Catholic Way
Search for   on   


The Early 20th Century U.S. Catholic History Quiz

By Bill Dodds
Last century’s American Catholic history—from prayer to patriotism.

Catholic Channel - -

The Catholic church influenced American life in many ways during the first half of the twentieth century. See how much you know about American Catholics from this time—and better yet, learn some things you don’t know—by taking this quick quiz!

The Catholic church in the United States went through some amazing times during the first half of this century. How much do you know about those five decades? Begin with No. 1 and then just follow the directions.

1. Since we’re giving this quiz on the eve of the 21st century, let’s begin on the eve of the 20th. In February 1899, Pope Leo XIII issued a letter titled “Testem Benevolentiae.” It condemned a heresy which he gave what label?

a) Modernism. (Go to 29.)

b) Americanism. (Head for 42.)

2. No, although they do credit it with getting more Catholic veterans out of local “Catholic ghettos” and onto secular university campuses. Return to 5.

3. No, that was an organization that began in 1934. Return to 40.

4. Yes, begun in 1882 in New Haven, Conn., the Knights of Columbus helped provide chaplains and religious-based social services to Catholic military personnel both at home and overseas. Now move to 19.

5. Shortly after World War II, the Catholic church in the United States saw an incredible upswing in the number of young men applying for contemplative life. What do historians say was a key to that phenomenon?

a) The G.I. bill. (Go to 2.)

b) An autobiography by Thomas Merton. (Move to 13.)

6. No, that would be The Christophers, begun in 1945 by Maryknoll Father James Keller. Return to 14.

7. In 1908 the status of the Catholic church in the United States changed. What happened?

a) The first cardinal was named. (Move to 37)

b) The country was no longer considered a “mission.” (Go to 39.)

8. In 1922, Oregon passed a law that said what?

a) Religion could not be taught in public schools. (Head for 18.)

b) All children must attend public schools. (Go to 28.)

9. Sorry. Retreat to 36.

10. Pearl Harbor became the focus of world attention on Dec. 7, 1941. When had Honolulu become an American diocese?

a) Less than three months earlier, on Sept. 10, 1941. (Head for 17.)

b) Long before then, in 1898. (Go to 35.)

11. In 1934 a poll said this priest, who hosted a radio program from Detroit, was the second most popular person in the United States (taking a back seat to only President Franklin D. Roosevelt). Who was he?

a) Father Charles Coughlin. (Head for 16.)

b) Holy Cross Father Patrick Peyton. (Go to 34.)

12. Both answers are correct. At first intended as only an ad hoc group, it had raised some $30 million by the end of the war and much of it was still unspent. It became the National Catholic Welfare Council and then, later, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. Now head for 33.

13. Yes. Merton’s story of his ending up at a Trappist monastery in Kentucky – “The Seven-Storey Mountain” – was a best-seller that had a huge impact in the late 1940s (and still does have a century later). Now head for 43.

14. Soon after his ordination in 1941, Father Patrick Peyton, “The Rosary Priest,” began a program called The Family Rosary. What is its motto?

a) “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” (Go to 6.)

b) “The family that prays together stays together.” (Move to 23.)

15. Yes. McKay, who was born in Jamaica in 1890, died in 1948. Tarry, born in 1906, lives in Manhattan and is a member of Holy Name parish. Now head for 26.

16. Yes. “The Radio Priest” remained a powerful figure until he fell from grace in the eyes of the public – and his superiors – for promoting what many saw as anti-Semitism. Now move to 14.

17. Right. From 1826 the islands had the status of prefecture-apostolic and in 1844 they were erected as a vicariate. It wasn’t until just before the bombing of Pearl Harbor that they were elevated to the rank of diocese. Now move to your final question, 5.

18. No. Return to 8.

19. The other organization that played a dominant role in meeting those demands was the newly-formed National Catholic War Council. What happened to it after the armistice?

a) It continued to serve under a new name, the National Catholic Welfare Council. (Go to 12.)

b) It evolved into the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. (Move to 41.)

20. No. That would be the Catholic Worker Movement. Return to 26.

21. No, the Holy Name Society, introduced into the United States in the 1870s, was established in the 13th century to promote reverence to the Holy Name of Jesus. Return to 32.

22. No. Return to 33.

23. Yes, and the ministry of The Family Rosary continues today. Now head for 38.

24. You’re right. It was more than one-fifth of all the troops and only four of some 4,000 conscientious objectors. Now march on to 32.

25. Yes. While “taking the pledge” – promising not to drink alcohol – was popular in some areas with some bishops, Catholics in general were split on prohibiting it by law (the 18th amendment, which passed in 1918). U.S. bishops had mixed opinions about the 19th amendment – woman suffrage – which passed in 1919. In general, it was those in the West, where women already voted, who favored the idea. Now go to 8.

26. Who began the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) in 1930?

a) Dorothy Day in New York City. (Move to 20.)

b) Auxiliary Bishop Bernard Sheil of Chicago. (Head for 31.)

27. Oh, no. J. Edgar Hoover still had that job. Return to 38.

28. Yes! It was overturned in by the Supreme Court in 1925. Anti-Catholicism was rampant in the 1920s. As the Ku Klux Klan, which opposed Catholics, blacks and Jews, continued to grow stronger, Florida Gov. Sidney Cates announced with certainty that the pope was planning to invade his state. Now move to 40.

29. No, Modernism – which tried to blend Catholic tradition with modern thought in a variety of areas, including biology and psychology – was condemned by Pope Pius X in 1907. Return to 1.

30. Yes. The “Catholic seat” had been a tradition since 1894. Now go to 10.

31. Right! Now go to 11.

32. The U.S. Church had no single agency or group to act as a liaison between the government and all those Catholic service men and women. What organization came to the forefront in meeting that need?

a) The Knights of Columbus. (Head for 4.)

b) The Holy Name Society. (Go to 21.)

33. Two issues facing the country during this time were the right of women to vote and prohibition. What was the “Catholic” position on each?

a) In favor of prohibition and against woman suffrage. (Move to 22.)

b) Split on both. (Head for 25.)

34. No. Return to 11.

35. No. Hawaii was annexed as a territory of the United States in 1898 (and became a state in 1959). Return to 10.

36. American Catholics – still often looked on with suspicion by fellow citizens – were proud of their record in World War I. How many Catholics served in the armed forces . . . and how many were conscientious objectors?

a) Some 250,000 – half of all troops – were Catholic and 150 out of 1,000 conscientious objectors belonged to the Church. (Move to 9.)

b) One million soldiers; four objectors. (Head for 24.)

37. No, the first was John McCloskey of New York in 1875. He and James Gibbons of Baltimore (who received his red hat in 1886) were the only American archbishops to be named cardinals in the entire 19th century. Return to 7.

38. In 1940, Catholic Frank Murphy – who had briefly been the U.S. attorney general – was appointed to what?

a) Head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. (Move to 27.)

b) The “Catholic seat” on the Supreme Court. (Head for 30.)

39. Right. Rome officially removed it from “missionary” status. After that it was no longer accountable to the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith in matters of faith and discipline. Now head for 36.

40. The 1920s saw a great blossoming of black culture in the United States. Among the noted African-American writers of that era were Catholics Ellen Tarry and Claude McKay. What was this period called?

a) The Catholic Interracial Council. (Go to 3.)

b) The Harlem Renaissance. (Move to 15.)

41. Both answers are correct. At first intended as only an ad hoc group, it had raised some $30 million by the end of the war and much of it was still unspent. It became the National Catholic Welfare Council and then, later, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. Now head for 33.

42. Yes. The pope stressed he was not being negative about the United States’ government or political system, but was no fan of any insistence on an American-type separation of Church and state worldwide. And he warned of clergy and laity taking activism to an extreme, at the cost of more “passive” virtues such as obedience and humility. Now move to 7.

43. Let’s end with a quote from James Gibbons, our country’s second cardinal, who died in 1921. In The Faith of Our Fathers he wrote: “From my heart, I say: America, with all thy faults, I love thee still.”

Copyright © 2000 Bill Dodds

Rate this Article
Poor 1 2 3 4 5 Excellent

3.5 out of 5


Back To Top
Home | Admin | Manager Center | Church Web Design - Trinet Internet Solutions

Catholic Way © 2009