A Whole New World


Photo Source: Nepa Lab

According to the infographic above made by Nepa Lab, it seems as though Catholicism is spread across every continent (except Antarctica of course). Although not evenly distributed, Catholicism reaches far and wide considering its geographic origin, but maybe that isn’t as surprising as one may think.

Is it actually surprising that Catholicism reaches vast locations around the globe? Without any background information, possibly, but with even the smallest bit of knowledge about European history, it hardly seems astonishing. What I am alluding to is the basic knowledge of Catholicism’s origin within the vicinity of Rome, Italy, and the history Europeans have had with colonization. Europeans have colonized places such as North and South America, Australia, and even parts of Africa all while there were already indigenous groups of people residing on the land. It is then made clear that without colonization, Catholicism would not have reached such great lengths across the globe. With the previous statement, I am not arguing for or against colonization or even condoning it, but it is important to consider when delving into how Catholicism is so widespread. Most of the colonizing was done by the English or Spanish, but this is not to be the main focus of this blog. The main purpose of this particular blog is to evaluate and analyze my personal feelings regarding Catholic politics around the globe and in the U.S. (mostly the U.S.) based on a few events that I have attended the week prior.

In a text called “History from the Bottom Up and the Inside Out: Ethnicity, Race, and Identity in Working-Class History,” the author, James R. Barrett, recounts of his experience as a Catholic and the politics that came along with his identity. Barrett’s autobiography of sorts is a good recount of the complex ways in which personal identity politics can form; however, be mindful that this is only the recount of one person and his experience rather than that of a larger area or group of people. That being said, my only critique of this text in regard to the topic of this blog is that it’s strictly personal and what may hold true for James Barrett may not be the same for other Catholics. Though, an important point made by Barrett in recounting his experiences is just how much Catholicism had an effect on not only his political beliefs, but his discovery of politics in the first place. Barrett states that “My first taste for history and politics came through the peculiarly Catholic approach in our texts, which seemed not only to organize the whole narrative around the development of the Church in various parts of the world, but also explained most historical change in terms of famous Catholics.” What struck me about this sentiment most of all, even over the rest of the content in this text, is not only the degree to which Barrett’s Catholic education affected him, but the fact that it was indeed where he discovered politics all together. Generally, when discussions about Catholic politics come up in public discourse, it is never really discussed just how powerful the “Catholic education machine” is.

Just simply attending Loyola University Chicago, a Jesuit university in Chicago, I have somewhat noticed the power of the Catholic influence on education (especially as a “none”: someone who does not identify with any religious affiliation or identity), yet through this text I am still being enlightened on how deep it goes especially in lower level education systems as well. Catholic politics are so complex that to this day, they still confuse me. Prior to coming to Loyola, I had thought that religious Christians were always conservative, and most likely because I am from Southern Missouri: where nearly everyone is conservative. It made almost no sense to me how Loyola, a Catholic Jesuit university, could even be remotely liberal (and not that I didn’t want it to be, I definitely did). Throughout this class though, I am continuing to realize that not only are all Catholics diverse and complex, but they are no different in that sense when compared to any other group of people anywhere in the world. Every human has their own unique and personal rational agency and no two people are exactly the same.


Photo Source: Pew Forum

I would also like to make a case for dissent against something that is generally brought up in class that I have not yet gotten to debunk: being a “none” is not a bad thing, and the world is not going to end because of it. This is not to say that anyone has specifically said that the “none’s” will be the demise of the U.S, but I almost feel like since no one denies this statement, that they’re almost leaving the door open for it to be enabled. My main argument is relative to the argument of this class: Catholics have never been the demise of this country, they are a complex group of people who cannot be amounted to one characteristic. Similarly, the growing number of people who are not religiously affiliated will not be the demise of this country. It is also completely incorrect to assume that non-religiously affiliated people do not believe in anything or that they do not have morals.


Photo Source: Loyola + Spencer Bailey
I edited myself into this picture from Loyola’s webpage dedicated to the 1968 series because I forgot to take pictures at the event and I wanted to include something.

Moving on, I attended an event last week for the 1968 series that Loyola held in regard to the unique political climate that was associated with 1968 and its relation to today. You can find out more here. The event consisted of 3 panelists: Firmin DeBrabander, Don Stemen, and Kathleen Belew, all of whom drew from their personal field of expertise and related it to the topic of events during 1968, as well as Elliot Gorn who was the moderator.

What struck me about my attendance at the 1968 Symposium panel was not particularly the content of the panel itself, but the presence of two of the panelists in the first place. That sounds odd at face value, but what I mean is that two of the panelists—Frimin DeBrabander and Don Stemen—were speaking outside of their expertise. Kathleen Belew was the only panelist whose expertise was specifically in U.S. history (who was a great speaker with an impeccable amount of knowledge). Mr. DeBrabander’s expertise is actually in Philosophy, while Dr. Stemen’s is in Criminal Justice and Criminology. I think the fact that two panelists from outside the expertise of history, and U.S. history in particular, was a great addition that can teach us something about inclusivity and holism. By including a panelist whose academic focus was philosophy, criminal justice, or anything other than history at a history-centered event, a bridge between the two realms were connected and similarities were made present. By including people who are different from one other in some aspect and including them equally in a conversation, a broader more holistic picture is painted and creates a better understanding. If we were to implement a principle similar to this socially within American culture, maybe we wouldn’t be as divided, or at least we could coexist more peacefully with greater understanding for one another.


Barrett, James R. History from the Bottom Up and the Inside Out: Ethnicity, Race, and Identity in Working-Class History. Duke University Press, 2017


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