024 acquisitions blog. In the meantime, please direct any question about accessing these or other rare books to or check our webpage. Please note we also work with teachers and professors who wish to bring their classes in for tours or academic exercises.


(1)Antiquariat Inlibris Gilhofer Nf., Vienna, Austria, vendor catalog, and invoice, 2022.

(2) Roger Friedman Rare Book Studio of Tuxedo, New York, vendor catalog, invoice, and email, 2022.

(3)The Kelmscott Bookshop of Savage, Maryland, vendor catalog, and invoice, 2023.

(4) Special thanks to Alex Audziayuk, Shane MacDonald, and Hannah Kaufman of Special Collections for their assistance.

The Archivist’s Nook: Catholic U’s Centenary Alum and Scholar – Karl M. Schmitt

Karl M. Schmitt on rooftop of Gibbons Hall, 1942, Karl M. Schmitt Collection, Special Collections, Catholic University.

Kentucky born Karl Michael Schmitt (1922- ), a recent centenarian and alumnus of Catholic University, is a distinguished scholar and teacher on Latin American studies. Special Collections, which includes University Archives, is fortunate to have a small but important collection of Dr. Schmitt’s materials, mostly photographs, documenting his World War II era time on campus, with many outdoor group shots that are generally dated and persons identified. There is also an unpublished manuscript titled Changes at The Catholic University of America, 1940-2000:  Some Reflections of an Old Grad.

CU students (left to right): Kathleen Bowser, Anabelle Melville, Rita Bondi, Joan Chapman, 1946, Karl M. Schmitt Collection, Special Collections, Catholic University.

Schmitt entered Catholic University in 1940 where he was mentored by Professor Manoel Cardozo while working in the library with Latin American related books, including the Oliveira Lima Library. While Cardozo was a ‘Brazilianist,’ Schmitt was drawn to Mexican history because of his interest in its Revolutionary history and due to a lifelong Mexican friend he met at Catholic U.(1) Schmitt also pursued extracurricular activities in theater, acting in three plays, before entering the World War II draft in early 1943. He served in the United States Army until September 1945, re-enrolling at Catholic U. upon his discharge. Becoming interested in student government, he was elected President of the Baltimore-Washington Chapter of the National Federation of Catholic College Students (NFCCS). Graduating from CatholicU in 1947 with a BA in History, he then earned an MA there in 1949.

Karl Schmitt as Zachariah in performance of Athaliah, 1942. Karl M. Schmitt Collection, Special Collections, Catholic University.

After leaving CatholicU, Schmitt went on to a distinguished teaching career as a history and government professor, achieving his doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania in 1954. Leaving the U.S. State Department in 1958, he spent the majority of his career on the faculty of the University of Texas at Austin. He was also a visiting professor University of California, Los Angeles, 1959 and at the University of Manchester, England, 1988-1989. Additionally, he taught at the National War College, 1970-1971 and was a member of Texas Catholic History Association, serving as president 1976-1977.

Book cover of Communism in Mexico by Karl Schmitt, 1965,

Schmitt authored several books on Latin America, most notably Communism in Mexico: A Study in Political Frustration (1965), studied from the perspective of domestic politics to describe the internal structure of the movement and its relations with government and labor. He observed the fidelity of the Mexican Communist Party (PCM) to Moscow and discussed the movement’s weaknesses as a competitor for power in the Mexican context of modified democracy in a single-party system.  He argued it was an orthodox Communist party whose membership was insignificant, blindly loyal to Moscow,  harassed by the government, and ineffective in its political activity.  The government combined toleration of deviant opinion with quick suppression of behavior threatening public order, with Schmitt concluding that Communism in Mexico would remain ineffectual unless a major depression occurred or the pressure of population increase became extreme.

See Dr. Schmitt’s extensive 2022 interview by Portal, the web magazine of the Llilas Benson Latin American Studies and Collections of the University of Texas  He also wrote a letter dated 1/11/2022 to CatholicU updating his recent life and his collection at CatholicU has been digitized. Please direct any questions to

(1) Portal, the web magazine of Llilas Benson Latin American Studies and Collections, University of Texas, 2022.

(2) Special thanks to Shane MacDonald for his work on the Schmitt digital collection.


The Archivist’s Nook: ‘Labor’s True Woman’ – Leonora Barry

Leonora Barry, n.d. Terrence Vincent Powderly Papers, Special Collections, Catholic University.

It is difficult for the twenty-first century mind to grasp the endless drudgery of the daily lives of nineteenth century workers, especially the masses of the poor, and particularly women. While the status of mother or wife was better than that of domestic servant, there was little else separating them from the constant toil of hauling and fetching, cooking and cleaning, child and elder care. Additionally, unmarried or widowed women worked in factories and other places of commercial employment with harsh conditions, low pay, and scant regard. Out of this challenging milieu arose the example of Lenora Barry, called ‘Labor’s True Woman.’ Born on August 13, 1849, in County Cork, Ireland, as Leonora M. Kearny, daughter of John Kearny and Honor Granger, she was the only woman to hold national office with the Knights of Labor, America’s first large and somewhat successful labor union during their brief heyday in the mid to late 1880s. She was a dedicated advocate for bettering the conditions of American working women and the progress of women’s rights, including suffrage, during the Gilded Age and Progressive Era.

Knights of Labor Assembly, Female Delegates, 1886. Terrence Vincent Powderly Papers, Special Collections, Catholic University.

Her Irish farming family immigrated in the wake of the Irish Famine to Pierrepont, a rural New York community, in 1852. Following her mother’s death in 1864, her father remarried to a woman barely Leonora’s senior, with the resulting tension prompting the younger woman to attend a teaching school. After receiving a teaching certificate at only age 16, she taught at a local school for several years. She married Irish immigrant William E. Barry, who was both painter and musician, in 1871 and they settled in Potsdam, New York, where their first child, a daughter, was born in 1873. Per state law and despite a chronic teacher shortage, she was forced to give up teaching because she was a married woman and forced by economic necessity into manual labor. She and her family moved constantly, with two sons born by 1880 when her husband and daughter both died. After years as a seamstress, she found work in an Amsterdam, New York, hosiery factory where she and fellow workers faced hard conditions, low pay, and long hours.

Leonora Barry to T V Powderly, July 26, 1887. T V Powderly Papers, Special Collections, Catholic University.

In order to take positive action on the issues faced by her fellow workers, Barry joined the women’s branch of the Knights of Labor in 1885, near the time of that organization’s zenith. Originally a secret postwar group of Philadelphia clothes workers, it was transformed into an association fighting for labor reform across trades and industries on a national level. Barry soon rose to become master workman or president of her local Knights branch of about 1,500 members, then head of District Assembly 65, which had fifty two local branches with over 9,000 members. The following year she served as one of five district delegates to the General Assembly of the Knights of Labor in Richmond, Virginia. Endorsed by the Knights national leader, Terence V. Powderly, whose archival papers hold pride of place in Catholic U’s Special Collections, Barry was voted by the convention delegates to lead the newly created Department of Women’s Work. She was the first woman to be paid as a labor organizer and the only one to hold national office in the Knights of Labor. Her charge was to investigate women’s employment conditions, build new Knights assemblies, agitate for equal pay.

Pro labor pamphlet that includes a chapter on Leanora Barry, 1975, Special Collections, Catholic University.

Barry travelled across the country investigating the lot of women workers, and her reports to the Knights General Assembly in 1887, 1888, and 1889 detailed abuse of both women and children. She also gave over 500 speeches during her career, with ‘The Dignity of Labor’ on July 4, 1888, in Rockford, Illinois, being long remembered. Nearly 65,000 women belonged to the Knights, who offered jobs and affordable goods as well as supporting boycotts in women workers’ interests. About 400 Knights locals included women but Barry found it difficult to build a strong following due to both apathy and divisions trying to organize women in a male dominated society. Employers denied her entrance to their work sites and better paid workers hesitated to join labor movements fearing their situations would decline. Barry began to support state and federal legislation to protect workers, with a notable success in Pennsylvania passing its first factory inspection act in 1889.

Commemorative Road Marker honoring Leonora Barry-Lake, n.d, State of New York.

Unfortunately, for both Barry and women workers, she became embroiled in internal disputes with Knights Secretary-Treasurer, John Hayes, who took control of the Women’s Department in 1888 and harassed Barry with tacit support from Powderly to her resignation in 1890, effectively ending the Women’s Department. Another factor though was her marriage to Obadiah Read Lake, a St. Louis printer and telegraph editor, that same year and her notion that women should not work outside the home unless there was economic need.  Barry continued to travel and agitate for women’s suffrage and temperance, though not ignoring labor as she spoke to the Congress of Women at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Later in life, known as ‘Mother Lake,’ she moved to Minooka, Illinois, and was active in both the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and Catholic Total Abstinence Union. Perhaps ironically, she died July 18, 1923 due to mouth cancer. While there are no papers of her own at Catholic University’s Special Collections,  her correspondence and reports feature prominently in the those of Terence V. Powderly and John W. Hayes, which can also be accessed digitally via ProQuest’s History Vault. For more on the Knights and/or women workers of the era, see the scholarship of Susan Levine, Steven Parfitt, Kim Voss, and Robert Weir.

The Archivist’s Nook: “God’s Litigator,” Disability Rights, and Religious Education Freedom

William Bentley Ball (1916-1999), subject of a previous blog post and whose papers reside at Catholic University, was a Pennsylvania based constitutional lawyer and devout Roman Catholic, dubbed “God’s Litigator” and “Religious Freedom Fighter” by the Catholic Press (1). Ball argued nine cases and advised on more than two dozen others, primarily related to religious freedom and the First Amendment, before the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). Ball was also an artist, poet, and author.

William Bentley Ball with his law books, n.d. William Bentley Ball Papers, Special Collections, Catholic University.

As a young man, Ball was a devout Catholic, anti-New Deal activist, and U.S. naval officer in World War II. After the war, he studied law at the University of Notre Dame, taught at Villanova, and served as general counsel for the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference. His first case before SCOTUS was in 1967 when he entered a brief on behalf of U.S. Catholic bishops supporting the overturn of prohibits on interracial marriage in the celebrated Loving v. Virginia case. Ball achieved national attention with the 1972 Wisconsin v. Yoder case in which that state tried to force Amish children to attend high school when the latter’s belief system found that unnecessary. Ball represented the family in question, the Yoders, pro-bono, arguing before SCOTUS that this prevented defendants from performing their religious obligation, and the justices agreed 7-2.

Honorary Degree in Latin from Catholic University to William Bentley Ball, 1989. W. B. Ball Papers, Special Collections, Catholic University.

Ball’s other most famous case was in 1993 with Zobrest v. Catalina Foothills School District in Arizona. James Zobrest (b. 1974) and his family were Pennsylvania transplants and Catholics who had moved to Arizona seeking the best possible education for the hearing impaired. Although many in the Deaf Community favor separate schooling, the Zobrests sought to mainstream their son, which required a daily on site sign language interpreter in the school to facilitate young James’ communication and learning. Public funding of these interpreters was not a problem so long as James attended public schools but when he transferred to a Catholic High School, Salpointe in Tuscon, said funding was denied by the Catalina Foothills School District,  believing that it was a violation of the First Amendment’s establishment clause, which generally prohibits the government from establishing, advancing, or giving favor to any religion. Arguing this was religious discrimination, the Zobrest family went to court.

Legal Brief, SCOTUS, Zobrest vs. Catalina Foothills School District, 1992. William Bentley Ball Papers, Special Collections, Catholic University.

The federal district court in Arizona held that furnishing a sign-language interpreter violated the First Amendment the interpreter would via sign language promote James’ religious doctrine at government expense. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s decision, stating that the interpreter would have been the instrumentality conveying the religious message with the local school board, in effect, sponsoring the religious school’s activities. The court admitted that denying the interpreter placed a burden on the parents’ right to free exercise of religion, but it was justified to ensure that the First Amendment was not violated. The Zobrests engaged the services of the progressive Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest. Their lawyer, Thomas Berning, teamed up with the Conservative Catholic litigator, Ball, the latter working again on a pro bono basis, to take the case to SCOTUS. Incidentally, Ball’s daughter had been young Jim Zobrest’s first sign language interpreter before the family had left Pennsylvania. In their landmark case, Ball and Berning were supported by the Department of Justice on the basis of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, the Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), Missouri Synod Lutherans, Southern Baptist Convention, National Council of Churches of Christ, and the National Association of Evangelicals. In opposition, were the ACLU, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the American Jewish Committee, and the Anti-Defamation League (2).

On February 24, 1993, the case was held before the Supreme Court. Ball argued that the school district’s refusal was a violation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, as well as the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.  Chief Justice William Rehnquist authored the majority’s 5-4 opinion, ruling that the service of a sign-language interpreter in was part of a government program distributing benefits neutrally to disabled children under the IDEA regardless of whether the school was public, private, or religious.  Rehnquist further held that the only economic benefit the religious school might have received would have been indirect and that aiding the student and his parents did not amount to a direct subsidy of the religious school because the student, not the school, was the primary beneficiary.  The Supreme Court thus ruled that there was no violation of the establishment clause, and the decision of the Ninth Circuit was reversed. Zobrest vs. Catalina is a significant case because it  marked a shift in the court toward interpreting the establishment clause to allow government-paid services for students who attend religiously affiliate nonpublic schools and was notably followed by Agostini v. Felton (1997), in which the court held that remedial services financed by federal funds under Title I could be provided in parochial schools.

The academic study and best account of the Zobrest case, The University of Illinois Press, 2020.

Although Jim had graduated before the SCOTUS decision the family was nevertheless compensated for the thousands of dollars a year they had scraped together for his sign interpreters. For Ball, this was perhaps his finest victory in the twilight of his notable career. The definitive account of this notable piece of legal history is Bruce J. Dierenfield and David A. Gerber. Disability Rights and Religious Liberty in Education: The Story Behind Zobrest v. Catalina Foothills School District. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2020. Much of the source material is available in the aforementioned papers of William Bentley Ball at Catholic U. For access questions, please contact us at


(1) Bruce J. Dierenfield and David A. Gerber. Disability Rights and Religious Liberty in Education: The Story Behind Zobrest v. Catalina Foothills School District. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2020, p. 104.

(2) Ibid, pp. 131-132.

(3) Thanks to HK for her assistance.