restricted access I. Catholic Charities and the Making of the Welfare State
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I CATHOLIC CHARITIES AND THE MAKING OF THE WELFARE STATE In the spring of , Bishop Joseph E. Ritter invited Weltha Kelley, a social work professor from Saint Louis University, to conduct a formal evaluation of the services offered by Catholic Charities of Indianapolis. After interviewing the men and women who worked for Catholic Charities and visiting other private and public social welfare agencies, she concluded, ‘‘social work in Indianapolis follows sectarian lines.’’1 In an interview three years later, a social worker employed by the newly created public welfare department explained that private agencies continued to play a central role in the city’s social welfare system, even after the development of many public programs. Like Ms. Kelley, she found that ‘‘division of work on a sectarian basis is thoroughly understood and accepted by the community.’’2 Even though these two social workers emphasized private agencies and their religious character in Indianapolis, we know very little about private social welfare agencies that survived the Great Depression , and even less about their relationship to the emerging welfare state.3 The history of private social welfare seems trivial alongside the story of the emerging welfare state. But contemporary perceptions of social work in Indianapolis in the s suggest that the whole story of social welfare cannot be told unless we look at public and private agencies and the relationship between them. * * *   Catholic Charities and the Making of the Welfare State In the s, local social welfare agencies across the nation were granted significant authority over state and federal programs as well as locally funded initiatives. Consequently, communities could imprint their own values onto the programs they administered. For example, public officials in southern states were especially adept at using their power over social welfare programs to reinforce racial hierarchies and regulate labor markets.4 In northern states, ethnic and racial divisions as well as fiscal concerns affected the distribution of aid. Local variation was no less significant in the conservative city of Indianapolis. As public bodies gained greater responsibility for social welfare, they worked to keep public expenditures to a minimum and the size of the welfare bureaucracy small. To achieve these objectives, they limited assistance to ‘‘worthy’’ residents. Furthermore , they looked to the private sector to supplement services offered by public agencies and, in some cases, to administer publicly funded programs. As a result, during the s, the ever-shifting boundary separating public and private social welfare became even more blurred in Indianapolis. This chapter examines this shifting boundary by focusing on Catholic Charities of Indianapolis, which, though it was affiliated with a religious minority, successfully claimed new resources from the expanding welfare state. The intensified overlapping of the public and private sectors in the s proved especially appealing to the men and women working at Catholic Charities. During the Depression they argued that public authorities needed to take greater responsibility for the poor, but nevertheless they wished to maintain a role for Catholics in the city’s social welfare system.5 Having already established their right to care for the city’s Catholics, the leaders of Catholic Charities justified their claim to public money in the s by referring to their rights as citizens to protect their own. Even though Catholic Charities could not administer federal funds, it could and did receive state and local money. Rather than finding itself squeezed out by the expanding welfare state, Catholic Charities found new life by harnessing itself to it. As a result, Catholic Charities of Indianapolis , which in  was quite small and not powerful, became by the late s a serious force in the city’s social welfare landscape.  A Public Charity Confronting the Great Depression Known as the crossroads of America, Indianapolis is unique among America’s cities. Only a small number of the Catholic and Jewish immigrants who settled in urban America during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries chose to make Indianapolis their home. At a time when Catholics and Jews staked out cultural and religious space in so many of the nation’s cities, Indianapolis remained predominantly Protestant. By the s, Catholics made up just over  percent of the total population and Jews only . percent.6 The rest of the population was either affiliated with a Protestant denomination or nominally Protestant. Because the Catholic community was so small, its leaders had had limited economic and political resources to build a social welfare system. Unlike the bishops overseeing Chicago and New York, who in the decade preceding the...


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