Under the Shield of Saint Michael: Catholics, Cops, and the Urban Crisis

Friday, January 5, 2018: 2:10 PM
Columbia 5 (Washington Hilton)
Matthew Pehl, Augustana University
The image of the urban Catholic cop has become a cultural trope—almost a punch line. Yet, historians have done relatively little to contextualize and interpret the historical experience behind the image. This essay proposes to offer a “thick description” of the worldview of urban Catholic cops at a specific moment of high drama and rapid social change: the “urban crises” of the late 1960s and early 1970s. In particular, the paper seeks to trace the relationship between the ideas and institutions of the post-Vatican-II Catholic Church, the experiences of Catholic cops in the epicenters of urban conflict, and the changing racial, cultural, and political context of American cities. Finally, this essay proposes that the working experiences of urban police officers created a unique kind of class consciousness and that officers’ understanding of themselves as a class was indelibly intertwined with the widely shared culture of urban Catholicism. In this way, the paper will illustrate how the daily experiences of both work and religion shaped the broader nature of urban change throughout the 1970s.
<< Previous Presentation | Next Presentation