Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Avella, Steven M.
Jablonsky, Thomas J.
From the late 1960s onward, a sequence of unusually transformative, combustible, and sometimes alarming urban phenomena beset the city of Chicago and bred considerable turmoil and uncertainty: post-industrial transition; street gang activity and unprecedented levels of interpersonal violence; the political ascendancy in 1983 of African American reform candidate Harold Washington to the mayor's seat; gay liberation; and AIDS. Each accentuated a host of social and/or spatial rifts--between the deteriorating city and comparatively thriving suburbs; the economically impoverished, culturally alienated, and frequently isolated inner city and the rest of Chicago; machine and reform politicians; Black lawmakers and White "ethnics"; sexual majorities and minorities; and the physically sick and the healthy.
These developments also challenged the historic liberalism, confidence, and institutional breadth of Chicago Catholicism during the tenures of Cardinal Archbishops John Cody (1965-1982) and Joseph Bernardin (1982-1996). Fueled by diverse material and theological interests--such as the Church's immense human and financial investments in neighborhoods, the Second Vatican Council's teachings to engage the secular world and root out poverty and injustice, religious order charisms, and a strong heritage of social activism--the archdiocese and religiously-motivated Catholics marshaled a distinctive brand of religious reciprocity, which encouraged Chicagoans to recognize that they were interdependent and embedded within an urban and metropolitan community. Reciprocity also signified that it was the responsibility of the Church to recognize Chicagoans' common grievances, bring them to the fore, initiate dialogue among people, and encourage the mutual exchange of talents and treasure. Although sometimes stifled or camouflaged by Cardinal Cody's desire to centralize control of the archdiocese in his own hands, this impulse to foster discourse, collaboration, and interdependency was pivotal to a city wracked by social polarization and spatial segregation. Finally, reciprocity encouraged Catholics to be receptive to secular enrichment. A notable segment of the faithful reasoned that the daily experiences of city residents should inform Catholic pastoral practices, while others touted that urban trauma was not uniformly negative; spiritual renewal could blossom from witnessing or participating in human suffering.