Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the thirty-second President of the United States, served longer than any other President in United States history. Elected to four consecutive terms, Roosevelt served from 1933 until his death in 1945. Millions of Catholic voters helped bring Roosevelt his landslide victory in 1936. Estimates of the number of Catholics voting for FDR range from 70% - 81%. None of this Catholic support was taken for granted during the campaign of 1936, however, nor did all Catholics support a second term for Roosevelt. To the contrary, relations between certain prominent Catholics and members of the Roosevelt administration were strained. Father Charles Coughlin, a former FDR supporter who had become an outspoken critic of the President during the 1936 campaign, actively campaigned against him in the months before the election. Father John A. Ryan, on the other hand, publicly supported Roosevelt during the campaign, delivering a national radio broadcast under the auspices of the Democratic National Committee on his behalf.
This site features previously unavailable audio and documents related to the presidential campaign of 1936 and the involvement of each priest in that campaign.
The Social Security Act passed in the midst of the economic disaster of the Depression, on August 14, 1935.
This site offers a documentary history and supporting educational materials highlighting the collaboration between government officials and leadership figures in the National Conference of Catholic Charities.
While conditions for workers had been a concern throughout United States history, advocacy for the working class became particularly prominent by the 1930s, as the rise of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) in 1935 attests. While the Catholic Church had officially supported organized labor for decades, that support intensified in the 1930s. Pope Leo XIII had expressed support for organized labor in the late nineteenth century, and Pope Pius XI reiterated that commitment with the issuance of the encyclical Quadragesimo Anno in 1931. The Vatican asserted the right for workers to unionize and to earn a “just wage.”
Many Church leaders in the U.S. would enthusiastically embrace Pius XI's statement and begin to ally with unions across the country. The creation of the CIO would be of particular importance; many in the Church would support, and in some cases join, the organization in order to bring what many leaders termed “social justice” to the working class. Much of the work of the Church in the area of labor would be conducted through the National Catholic Welfare Conference’s Social Action Department, which would become a fervent supporter of workers' rights during the Great Depression.
This site explores the critical role the Church played in the labor movement, spreading its Christian ideal of “economic democracy” to the working class, in the decades between 1930 and 1950.