• Uncategorized

Catholic Immigration of the 19th Century

CatholicImmigration of the 19th Century


CatholicImmigration of the 19th Century

ResearchbyGilley (1984)shows that the population of Roman Catholics in the United States inabout1845 was a small group of people who were mostly Englishspeaking Catholics and they were socially accomplished. Several yearsof the continuous potato famine in various parts of the world ledmost of the Catholics to move to the United States, and in themid-1940s, the face of Catholicism started changing with more peoplerepresenting the religion in the country. After duration of fiftyyears, the population of the Catholics had increased and even startedowning portions of land in the country. The immigration brought intothe country different kinds of people including educated individualsfrom various parts of the world. The immigrants spoke diverselanguages, were different in their social status and stresseddifferent origin of their heritage. Casanova(2007)argues that although people of other religions were also immigratingto the country, Catholic members from various parts of the world weremost numerous and noticeable. The population of the Catholics in 1850was only five percent, and it increased to 17 percent in 1907.

Catholicimmigration of the 19th century threatened the newly formed colonies.The Catholic immigration started the creation of ethnic parishes.These churches became the centers of immigration life. This gave theCatholics the ability to continue with the tradition of theirreligion in the country. This, however, caused the Protestants aconcern because they feared the Catholics would re-establish a linkto the monarch of England. Finally, the study will highlight thestruggles the Catholic immigrants overcame to be able to continueteaching their children the Catholic religion.


In the 19thcentury, a force of immigrants from Germany, Ireland, Eastern Europe,Italy and other parts of the world increased the number of Catholicsin the United States. A high number of the Catholics also came fromCanada during the mid of the century, and they started living in NewEngland. Byrne(2006)postulates that the increased immigration was expected to increasethe political power and concern of the religion in the country andimprove the presence of their culture. The immigration increased thefear by other members in the country about the menace of theCatholics. Between 1820 and mid 19th century, the Irish Catholicsconstituted more than a third of the total population of theimmigrants. In the 1840s, the Catholic immigrants were almost half ofthe entire population of the immigrants. The immigration of the IrishCatholics affected the English Catholics in the country who thoughtthat they would bring problems to the present parishes in thecountry. The increased pressure of the Irish Catholic immigrantsincreased the tension between the French dominated and Irish Catholicchurches where the French Catholics became disdainful to the Irish.The dynamic was later repeated after the civil war with the Irishpeople being in power and the new immigrants in the country comingfrom places like Sicily and Naples.

Dominanceof Irish Catholics

Although theIrish Catholics faced rebellion from the English Catholics that haddominated in the country and from the Protestant, they succeeded inimmigration where more of the Irish Catholics came into the countryand started owning local lands and other resources. At the beginningof 1840, although the number of Irish Catholics was not high thanthat of the German-American Catholics, the Irish Catholics held mostof the senior posts in the catholic church and across the country.Research byCasanova (2007)shows that Irish Catholics had a significant number of bishops in1840s they controlled most seminaries and colleges in the nation. TheIrish Catholics started schools that helped in teaching theirreligion to its members despite the hostility from the other religionincluding the English-speaking Catholics. The high number of theIrish Catholics in the country encouraged them to vie for politicalpositions urging them to support the growth of their religion(Byrne, 2006).

CatholicParochial Schools

Theimmigration in the 19th century encouraged the establishment ofparochial schools in the country that was against the funded schoolsof the Protestants. Through the formation of the school, thegovernment through American Bible society guaranteed that every classacross the country would have Bible classes. Gilley(1984)records that through the formation of the classes the Irish AmericanCatholics were in a position to educate their religion across variousparts of the United States. The education strengthened the religionof the Catholics in the various parts of the country outweighingothers including protestants. The parochial schools gave freeeducation and the government of the country supported them by makingan amendment into its constitution favoring free education. Freeeducation encouraged most of both local and immigrants to access theeducation while at the same time teachings on religious aspects.

During theimmigration in the 19th century, the Catholics immigrants into thecountry were faced with various challenges including being regardedas barbarians and drunkards and that they were unfit for thecountry’s citizenship. There was fear about the immigration of theIrish Catholics where the states representatives warned the countryabout the adverse effects of allowing Catholics from Eastern andSouthern Europe in the activities of the Americans.

Interplaybetween the religion and its history, economic and political context

Theimmigration of the Catholics from other countries into Americabecause of potato famine had great impacts on the economy andpolitical context of the country. The migration included educatedindividuals who had active and vibrant views that could lead to moredevelopment of the country. Individuals that are more skilled broughtadditional intellectual resource into the country. Browne(1950)postulates that though the immigrants faced challenges when enteringthe country, after their full settlement they started introducingtheir religion culture influencing other people in the country. Inthe United States, the 19th-century immigration by the Catholicsestablished a firm foundation of the Catholic religion (Gilley,1984).The history of religion in the country dates, particularly during themigration period.

The highpopulation of the Catholics into the country led to populationincrease. The population growth resulted in an additional number ofpeople in the country with expertise, therefore, contributingpositively to the economy of the country. Educated aristocrats madeit possible to invent new processes leading to improvements in thecountry. Lockwood and Robert (2000) record that, the higher number ofCatholic immigrants resulted to increasing in the governmentcollection therefore improving the processes of the country. Throughthe immigration of Irish Catholics, the education process of thecountry was improved by the imposition of various schools most ofwhich were free to the citizens (Gilley,1984).The free education increased the skills of the people that boostedtheir economic performance. On the other hand, immigration led topopulation pressure in the country leading to financial crisisbecause of over-exploitation of the available resources.

Thegovernment faces additional challenges in maintaining the welfare ofall the individuals. Lockwood and Robert (2000) argue that theimmigration of the Irish Catholics had significant impacts on thepolitics of the country. The immigration improved the morality of thepoliticians through guidance by the Catholic leaders. Through thereligion, the government was able to request for an amendment thatencouraged Bible reading in all the classes in the country. Thenumber of Catholics in power in the country increased because of ahigh number of the Irish Catholics that had entered the country.There is a direct relationship between the religion and the politicsof the country. Browne(1950)states that religion has been in the forefront when it comes tonegotiating political matters and therefore growth of the religionhave various contributions the political nature of the country.

Correlationbetween Catholic immigration and the contemporary American religion

Thereligion across the states has been showing progressive changes sincethe immigration of Catholics into the country in the 19th century.Catholicism has been the dominant religion in the country that camebecause of immigration. In the present situation, the Irish Catholicsand the German-American Catholics worship together, but the conflictbetween the two groups still exists with an argument of who wouldtalk about being a good Catholic. The conservative and liberalCatholic churches in America maintain the fidelity of the universalchurch as it was during the 19th century. The current religion in thecountry is experiencing some challenges most of which the IrishCatholics faced during their migration into the United States.Immigration of Catholic individuals into the country has continued.The contemporary immigrants are facing discrimination similar to theones faced by the Irish Catholics during the 19th century. Immigrantsinto the current religion of the country are experiencingdiscrimination based on race, class and face challenge from churchleaders leading to devaluation of the styles of beliefs and ritualsof the Catholic religion. Catholicism has been expanding in variousparts of the country and has outweighed other religious groupsincluding the Protestants. Before immigration, the number ofCatholics in the country was few (Gilley,1984).


Immigrationof the Irish Catholics led to the great transformation of thereligious concern in the country. It also encouraged economicexpansion through addition intellectual resources and interest on theeducation system of the country. The immigrants faced rebellion anddiscrimination from other dominions and the existing Catholic groupin the country. The immigration affected the social-economicactivities and cultural structures. The Irish Catholics acquiringpolitical positions in the country and holding the senior positionsin the churches including bishops changed the politics of thecountry. The immigration brought into the country various advantagesand disadvantages such as population pressure. During theimmigration, the Irish Catholics were the highest group as comparedto other teams. The Irish Catholics were almost half of the totalimmigrants in the country. The religion has been dominant in thecountry with the highest number of followers from the group occupyinghigh positions in the church.


Browne, H. J.(1950). Archbishop Hughes and Western Colonization. TheCatholic Historical Review,36(3),257-285.

Byrne, J.(2006). Roman Catholics and Immigration in Nineteenth-CenturyAmerica. DukeUniversity Dept. of Religion, Teacher Serve.

Casanova, J.(2007). Immigration and the new religious pluralism: a EuropeanUnion/United States comparison. Democracyand the new religious pluralism,59-83.

Gilley, S.(1984). The Roman Catholic Church and the nineteenth-century Irishdiaspora. TheJournal of Ecclesiastical History,35(02),188-207.

Lockwood,Robert. (2000) &quotAnti-Catholicism and the History of the CatholicSchool Funding.&quotCatholic League.