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  • Paul Hanly Furfey and the Social Sciences:Liberal, Radical, and Revolutionary
  • Nicholas Rademacher


1. Paul Hanly Furfey, "From Catholic Liberalism to Catholic Radicalism," The American Ecclesiastical Review 166 (December 1972): 678-686. See also Charles E. Curran's, "Paul Hanly Furfey: Theorist of American Catholic Radicalism," American Ecclesiastical Review 166 (December 1972): 651-677.

Portions of this article are drawn from Nicholas Rademacher, "Apostle of Social Justice: Paul Hanly Furfey and the Construction of a Catholic Culture," (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, The Catholic University of America, 2006) written under the expert guidance of Joseph Komonchak, Christopher J. Kauffman, and William Dinges. The data for that project and this one have been drawn primarily from the Paul Hanly Furfey/Mary Elizabeth Walsh papers (hereafter PHF/MEW Papers), which are housed at The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives at The Catholic University of America (hereafter ACUA). I would like to acknowledge Timothy Meagher, University Archivist and Museum Curator and John Shepherd, Associate Archivist who provided invaluable assistance in navigating the Furfey/Walsh Papers. I would also like to thank Nancy Watterson and Leonard Norman Primiano at Cabrini College for providing constructive criticism on drafts of the present article.

2. See Charles Curran, Directions in Catholic Social Ethics (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1985), 78.

3. Furfey "From Catholic Liberalism to Catholic Radicalism," 680.

4. For Ryan's recourse to Catholic principles, see Thomas E. Woods, Jr., The Church Confronts Modernity: Catholic Intellectuals and the Progressive Era (New York: Columbia University, 2004), 125; quoting Charles R. Morris, American Catholic: The Saints and Sinners Who Built America's Most Powerful Church (New York: Random House, 1997), 152. According to Woods, "Despite basic agreement in the conclusions they reached, the Catholic natural-law approach revealed a philosophical outlook and worldview that was largely alien to Progressives and that helps to account for the divergence and mutual ill will that characterized Catholic and Progressive confrontations in other social sciences, where their respective conclusions were not, as in economics, happily coincident." See Woods, The Church Confronts Modernity, 121.

5. Furfey, 683.

6. Paul Hanly Furfey, Love and the Urban Ghetto (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis, 1978).

7. David J. O'Brien, American Catholics and Social Reform: The New Deal Years (New York: Oxford University Press, 1968).

8. Charles Curran, New Perspectives in Moral Theology (Notre Dame, Ind.: Fides Publishers, 1974), 113-114.

9. Ibid., 116.

10. Charles Curran, Directions in Catholic Social Ethics (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame, 1985), 87.

11. Eugen McCarraher, "American Gothic: Sacramental Radicalism and the Neo-Medievalist Cultural Gospel, 1928-1948," Records of the American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia 106 (Spring-Summer 1995): 6.

12. Ibid., 10, 15-17. See also "The Church Irrelevant: Paul Hanly Furfey and the Fortunes of American Catholic Radicalism," Religion and American Culture 7 (Summer 1997): 163-194. Paul Hanly Furfey: Fire on the Earth (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1936); Three Theories of Society (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1937); and The Mystery of Iniquity (Milwaukee, Wisc.: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1944).

13. C. Joseph Nuesse, '"Catholic Sociology': Memoir of a Mid-Century Controversy," U.S. Catholic Historian 16 (Summer 1998): 99.

14. Eva J. Ross (1903-1970) and Franz Mueller (1900-1994) are two examples of this broader trend. While defending the autonomy of empirical sociology, Ross argued that Catholic sociologists were in the unique position to balance empirical research and social philosophy because the empiricists are "confined" by the boundaries of their respective field and the social philosopher is "usually too idealistic." Similarly, Mueller argued that the autonomy of sociology as an empirical science ought to be protected and that it is not to be confused with social philosophy or social reform. He wrote, "sociology is nevertheless a science of things as they are, and not of things as they should be. It is therefore neither social ethics nor social reform." He later explained that a "theological" or "supernatural" sociology "would be based on revelation and on the doctrine and practice of the Church...It would be the supernatural complement of empirical sociology." See Franz Mueller, "The Formal Object of Sociology" and his "The Probability and...