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Different events have taken place in the developments of the church. The Catholic Church stands no exception here. In this paper, we try to discuss in details how Maria Monk has depicted the major issues and practices that were being carried out in the Catholic Church in the 19th and 20th centuries. In order to get a better understanding of these reflections, the paper goes ahead to look at Farrell’s depiction of the Catholic Church during the same timeline and how it failed to bring justice and fairness in the lives of the Americans. This paper hence gives the necessary reflections on the Catholic Church in order to bring the ugly secrets behind it.


The catholic movement came in the United States from Spanish and French missionaries and explorers in the 16th to 17th centuries. The Spanish explorers are known to have founded present day’s St. Augustine, in Florida, in the year 1565 (Pegis 77). This would end up becoming the oldest Catholic Christian Community in the country. A number of missionary priests were able to establish a number of mission towns all the way from St. Augustine in the northern parts to Georgia. The main goal of the missionaries and explorers was to Christianize the people and bring civilization to their doors. This era would end as the British began to gain control of the country in the mid 1750s. Today, we have two major important reflections on Catholicism in American life between the 19th and 20th centuries. These reflections come from Monk Maria and James T. Farrell. Certainly, the two offer different, although critical, representation of Catholics between the 19th and 20th centuries. Here we therefore analyse their portrayals of the church during this historical period and be in a position of understanding how their portrayals differ (Vila 63).

Farrell’s and Monk’s Portrayal of the Catholic Church

Monk’s portrayal of the Catholic is quite awful and damaging. To find out what we can understand from this portrayal, it would be necessary to have a keener examination of the portrayal. Although she acclaimed to have been a Catholic monk, the woman had been pregnant for two occasions in her life. She is known to have married a husband who would soon abandon her. Monk wrote a book that would disclose the truth about the Catholic Church (Monk 17).  Monk portrayed the church’s faith to be based on clear superstition, torture and Jesuitical manipulations, and some endorsed Biblical and liberty suppressions. The Catholic Church is seen to be oppressive to the women, and a religion that is interested in nothing else but global power and superiority. It is also portrayed to give a great threat to human freedom and an ignorant movement where most of the leaders hide the truth from its followers. The woman also described the church to have been in position of killing and engaging in ungodly acts in pursuit for nefarious missions and ends (Monk 35). In the book, she also reveals the sexual perversions that happened in the church, and how nuns had to make a vow of never failing to adhere to the demands of the monks. In that connection, all disloyal or disobedient nuns had to be kept in the cellars with others being murdered through suffocation. With Maria Monk’s portrayal of the church, it is quite hard to guess the truthfulness behind it, but the fact that remains is that it gives negative yet damaging view of the Catholic Church and the reason she was able to popularize the anti-catholic movement and stereo-type which will still be evident for the days to come. Later, a number of catholic leaders tried to argue that this was a lie by Maria Monk, which never deserved to enter into people’s ears whatsoever.

On the other hand, James Ferrell would come out to give a better analysis and portrayal of the Catholic Church. It is well known that James Farrell, born in 1904 in some obscurity, would become a great literary figure on Catholicism. He is the author of Studs Lonigan - Trilogy plus other materials talking more about the Catholic Church. It will be agreed that Farrell’s portrayal of the Catholic Church are quite complex as compared to Maria’s. There are very many depictions taking place in his book than with Maria’s. Despite having dissolute life with the society, being given drinks and intensive whoring, we see that Studs tries never to break from the church since it would be like giving up his identity and shelter. In order to reform, we see that Studs tries to make a number of comforting rituals. He carries out intensive confessions for his sins like fornication and masturbation. Having being keen on confession, Studs would go ahead the following day to raid and torture the African Americans. It is also depicted here that the Church had no concern when it comes to matters of ethnic tolerance or racism. Here, the system of the parish meant that the Irish Catholics considered the Italians and Poles as suspects to racism and racial torture.

Studs and his entire clan are also seen defending their values as well as intimidate a man who tries to present a case on atheism (Farrell 89). Here, money always was mixed up into sex and racism. There is also the practice of usury as more and more priests sell their houses and belongings to make profits. The issue of segregation is also given an intense portrayal by Farrell. Some other great church members are also portrayed to think that the blacks had no souls and education was not going to help them. As depicted with the example of Father Coughlin Charles, the priests are anti-Simites, and their radio stations played presentations depicting the African Americans to be childish and never willing to grow up. This is the same reason why Lonigan was not able to bear seeing an African American in his or her flesh. There is an overall presence of fervent religious faith and racial hatred being portrayed by same people. As an example, Farrell has his friends and Studs involved in murderous attacks on blacks in the 1919. This is the major reason why the judgement day is seen to find Studs engaged in deep thoughts and being unable to recover his own health.

From this short description of Farrell novel on Catholicism and society in the 1900s, we see that there are very many issues to do with immigrations with many people coming into the country to spread Christianity while preaching double-sided ideologies in the church. In his works, Farrell depicts a lot of anti intellectualism when Studs believes that the Black Americans were far from learning and becoming civilized like their counterparts. He argues that the Blacks were kind of lacking a human soul and the reason they never deserved most of the rights the others deserved. This is very vital especially when everything was being spread in accordance with the church’s teachings. There was the issue of Ultramontanism as depicted by Farrell in his works. The priests and other fervent church leaders would commit great sins, repent, and the following morning they would go ahead to attack the blacks by that time fighting for their freedom and rights (Farrell 104). What can be seen here is that there is a transition of depiction and portrayal of the Catholic Church as compared with Maria Monk’s depiction. Here we see that there is the relationship of the church and the outside world or the followers of the church while Maria’s portrayal touches more on the inside of the church than on the outside. As his work comes to the end, Farrell depicts the finale end of Studs being so cruel, may be for all what he had done on his fellow men. Farrell, who is a fervent socialist, ends up finishing the trilogy with the rattle death of Studs Lonigan. It will be agreed that his works were great in depicting how the church could possibly be the centre of all human rejection and how different people, yet members of the church, indulged themselves in sin and continued to hate their fellow men.


We will here agree that Farrell’s portrayal of the Catholic Church is exactly what it used to be during those early years of African American Progression. This gives out a very important refection of how the church affected the societal issues and how more hatred continued to spring. This is quite different with Maria Monk’s depiction which talks much on what was happening in the inside chambers of the church in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Although their reflections are quite different, we can agree that they give the necessary impression of the church to the people and some of the failures it has carried with it as a church, something which ought to be different if the very Church aimed at pursuing God’s love and happiness to all men (Rath 67).


Works Cited

Farrell, J. Studs Lonigan – Trilogy. New York: Penguin Books, 2008.

Monk, M. Awful Disclosures. New York: Penguin Books, 1996.

Pegis, A. The wisdom of Catholicism. New York: John Wiley and Sons.

Rath, W. Faith, Hope, and education: African American parents of children in Catholic Church. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.

Vila, P. America, History and Life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

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