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Review: _The South's Tolerable Alien: Roman Catholics in Alabama and Georgia, 1945-1970_

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      Subject: Remillard on Moore, _The South's Tolerable Alien: Roman
      Catholics in Alabama and Georgia, 1945-1970_

      H-NET BOOK REVIEW
      Published by H-Catholic@... (January, 2008)

      Andrew S. Moore. _The South's Tolerable Alien: Roman Catholics in
      Alabama and Georgia, 1945-1970_. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University
      Press, 2007. xii + 210 pp. Bibliography, index. $35.00 (cloth), ISBN
      978-0-8071-3212-8.

      Reviewed for H-Catholic by Arthur Remillard, Department of Religious
      Studies, Saint Francis University

      Becoming Tolerable in an Intolerable South

      Writing in 1941, journalist W. J. Cash labeled southern Catholics "the
      intolerable alien."[1] In his time, the Protestant mainstream frequently
      relegated Catholics to the periphery of society. According to Andrew S.
      Moore, however, when the black freedom struggle reached a peak in the
      1960s, many Catholics "rose to the defense of racial segregation" (p.
      161). As a result, the former religious foes found common ground atop
      the bedrock of white supremacy. Southern Catholics thereafter had
      become, as Moore says, "the tolerable alien" (p. 162). What about
      Catholic activists, though? Did they keep the flames of anti-Catholicism
      burning? Certainly many priests and nuns in particular--empowered by
      Vatican II reforms that encouraged increased social involvement--labored
      for racial justice. While southern bishops like Mobile's Thomas J.
      Toolen often lamented this activism, it did not translate into
      anti-Catholicism. Instead, the author shows that critics concentrated on
      defending the racial status quo, and largely ignored religious
      differences. Locating his study in Alabama and Georgia, Moore's account
      comes with an impressive array of archival sources, which include the
      voices of priests, bishops, the white laity, and the "muted, but ever
      present" black laity (p. 10). _The South's Tolerable Alien_ is a welcome
      and needed addition to the field of southern religious history, which
      has too few studies of Catholicism.[2] Scholars interested in southern
      religion, civil rights, and the broader topic of American Catholicism
      will no doubt find this book valuable

      The book opens in the immediate years after World War II, when the
      anti-Catholicism of the early twentieth century remained strong in the
      South, even though it had waned elsewhere. Public rituals, such as
      Reformation Day celebrations, became platforms for southern Protestants
      to confirm their religious/national identity and simultaneously disclaim
      the religion/patriotism of Catholics. Similarly, Christ the King
      observances gave Catholics an opportunity to unify (which was
      significant, given the paucity of southern parishes) and protest their
      religious/civic alienation. At these public ceremonies, writes Moore,
      Catholics demanded "the boundaries of the southern religious mainstream
      to be redrawn to include Catholicism" (p. 37). The "boundaries" changed
      very little, however, until opposition to civil rights became the white
      majority's preeminent standard for social acceptability. To foreshadow
      this transition, Moore points to Father Albert S. Foley, a
      priest-educator in Mobile who began supporting civil rights in the
      1940s. The "hostility directed at [Foley]," asserts the author, "came
      because of his self-described role as a southern liberal, not because he
      was a Catholic priest" (p. 64).

      In addition to the white Protestant mainstream, Foley had little support
      from Bishop Toolen in Mobile, who was generally satisfied with the
      South's racial norms. But in urban Georgia, the situation was quite
      different. The diocese of Atlanta, led by Ohio native Bishop Paul J.
      Hallinan, formed after World War II. Most of the population was new to
      the area and, on the whole, more liberal on racial matters than
      elsewhere in the South. When Hallinan desegregated the parochial
      schools, one parishioner sent his tentative endorsement, writing, "let's
      just say that it is the proper thing to do and that it is inevitable"
      (p. 89). Not every Catholic in Atlanta agreed, however. One woman
      complained that the bishop's decision brought upon her the disfavor of
      her non-Catholic colleagues. "I have never felt the need to lower my
      head until this morning" (p. 89). Here as elsewhere, Moore gives readers
      a textured picture of the Catholic South, showing differing perspectives
      on the complicated issue of race. Further enriching this sense of nuance
      is the author's many citations of lay voices, which immeasurably
      improves the book's overall quality.

      While the civil rights movement gained momentum, the Second Vatican
      Council cast the nature of hierarchical authority into question. As
      Moore explains, many Catholics believed that these reforms "released
      liberty and conscience from their ecclesiastical moorings" (p. 139).
      Pro-civil rights clergy found comfort in this interpretation of Vatican
      II, which gave them more freedom to become part of the movement. In the
      process, some openly criticized superiors who espoused opposing racial
      views. Consider an exchange between Richard T. Sadlier, a Josephite
      pastor in Mobile, and Bishop Toolen. After Martin Luther King's
      assassination, Toolen conveyed what appeared to be genuine remorse.
      Sadlier was unconvinced. "Your letter on the death of Martin Luther King
      irked me," he wrote. "I could almost vomit at the hypocrisy in it" (p.
      142). Sadlier perhaps had good reason to be suspicious, since the bishop
      did express opposition to the 1965 Selma demonstrations. In any case,
      Toolen resented the rebuke, and asked the Josephite provincial to
      transfer Sadlier. In years past, Toolen's request would have likely been
      granted. But the provincial refused, arguing that people would interpret
      the transfer as punishment for the priest's activism, which would
      reflect badly on everyone involved except Sadlier. Moore uses this
      affair as an emblem of the era. The pre-Vatican II model of the church,
      which stressed deference to authority, was no more. And while many white
      Catholics and Protestants agreed on segregation, there was a "crisis of
      authority" fueling disputes within Catholicism (p. 138).

      For its succinct presentation, compelling observations, and exemplary
      research, Moore's book is a noteworthy addition to the historiography of
      southern religion. _The Intolerable Alien_ is one of an emerging series
      of books examining the role of religious minorities in the civil rights
      movement, which includes Amy L. Koehlinger's _The New Nuns_ (2007),
      Raymond A. Mohl's _South of South_ (2004), and Clive Webb's _Flight
      against Fear_ (2001). Combined, these studies have begun revealing the
      widespread influence of civil rights, and how even the smallest groups
      made significant contributions to this important time in American
      history.

      Notes

      [1]. W. J. Cash, _The Mind of the South_ (New York: A. A. Knopf, 1941),
      342.

      [2]. See Paul Harvey, "Religion in the American South since the Civil
      War," in _A Companion to the American South_, ed. John B. Boles (Malden,
      Mass.: Blackwell Publishers, 2002). Harvey's survey of the
      historiography focuses almost entirely on the various permutations of
      evangelical Protestantism. He rightly resolves, "Important questions and
      avenues of scholarship remain" (p. 403).


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