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“Pray, Pay and Disobey”: Conflict and Schism in Catholic America, 1870-1939

Rencewicz, Margaret J. (2015) “Pray, Pay and Disobey”: Conflict and Schism in Catholic America, 1870-1939. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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In late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century immigrant America, lay Catholics were not shy of turning to disruptive, even violent, means to solve disputes within their religious communities. They split into factions and fought each other in the church, on the street and in the courts. Often, the pastor was the key divisive figure in the conflict, with factions aligning in support of or opposition to him. Parishioners and even priests fought their bishops. Many lay Catholics employed militant, diplomatic, legal and schismatic strategies in order to secure what they most desired: control of the administration of parish finances and property. By examining their actions as strategic, this project seeks to restore agency to lay Catholics who are often presented in Catholic history as passive, submissive and blindly loyal to their priests, bishops and pope. In addition to strategic acts of militancy, such as rioting, lay Catholics made use of diplomatic conflict-resolution strategies, such as petitioning Roman Catholic prelates in order to secure a change of pastors. Sometimes, lay Catholics turned to the secular legal system for assistance in their efforts to secure control of parish property. When all else failed, conflicts begat schisms, such as the Polish National Catholic Church, which was established in 1897. Lay Catholics, however, shaped and transformed the Roman Catholic Church and Catholicism in America not only by schism, but also by the threat of schism. Therefore, in addition to schismatics, this study includes lay people and priests who neared and even dabbled in schism, but ultimately did not leave the Roman Catholic Church. By doing so, this project aims to uncover complexities of conflict within Catholic America.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Rencewicz, Margaret J.mjr40@pitt.eduMJR40
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairKane, Paula M.pmk@pitt.eduPMK
Committee MemberLynch, Katherine
Committee MemberShear, Adamashear@pitt.eduASHEAR
Committee MemberOestreicher, Richarddick@pitt.eduDICK
Date: 27 September 2015
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 29 April 2015
Approval Date: 27 September 2015
Submission Date: 13 August 2015
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Number of Pages: 243
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Religion (Cooperative Program in the study of)
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Catholic immigrant Independentism Polish National Catholic Church schism trusteeism
Date Deposited: 28 Sep 2015 01:42
Last Modified: 27 Sep 2020 05:15


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