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originally published in Dialectical Anthropology
(New York: 1983), vol. 7, pp. 209-235
DA page numbering is included here.

Toby Terrar[1]

[DA, p. 209]

There have long been Catholic materialists of one type or another: William of Ockham (1280—1349), Juan Huarte (1535—1592), Giordano Bruno (1548—1600). But it is capitalist and socialist relations of production that have made materialism increasingly influential in Catholic culture, as in other cultures.[2]

Materialist consciousness, as expressed in Marxist philosophy, influences, if it does not dominate, Catholic socialist leaders in many parts of the contemporary world. In Tanzania, the Catholic Julius K. Nyerere (1922—1999) leads a one party government that since 1965 has been formally, constitutionally committed to building socialism. The means of production are state owned, the economy is centrally planned, the ideology of increasing production and building wealth for the people is deliberately and inflexibly taught in schools and is reflected in the mass media and popular culture. There is no room for questions about God and afterlife, they are held irrelevant to socialism and only a source for quarrels and division. Attempts to subvert the one party rule, to divide the people along religious (Catholic—Muslim), racial (African—Asian—European), tribal or class lines are forcibly suppressed. Rejected also, are Vatican notions about gaining power and influence via “Catholic” unions, schools and hospitals. Catholic priests and nuns work through the institutions created, owned and controlled by “the people.” Catholics and all citizens have a duty to build socialism and struggle against monopolies and colonialism.

Similarly, materialist philosophy dominates in the Catholic, socialist nation of Senegal, whose Socialist Party until recently was ruled by the Catholic Leopold Senghor. Materialism dominates in Catholic Nicaragua, where Sandinista priests hold high government positions. Materialism is the guide in Central and Latin American liberation struggles and is the basis of liberation theology (the Golconda priests in Columbia, ONIS in Peru, Christians for Socialism in Chile, “communist” priests and nuns in El Salvador and Guatemala). Catholic materialists are helping to build socialism in Angola, China, Cuba, Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union and Vietnam. They have leading roles in the communist parties of Western Europe.

Within the leadership of the Catholic Church, materialist influence is seen in John XXIII’s Pacem in Terris, Paul VI’s Populorum Progressio and the Medellin documents. While the Second Vatican Council’s decisions were marked by compromise and inconsistency, the influence of the broad masses, and of phenomena such as the Christian—Marxist dialogue and the worker-priest movement, secured progressive positions on human rights and social revolution:

Whatever the regrettable misunderstandings that turned “human rights” into a rallying cry of the church’s bitter foes in the 18th and 19th centuries and entrenched the church in a role of intransigent resistance to movements for social revolution in many parts of the world, the council now makes it unequivocally plain that the church intends to play its true historic role as a champion of human rights and to align itself with those who fight for these rights.[3]

[DA, p. 210]

The history of the developing materialist social consciousness in Catholic culture goes back to the rise of capitalism. This consciousness, reflected in the various U.S. socialist Catholic ethnic groups, reached a new maturity with the impact of Marx, starting in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. One illustration is the aptly named “fighting” Irish. Their history since the 11th century, like the history of other colonized people, has had a double aspect: struggle for liberation from the colonial power and from the domestic landlord-feudal and more recently, capitalist classes. Among Irish- American Catholics at the turn of the century were a number of such legendary Socialist Party, Socialist Labor Party and International Workers of the World figures as James Connolly (1868—1916), James F. Carey and F.O. MacGartney (both SP members of the Massachusetts legislature), the young Elizabeth Gurley Flynn (1890—1964) and William Z. Foster (1881—1961), Fr. Thomas J. Hagerty (1857—1920’s), Frank J. Haynes (first and only socialist president of the UMW), Mary Harris Jones (Mother Jones) (1830—1930), Jack Lyng, John Mullery and Patrick L. Quinlan (the latter three the founders of the NY Irish Socialist Section, SLP), Bernard MacMahon (Chicago Irish Socialist Federation, SLP), Mathew Maguire (founder of the Machinist Union and SLP 1896 U.S. vice-presidential candidate, winning 30,000 votes) and John O’Neill (Western Federation of Miners leader and founder of the IWW).

Irish-American Catholics were leaders at every level in the militant socialist industrial unions: Knights of Labor, led by Irish Catholic Terrence Powderly (1849—1924), the so-called Molly Maguires, American Railroad Union, Western Labor Union, American Labor Union, Western Federation of Miners, Socialist Trades and Labor Union, IWW, Farmer Education and Co-operative Union of America and the SP dominated state federations of labor in Wisconsin, Iowa, Colorado and Minnesota.

McGrady’s Early Years

Bishop John Ireland (1838—1907) noted in 1892: “Socialistic ideas have gone into American people and into many of our priests.”[4]. Thomas McGrady was a priest into whom socialist ideas had gone. Both his parents, Hugh (b. 1824) and Alicia (b. 1824) had been driven from Ireland by the great famine; and as an adult McGrady’s materialist philosophy and consciousness was significantly rooted in the famine. In political economy, the famine represented the consequences of the free market and racism. From 1845 to 1851 at least a million and a half people starved to death or died from diseases associated with hunger; one million left Ireland. The remaining Irish had to sell their grain crops and live stock to pay excessive rents.

The UK was, at that time, the most prosperous country in the world. But the British government refused to use the full resources of Britain and her wealthy empire to save its Irish partners in the Union. Commitment to laissez-faire capitalism meant famine relief must not interfere with commercial activity, and the capitalist class had enough power to keep measures favoring the peasant and working class from becoming law. In fact, Charles E. Trevelyan, undersecretary for the Treasury and head of relief stated that famine was a divine punishment of the perverse Irish people. Added to genocide was the determination by the landlords that with the Corn Laws repealed in 1846, better profits were to be made from large scale grazing, not from renting to tenant farmers. In 1855 Marx calculated that so the one million Irish had been forcibly evicted to make room for 900,000 cattle.[5]

The famine’s lesson in religion was summarized by James Connelly:

[DA, p. 211]

During the great Irish famine of 1845-6-7-8-9 the Irish people died in hundreds of thousands of hunger, whilst there was food enough in the country to feed three times the population. When the starving peasantry was called upon to refuse to pay rent to idle landlords, and to rise in revolt against the system which was murdering them, the clergy commanded them to pay their rents, instructed them that they would lose their immortal souls should they refuse to do so, and threw all the weight of their position against the revolutionary movement for the freedom of Ireland. Mr. A.M. Sullivan, an extremely ardent Catholic, writing in New Ireland says of this attitude of the clergy during that crisis that, “Their antagonism was fatal to the movement more surely and infallibly fatal to it, than all the powers of the British Crown.”[6]

The famine’s lesson in the writing of history is reflected in McGrady’s historical-utopian novel about the struggle for working class liberation, Beyond the Black Ocean. The leaders of the insurrection of 1848 against the British were the Young Ireland Party (1840—1850) and the Irish Confederation. Writing history and propaganda about the Irish Independence struggles against the Danes, Nor- mans and English was part of Young Ireland resistance. McGrady patterned Beyond the Black Ocean after the writing of the Young Irelanders: Thomas 0. Davis (1814—1845), James C. Mangan (1803—1849), Charles G. Duffy (1816—1903) and John B. Dillon (1816—1866). As part of the Independence struggles they wrote on behalf of tenant rights, free public education for the masses, democratic political reforms, the elimination of Daniel O’Connell’s right, liberal dominance in the national liberation movement and the cutting of close ties with the Catholic hierarchy and clergy. These ties antagonized Irish Protestants and obstructed a movement to unite Catholic and Protestant around their common grievances. McGrady summarized the famine’s lesson:

Coming from a race that had been oppressed for generations in the old world, I have learned to hate injustice and oppression with a deathless hatred.[7]

Magrady’s parents married and became tenant farmers in Fayette Co., Kentucky about 1849.[8] His father also worked as a day laborer and his mother as a tollgate operator. For most of their lives they had five or more fellow Irish workers boarding with them. They worked on the neighborhood farms, many of which in the 1860’s were valued at more than $100,000.

The McGrady’s attended church at St. Paul’s in Lexington, the county seat. For them and their fellow European exiles, the church was a cultural, recreational, intellectual and spiritual center. It gave them a community of friends and some degree of social-political protection against lack of understanding and hostility. The American Protective Association was active in Fayette Co. in the 1840’s/l850’s. Like the Ku Klux Klan which functioned later, the bourgeois and slavocracy dominated APA endeavored to pit workers against each other along religious and national lines, rather than unite them against capitalist, landlord and slavemaster domination. In Fayette Co. it was abolitionist leaders who worked to unify the segregated and exploited Irish immigrants and blacks.

Catholic clergy, especially at the higher levels, typically sabotaged working class unity by preaching division along religious and racial lines. They were dominated by the Democratic Party, corrupt Tammany Hall type politicians and the slaveholding minority in the South. Baltimore Archbishop Francis P. Kenrick (1796—1863) was their leading priest-theologian in the 1850’s. He preached the morality of the slavemaster class, baited abolitionists and attacked the Emancipation Proclamation as subversive of law, order, morality and property. This was despite Vatican condemnation of slavery in 1839, and the Canon law dating from feudal times prohibiting enslavement when the person was illegally captured, that is, captured in a war that was not just. But Kenrick justified enslavement of the offspring of the illegally captured despite admitting the original illegal capture, by saying the initial damaged title had been repaired by the passage of time.[9] He did not think much of Jerome’s (340--420) notion:

[DA, p. 212]

Opulence is always the result of theft: if not committed by the actual possessor, then by his predecessors.[10]

The U.S. Catholic hierarchy created no one of the moral stature of John Brown, the paragon of religious idealism. Nevertheless, at the local level, the Catholic church had its progressive elements and served as a preserver of the culture and national traditions of the immigrants, and as a community for oppressed people. In this it resembled the Black church, which was such a driving force in the Black liberation movement during and after slavery.

Thomas McGrady was the 7th of 9 children who lived to adulthood. He was born June 6, 1863 and went to grade school at St. Paul’s parish school which was owned and operated by lay trustees until 1887. He lived into his 50’s with an older brother and sister who never married and who continued the tenant farming of their parents in Fayette County.

The McGrady’s three oldest girls became nuns, probably all in the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth of Kentucky. These nuns ran the girls high school in Lexington, St. Catherine’s Academy (now called Lexington Central High School). St. Catherine’s had been established in Lexington in 1833 by Sister Ann Spalding whose morality was on a level with the slave- master culture in Lexington. She was assassinated by a young slave woman working at the convent (poison was mixed into buttermilk destined for the nun, an example of what William DuBois and Herbert Aptheker found was a common form of resistance to enslavement).

Slaves resisted everywhere, in Africa, aboard ship, in the West Indies, in South America and in North America. There was a persistent, militant slowdown in work, shamming illness, breaking tools, maltreating work animals, fights, arson, plots, rebellions, self-mutilation and destruction, infanticide, purchasing freedom and attempts at assassination, especially with poison. The nuns sold the slave woman down south. On the more or less positive side, when the nuns took over teaching the 288 white children at St. Paul’s elementary school in 1887, they started a school for 210 black (segregated) students, none of whom were Catholics. They also took over St. Joseph’s Hospital about the same time and served the black community through it.[11]

McGrady was big in body and in spirit, even as a child. As an adult he stood 6’3 and weighed 280 pounds, mainly muscle. He writes:

As a boy in school and in the neighborhood where I lived in the days of my adolescence, I was always on the side of the weak, and many a thrashing I received from my youthful comrades for defending the cause of the oppressed. But I seemed to wax strong with the repeated drubbings, and I developed into a pugilist of no mean pretentions, and had I entered the ring I might have won immortal honors and worn the champion’s belt the remainder of my life. Those who are acquainted with my stature and avoirdupois will not ridicule my statements as the empty declarations of a gasconade. My pugnacity increased with the development of my muscular power and my obstinacy kept pace with the growth of my pugnacity, till I was recognized as the champion of the community, and was crowned with the laurels of victory by the hands of my quondam foes.[12]

His early consciousness of racism, nationalism and religion was about average. He explains:

Like other men, I had my early prejudices. They were not, however, deep-seated and ineradicable, as my later years palpably demonstrate. While they were never strong, yet they were strong enough to have a slight influence on my disposition and warp the views of a candid mind. I liked a Catholic a little better than a Protestant; a Christian a little better than an infidel; an Irishman a little better than a Dutchman and a Caucasian a little better than an Ethopian. These prejudices were not the products of a narrow mind and a frozen heart. They were the results of my early education and environment. When I became acquainted with the world and men in general, all these early prejudices vanished. I sympathized with the oppressed people of Ireland, the martyred sons of Abraham, the downtrodden of Russia, and the sable children of Ethopia. I had not yet seen, however, that the cause of all oppression is the same, and that the angel of freedom cannot celebrate her triumph till that cause is removed. I always detested inequalities. I could not see that one man should be better than another. Patrician and plebians, kings and beggars, rich and poor, masters and slaves, have no place in my ideas of justice. I always loathed adulation, and I despised pageantry. From my earliest years I would never have walked across the street to gaze on the face of the president of the U.S., or the sovereign of England, or the Czar of Russia, or the crowned head of Timbuktoo. Only criminals take pleasure in staring at vulgarity clad in the robes of splendor. I always had a perfect contempt for sneaks and toadies and satellites.[13]

[DA, p. 213]

Since the Diocese of Covington had no seminary, it was customary for future priests to attend seminaries in the neighboring dioceses. McGrady probably did some of his early seminary study at Mt. St. Mary’s in Cincinnati. It was headed by Nicholas A. Gallagher (1846-1918), who later became the bishop of Galveston (TX) diocese and ordained McGrady to the priesthood (1887). McGrady was Gallagher’s assistant at the Galveston Cathedral for the first year after ordination. Gallagher’s grandfather, Edward Gallagher, joined the United Irishmen Society and fought by the side of Edward Fitzgerald (1763—1798) in the 1789 Irish rebellion and with Robert Emmet (1778—1863) during the 1803 revolt. Both Fitzgerald and Emmet were executed by the British. Edward Gallagher escaped to the U.S. and raised a family in Ohio. McGrady paid tribute to his memory in Beyond the Black Ocean and did not forget the reactionary role of the church. Connolly summarized:

In 1798 an insurrection in favor of an Irish Republic took place in Ireland, assuming most formidable proportions in county Wexford. The insurrection had been planned by the Society of United Irishmen, many of whose leaders were Protestants and Freethinkers. The Catholic hierarchy and most of the priesthood denounced the society and inculcated loyalty to the government. The more intelligent of the Catholic masses disregarded these clerical denunciations.

Every year the members of the Irish race scattered throughout the earth celebrate the memory of Robert Emmet, and cherish him in their hearts as the highest ideal of patriot and martyr; but on the occassion of his martyrdom the Catholic archbishop of Dublin and Armagh presented an address to the Lord Lieutenant, representative of the British government in Ireland, denouncing Emmet in the strongest possible terms. That this action was in conformity with the position of the whole Catholic hierarchy was evidenced in 1808 when all the Catholic bishops of Ireland met in synod on 14 September, and passed the following resolution, as reported in Haverty’s History of Ireland:

That the Roman Catholic prelates pledge themselves to adhere to the rule by which they have been hitherto uniformly guided, viz., to recommend to his Holiness (for appointment as Irish Roman Catholic bishops) only such persons as are of unimpeachable loyalty.[14]

Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary went out of existence about 1879 for some ten years. McGrady probably continued his studies at St. Joseph’s and St. Thomas’s Seminary at Louisville, although some from Covington Diocese studied at St. Gregory (Mt. Washington, Ohio), St. Meinrad (St. Meinrad, Indiana.) and in Europe. Most of the seminaries offered no degree and the training was shorter than the current two years of philosophy and four years of theology, which canon law established in 1915. Seminaries at times operated with only two or three full time teachers and 10 or 20 students. Older students taught the younger. In some seminaries the students spent part of the day farming or gardening to keep food on the table. Lay colleges or boarding schools were introduced to help provide a living for the teachers and seminarians. Subjects taught in the seminaries included dogmatic and moral theology, canon law and scripture.

Materialist Consciousness

McGrady’s growth from emotional and instinctive outrage at the injustices of capitalism to Marxism was a gradual process. The influence of the working class in the mill and factory town of Bellevue, Ky., his progressive and well-read friend, Anthony G. Kreidler (1866-1910) in Cincinnati and his own self-study were important factors. McGrady summarized the early years of his ministry:

[DA, p. 214]

I am a born socialist, but, unfortunately, I lived many years in total ignorance of the socialist movement. Like most men of my calling, I thought it was a scheme to divide wealth. Yet I had no particular objection to this false conception of the movement, for I thought that a division would be a blessing to the community. It seemed to me that some men had too much while others did not have enough. I justly attributed many physical and moral evils to the excessive indulgence of the wealthy and the penury of the indigent. I could never see how one man, who did no work could accumulate a million in a few years, while thousands of honest toilers lived and died in poverty. I would have been a socialist with the first glimmering of rational thought had some kind friend instructed me. I groped through the mists and shadows along the path.

I was ordained (at age 24) in the Cathedral at Galveston, Tx. (February 10, 1887) and spent the first seven months of my ministerial life as an assistant to the rector (Nicholas Gallagher) of that church. The labor problem was never mentioned in that sacred abode. The rector was a good- natured old capitalist, who believed that the toiler should have sufficient coarse food to keep body and soul together, sufficient cheap clothing to cover his nakedness, sufficient money to pay his pew rent, and sufficient time to hear mass on Sunday. I was then rector of Houston’s Irish church, St. Patrick’s (1883-1889). There were many toilers in my congregation, but they were all contented as long as they had a job, and I never presumed to molest their tranquility. Six months spent in Dallas (1890) did not change the situation. Times were encouraging; activity prevailed in every line of business, and the laboring people seemed to think that they were enjoying the general prosperity. The next movement brought me back to my native city, Lexington, Ky., where I spent eight months with the aristocrats of the Blue Grass State, and gave no thought to the labor problem. I was then appointed rector (March 1891—1895) of St. Edwards at Cynthiana, a sleepy little Kentucky town on the bank of the Licking River, where there were no factories, no unions and no opportunities to study industrial conditions.

In 1894 I became interested in the financial question, and at first I thought that the unlimited coinage of silver would relieve the situation. This was the Populist position. With further reading and reflection I saw that money was merely a representative of values, and a change would not increase the purchasing power of the laborer’s wages. I became interested in the study of political economy, but the authors (Manchester School) that I read inculcated the doctrine of laissez faire, the necessity of competition and the divine right of rent, interest and profit. I knew all the time that there was something radically wrong with the industrial system. I had not yet grasped the idea that labor power is a merchandise, and that the tendency of increased productivity is to reduce wages and enhance surplus value. I read a number of works on the government ownership of railroads and the municipal ownership of public utilities, and I was convinced that the community could give cheaper and better services than a private corporation. It occurred to my mind that, if this were the case, then the community could take charge of the mills and factories and furnish the necessities of life at the cost of production, and we could get food and clothing with the least expenditure of labor power.

Still I was not yet a scientific socialist. I did not know of the law of wages, surplus value and the inevitability of individual combination, which would eventually create an unemployed problem of startling magnitude.[15]

McGrady was incorrect in stating that his parishioners were contented and tranquil. As Philip Foner shows, Galveston and Houston had a vigorous socialist movement in the 1880’s, with the fight against racism one of their priorities. He summarizes:

It was due to the socialists in the trade unions of New Orleans, Galveston, Houston and Savannah that the trades assemblies in these cities admitted unions of Negro workers on an equal basis with other unions.[16]

U.S. Irish in the Fenian movement, including those from Texas, were in the 1880’s making raids and formenting insurrections in Canada to overthrow the British, as a first step in expelling them from Ireland. The U.S. Catholic hierarchy, mainly at the insistence of the Irish hierarchy, condemned and excommunicated the Fenians, some of whom were lower ranking clergy.[17]

In his program of self-study, McGrady progressed through the works of the utopian anarchists, Christian socialists, single taxers, Populists (and their monetary and tariff reforms), followers of Ferdinand Lassalle (1825—1864) and their Social Democratic Party (established 1874) to Marx’s Capital and the Marxists associated with the Socialist Labor Party (established 1877). The works he read (recommended by Kriedler) were: Edward Bellamy’s (1850—1898) Looking Backward: 200—1887 (NY: Houghton, Mifflin, 1888), Robert Blatchford’s Merrie England: A Plain Exposition of Socialism (NY: Commonwealth, 1895), Henry George’s (1839—1899) Progress and Poverty (NY: Standard, 1879), Lawrence Gronlund’s (1848—1899) (an SLP propagandist) Cooperative Commonwealth (NY: J.S. Sonnenscheint & Co., 1884), Franklin M. Sprague’s Socialism from Genesis to Revelation (Boston: Lee and Shephard, 1893), Philo W. Sprague’s Christian Socialism: What and Why? (NY: E.P. Dutton, 1891) and Charles H. Vail’s Modern Socialism (NY: Humboldt, 1897).

[DA, p. 215]

With his move to Bellevue, Ky., further reading and a trip to Europe (1898) where he met materialist priests in France, Belgium, Holland, Italy, Germany, Spain and Ireland, he finally found Marx. He wrote:

I came to St. Anthony’s in Bellevue, Ky. (1895—1902), and I soon became acquainted with the ordinary life of the toiler in the mills and factories of Cincinnati. Before this time, I knew the labor problem through the medium of the capitalist press. Yet even this partial agency of information convinced me that terrible oppression prevailed. In the ARU (American Railway Union) strike (1894), I was with the railroad employees and the courageous Eugene V. Debs, that stalwart champion of freedom...

Continuing my reading, I began to understand the difference between government ownership and collectivism. I became acquainted with the three great ideas of Karl Marx, and before the end of ‘99, I was firmly convinced that the collective ownership and administration of capital for the benefit of all the people was the only rational solution of the industrial problem. In the early part of 1900 1 wrote to Fr. Hagerty, a socialist and member of the party, informing him that I was a disciple of Marx. He replied, offering me his congratulations: “Dear Comrade, I welcome you to our ranks.” History is no longer a riddle. Beneath the revolutions that have demolished thrones and swept empires into oblivion are the immutable laws of evolution that direct the forces of the universe and bring progress.[18]

Party Work

By 1900 the Socialist Labor Party, under the sectarian leadership of Daniel DeLeon (1852—1914) was declining. DeLeon abandoned the SLP’s earlier and successful political work on the basis of their being reformist. He rejected working within non-Marxist dominated unions, and he denied that the Black problem had a special status. At the same time, the SLP continued to attract those with syndicalist tendencies, such as the great Catholic working class intellectual and commander of the Irish Easter Rebellion (1916), James Connolly. Starting in 1902 Connolly was, off and on, a full time SLP organizer and speaker. Nevertheless, in 1908 he acknowledged the Socialist Party as the leading working class party and questioned the SLP’s non-political tactics.[19] McGrady’s friend, Fr. Thomas Hagerty, also tended toward syndicalism, but he found no problem working as a lecturer and organizer within the SP, while at the same time working for the Western Federation of Miners and later for the Industrial Workers of the World, both latter organizations having syndicalist tendencies.

Unlike the SLP, the SP paid attention to links with the established unions and election campaigns. It made a substantial contribution to the dissemination of socialist ideas and to the struggle against monopolies, even if in certain periods (1912) it was dominated by opportunists. The rise of the SP as a national party owed much to the leadership of Eugene Debs (1855—1926). The Pullman strike (1894), which had helped open McGrady’s eyes, with the intervention of the government on the side of capital, the armed thugs and Debs’ imprisonment raised the whole nation’s consciousness. Debs describes his own growth:

At this juncture there were delivered, from wholly unexpected quarters, a swift succession of blows that blinded me for an instant and then opened wide my eyes and in the gleam of every bayonet and the flash of every rifle the class struggle was revealed. This was my first practical lesson in socialism, though wholly unaware that it was called by that name.[20]

In prison Debs read Marx and added a political dimension to his trade unionism. With Victor L. Berger (1860—1929) he helped establish the Social Democratic Party (1898) headquartered in Chicago. This party, along with those who split from the SLP, the Christian socialist movement, and the Populists were the main components of the SP.

[DA, p. 216]

McGrady became a lecturer and propagandist for various SP locals beginning in 1900. He spoke on the state with Eugene Debs and the various socialist mayors, congressman and union leaders of the country. He made lecture tours to the Irish, German, Italian and Polish communities throughout the country (Lawrence, Lynn, Haverhill, Springfield, Boston, NY, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Green Bay, Chicago, Denver, Helena, San Francisco, New Orleans). He often shared the stage with Protestant socialist ministers, as at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia (May 1902). His writings were translated into foreign languages and employed, for example, by the Social Democratic Party in Germany against the Catholic Centre Party.[21]

A typical McGrady lecture, given on Labor Day, September 3, 1901 at Saginaw, Mich. was reported by Fr. Gregory G. Rybrook, OP (1876—1937), who disapproved of it. Rybrook’s answer to capitalism, as he set forth in several books, was escapist, otherworldly. He wanted the working class to resort to the eucharist, mortification, devotion to Mary, self-sacrifice, and the mass, not unions and class struggle. He writes of McGrady’s lectures (One of which was given in the afternoon at Union Park, and the other in the evening at the Central Labor Union):

Fr. McGrady stated: “The laws are made by the capitalists for the capitalists, they should be made by the wealth- producers for the wealth-producers. The club must be taken out of the hands of the despots.” “If we had a just economical system, the laborer could have all the luxuries for two hours work a day. And it is plenty. The history of the world is the history of the slave.” “Socialists don’t want to touch any man’s property, nor have any man touch theirs. That is why they object to the capitalist taking the lion’s share of the profit of labor.” “The average salary under socialism would not be less than eight dollars a day, and the day’s work would not be over two hours. Men could then accumulate some money and have a good time. They could go to Europe and do many things for the comfort and enjoyment of their families.” “The laboring people produce 75 percent of the wealth and get three percent in wages.”

I need not say that many, especially the laboring classes, sympathized with jr. McGrady. They were “just crazy about him.” I even incurred the anger of a Catholic family for the simple reason that, in obedience to the Holy Father I condemned socialism as a false and dangerous system.

That such talk (or rather nonsense) as the above mentioned is liable to give rise to social difficulties in cities as Saginaw is clear as the day to the most superficial thinker. Moreover, I am certain that Fr. McGrady’s romance, Beyond the Black Ocean and his pamphlet, Socialism and the Labor Question are widely spread in some places in Michigan and not unknown in Wisconsin. It is high time, I think, that the misplaced endeavors of this misled priest, who journeyed from Kentucky to Saginaw “to further the socialistic cause” be effectively stopped by his ecclesiastical superiors.[22]

David Goldstein, at the time a member of the SP (but later a professional anti-communist), paints this picture of McGrady:

There appeared at that time on the socialist horizon a new and striking personage, a Catholic priest, named Fr. Thomas McGrady. (He) had an abundance of perorations, and a roaring voice that would easily stir a mob to action by his portrayal of the evils that working men suffer. He came to address very large audiences. He was expected to win adherents and he did.... He had an immense personal following.[23]

As Goldstein describes it, McGrady put on no airs before his working class audiences:

I have always been proud to claim Kentucky for my home. Kentucky is noted principally for its beautiful women, fast horses and fine whiskey. The women I can enjoy only from an aesthetic standpoint; there is no man who does not like a fast horse, and I know what good whiskey is.[24]

McGrady walked picket lines, as during the machinist (Cincinnati) strike (1901), and he went on fact finding tours to improve health and safety conditions as at the National Cash Register Co. (Dayton).

[DA, p. 217]

McGrady’s SP propagandizing involved writings on economics, politics, history and religion. His historical writing emphasized Irish history and the Irish-American contribution to the victorious U.S. revolution. His religious works reflect the scholarship in scripture and church history which the Christian socialist and social gospel tradition produced.[25] He was familiar with but not a partisan of modernism, the Oxford movement (he quotes from Newman on occasion) and revived Thomism and scholasticism. The latter three trends he saw as reactions to and hostile toward the Enlightenment, science, capitalism and socialism. They sought retention or restoration of aristocracy, feudalism and monarchy in civil and church government. In contrast, McGrady’s propaganda combined both general Marxist theory and immediate worker demands. In developing general theory he quoted from and explained the various themes in Capital: shareholder appropriation of the worker’s unpaid labor (surplus value), the relation of historical progress to antagonism between the relations and forces of production, class struggle, exchange theory of money, economic reproduction, class dictatorship, monopoly, imperialism, the crisis of capitalism, socialist planning and collective ownership of industry and agriculture. The Lassallean “iron law of wages” was also a frequent topic. Immediate worker demands which he helped popularize were: a ban on government injunctions and restrictions on labor organizing, strikes, boycotts, the enactment of accident, unemployment, medical and old age insurance, the 9 hour day/5 day week, centralized economic planning to end depression and create full employment, socialized education and a ban on child labor.

His speaking and writing had a part in raising SP national voting strength from 87,000 in 1900 to 402,000 in the 1904 presidential campaign of Eugene Debs and Job Harriman (1861—1925). He also worked in the local Kentucky and Cincinnati SP locals. He wrote David Goldstein:

Hurrah for Massachusetts. The SP in Ohio and Kentucky have also increased its vote 100% in the last year. At this rate we will have the country in ten years.

Against the capitalist and coal-owner dominated politicians of Kentucky (Governor James B. McCreary (1838—1918), Congressional representatives Charles K. Wheeler (1863—1933), David H. Smith (1854—1928), Judge Cantrell) and national figures [Senators Mark Hanna (1837—1904) and George F. Hoar (1826—1904)], McGrady debated on the stage, in the pulpit and in the newspapers. He exposed them for their crimes against Indians, Blacks and minorities. Their separate but equal Jim Crowism was equated with anti-immigrant racism. Their support for the army and navy buildup was a ploy at public expense to put down the liberation struggles in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines, and to subject these nations to colonization by U.S. corporate monopolies. McGrady advocated the establishment of a U.N. and disarmament of all nations.

The morality of pragmatism, vulgarity and willingness to compromise in both secular and church politics was a lecture theme. After Judge Frank T. Fitzgerald (1857—1907) of NY City insulted the SP at a church meeting in Cincinnati, McGrady noted:

The judge has the duplicity of Machiavelli without his brains. When such men represent Catholic societies, can you censure Protestants for suspecting the honesty of Catholics and incriminating the methods of the Catholic Church? But Fitzgerald is only a layman, and a small layman at that, small above but big below, small in mental calibre, but big in egoism, a creature of lying, corrupt Tammany, that has nauseated the Republic with its moral putridity, and we could not expect much from a product of that political cesspool.[26]

McGrady was well covered not only by the labor and socialist press, but by the 50 or more Catholic weekly papers, including Catholic Columbian, Catholic Transcript, Catholic Union and Times (Buffalo) and New World (Chicago), and by the capitalist press, including Courier Herald (Saginaw, Mich.), Pittsburgh Observer and the Record (Louisville). When on tour, some bishops issued warnings against him. Illustrative is an item published by Bishop Messmer in the Green Bay Gazette:

[DA, p. 218]

Kindly allow me a little space in your esteemed paper to warn the Catholics of the city of Green Bay against attending a lecture to be given here by Rev. Thomas McGrady of Bellevue, Ky. on Tuesday March 11, 1902. If the lecturer were not a Catholic priest, I would remain silent. But I consider it my duty toward the Catholic flock of the Diocese to protest against the appearance of this priest among them as a lecturer on socialism. He does so in defiance to the express wishes of his own bishop. But what is more of importance, according to credible reports, he proclaims doctrines opposed to the official utterances of Pope Leo XIII, whose wonderful encyclicals on the social questions of the day, Rev. McGrady has publicly and contemptuously called “the mere private opinions of Cardinal Pecci on economic questions.” He often lectures under the auspices of socialistic concerns and publishes his later writings through a firm at Chicago, which acts as an agency of socialist literature. His first book had to be withdrawn from the public market, at the request of Archbishop Elder of Cincinnati, until its contents could be corrected.

For Catholics to countenance a Catholic priest playing such a doubtful role is, in my view, an insult not only to our Holy Father Leo XIII, but also to the clergy and Laity of the church in general, who have with cheerful and proud submission accepted the teachings of our glorious pontiff, who has repeatedly shown us, in the light of Christian truth, the real nature and true solution of the important social questions, which so greatly affects the safety and happiness of modern society. I trust the Catholics of the city will show their loyalty to the Holy See by staying away from Rev. McGrady’s lecture.[27]

While not all bishops were hostile to McGrady, those who were sometimes were able on occasion to force the cancellation of a lecture hall lease or through the Knights of Columbus or the AFL have a trade union council call off a lecture. McGrady was adequate in baiting back in equal measure his adversaries. Arthur Preuss (1871—1934), a “professional” Catholic layperson and defender of capitalism, records a McGrady diatribe against Bishop Brondel made in a speech at Helena, Montana (1903):

McGrady contemptuously refers to his lordship Bishop Brondel as “Mr.” Brondel, calls him a “professional liar” who “lives on the fat of the earth at the expense of poor Irish and German Catholics,” prates of Pope “Leo’s mistakes” and alleges that “the Catholic Church is the most despotic organization that ever cursed the earth.” The bishops in general he charges with having “completely repudiated the teachings of primitive Christianity,” with having been the enemies of science” who “stand for darkness and ignorance and crime,” and who “have encouraged free love among the clergy” and grown “wealthy on the impositions of taxes paid for the privilege of sacerdotal concubinage.”[28]

In addition to the hierarchy, McGrady had a few enemies within the party. David Goldstein and Martha Moore Avery, both of whom would shortly abandon socialism, disliked McGrady’s rejection of religious myth and prejudice and attempts to use it in place of science. Foner summarizes Goldstein and Avery’s socialism:

The Karl Marx Club, established by Goldstein, Avery and other Boston socialists in 1899 sought to teach Marxian economics minus Marxist philosophy, whatever that meant.[29]

McGrady commented on an article published by Avery:

In the first place, the writer manifests absolute ignorance of modern science and philosophy, and I would advise her to read Darwin, Huxley, Haeckel, Wallace, Spencer and other eminent students in the realm of biology and anthropology. Then she could devote a few years with advantage to the study of criminology, archaeology and the higher criticism of the Bible and the development of Christianity. If she would make these researches with a fair and candid purpose, she would discover that her ignorance of the question which she presumes to discuss with so much arrogance is as deep and dense as that which enshrouds the mind of the Rev. Lambert. Secondly, her article is to say the least, imprudent and contains an unjustifiable attack on the socialist movement. Thirdly, the publication of such a denunciatory communication in the columns of the Irish World, a bitter foe to the socialist cause, is worthy of the severest censure. Apart from these observations, it is my humble opinion, knowing the deep religious sentiment of the writer, a sentiment based on the inheritance of ignorant superstition, that Mrs. Avery is sincere, and evidently imagines that she is rendering a service to the cause which she advocates.[30]

Goldstein and Avery sought to undermine McGrady by accusing him of charging excessive lecture fees. Bedford records:

A letter to the People noted that McGrady was charging $100 for an appearance and bankrupting local after local in the bay state. He refused to surrender control of his tours to the national socialist office because the standard fees were too low. When the New Orleans office asked for financial assistance, a member of the party governing board stated: “What is the matter with comrade McGrady assuming some chances himself? I see no reason why the national organization should incur any liability for his support, especially in view of the princely fee he invariably demands.” The national did not think $175 for three evenings demonstrated much of a “spirit of sacrifice for the cause.”[31]

[DA, p. 219]

Eugene Debs, who charged twice McGrady’s fee, defended him:

The envy that his success inspired found expression in dark hints that he had turned to socialism to “make money out of it,” a falsehood at once so flagrant and malicious that no language is sufficient to characterize it.[32]

The same charge of charging excessive fees was made against Fr. Hagerty by John Spargo (1876—1966). Doherty holds that Spargo was hostile to Hagerty’s left (anarchistic) tendencies and thought Hagerty was hindering mass recruitment. It was easier to attack him on the money issue than to go after him for his anarchistic politics.[33]


McGrady’s unique service to the SP was in responding to the Vatican and US Catholic hierarchy that counterposed capitalist economics and idealist philosophy to Marxism. Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum (1891) was the guiding policy of the era. It had its positive elements. Foner summarizes:

Leo XIII’s encyclical was a great advancement over the position taken by the Catholic church until the time, for it indicated that the church recognized that the employers were responsible for the unbelievable long hours of labour, starvation wages, filthy and inhuman working conditions in industry; denied that these conditions were a natural order of things with which the workers had no right to interfere, and accepted the right and necessity of workers to organize into trade unions. No militant worker, regardless of his religious persuasion, could disagree with these sections of his encyclical, and the socialists could and did point out that the Pope’s statement “it is just and right that the results of labor should belong to him who has labored”was in keeping with their own objectives.[34]

The failings of Rerum Novarum were numerous (rejection of class struggle, the closed shop, industrial as opposed to craft unionism, socialism) and these were compounded by hierarchical illegality, the failure of the church to follow its own law. As Ward put it:

The decade 1895—1905 was a period of ease and relaxation, if not of indifference and slumber. Though lip service was paid to Leo XIII’s encyclical, Rerum Novarum, leading Catholics for nearly two decades after its promulgation failed to emphasize its true meaning; they expounded it as a “bulwark” of the status quo and not as a great charter of social justice.[35]

Both Catholic and non-Catholic socialists of the era (Oscar Ameringer, Ernest B. Bax (1854—1926), Ferdinand A. Bebel (1840—1913), Victor Berger, Robert P. Blatchford, William M. Coleman, James Connolly, Patrick Cooney, Thomas Hagerty, Jim Larkin, Ernest Unterman, Harry F. Ward (1873—1966), Bouck White (1874—1951) elucidated the problem of Rerum Novarum’s capitalist morality. In terms of length, McGrady’s analysis surpassed them all. In addition to speaking, McGrady wrote three substantial books, at least five substantive pamphlets and various magazine and newspaper articles against Vatican distortions.[36] Illustrative was his treatment of economics (private property, profits, progress), unions and violence, charity/justice, child labor/ women/family/shorter hours, atheism, Catholic schools and church government.

Private Property

Against Rerum Novarum’s scriptural arguments emphasizing the Decalogue’s prohibition on envying, coveting or stealing the possessions of the rich, made on behalf of capitalism, private ownership of the means of production and class division, McGrady accurately countered with his own quotes from scripture and related clarifications. Socialism was not against the right of private property:

Socialism recognizes the right of private property, so long as this freedom does not interfere with the freedom of your fellowmen, which can only take place when the wealth is used to accumulate more wealth by the process of exploitation. Under socialism the individual may spend his wealth in the purchase of a residence or handsome pictures or in travelling; but he could not use it in robbing the laborer of the wealth created by honest toil.[37]

[DA, p. 220]

Materialists did not desire to take from the working people the product of their toil. Rerum Novarum incorrectly characterized the communist demand for land reform, the abolition of big estates and industrial monopoly. The encyclical read:

Those who seek communism do not perceive that they are robbing humans of what its labor has produced. Is it just that the fruit of man’s sweat and labor should be enjoyed by another? The authority of divine law adds its sanctions, forbidding us in the gravest terms even to covet that which is another’s: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife; nor his house, nor his field.”

The encyclical mistakenly lumped the big landowners and capitalists with the workers and peasants, as if the landowners and capitalists had achieved their vast holdings by personal tilling and work in the factories.

Along with Engels[38] and Kautsky[39], McGrady demonstrated that the scriptures did not constitute a capitalist document. Jesus, the worker, and his followers were utopian communists, holding all property in common. The Gospel taught collectivism, not individualism: “Dives was an individualist and Lazarus was a socialist.”[40]. McGrady gathered together the writings of the early socialists (St. John Chrysostom, St. Gregory the Great, St. Basil and St. Jerome):

The early fathers of Christianity taught socialism as the doctrine of their founder, and the primitive church was communist. The saints of old had no private property. “All is common with us, except women,” writes Tertullain. “We carry on us all we possess, and share everything with the poor,” writes Justin. “The soil was given to the rich and the poor. Wherefore, 0, Ye rich! do you unjustly claim it for yourselves alone? Nature gave all things in common for the use of all. Usurpation created private right,” says Ambrose.[41]

Jesus and the progressives among his followers (Papias, Irenaeus, St. John the Revelationist, Melito Bishop of Sardis, Cerinthus, Marcus, Lachtantius, Nepos) identified with the popular forces (insurgents, workers, tenants, peasants, slaves) against the rich (landlords, slave masters, Roman colonialists). Their ideal, to a greater or lesser degree, was a classless, slaveless, anti-racist, internationalist, materialist and terrestrial, not an exclusively spiritual, paradise:

Jesus relentlessly scorns the mindless accumulation of wealth as a source of evil. “For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart, also. No man can serve two masters, for he will either hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to the one and despise the other” (Mt 6:21). But the disciples of the Nazarene reply to this passage by stating that it is only the inordinate desire for wealth that is condemned by the founder of Christianity. I answer the assertion by saying that there is always an inordinate desire of wealth, when its possessor revels in luxury while millions of willing workers are starving for bread. If you loved God, you could not devote your life to the acquisition of wealth. You would expend the energies of mind and body in the elevation of humanity. You would be found in the cabin and the shanty, administering to those who are victimized by our social maladjustments.[42]

McGrady had his own passages for pastors who used scripture to apologize for capitalism:

Rev. Nicholson is a blind man leading the blind. His blasphemous utterances have defiled the temple of justice. Although the ancient testament does not denounce wealth as an essential evil, it everywhere speaks against its possession as an obstacle to the growth of holiness. The wisest king that ever ruled in the promised land says:

How long will fools covet those things which are harmful to themselves. He that trusteth in his riches shall fail (Prov. 1:2).

A covetous man shall not be satisfied with money (Eccls. 5:9).

The eye of the covetous man is insatiable in his portion of iniquity (Eccls. 14:10).

He that seeketh to be enriched, turneth away his eye (Eccls. 27:22).

For the iniquity of his covetousness I was angry (Is. 69).

I spoke to thee in thy prosperity and thou saidst I will not hear (Jr 22:21).[43]

[DA, p. 221]


Where scripture was lacking, Rerum Novarum used Adam Smith’s natural law theory on behalf of capitalism, as in its defense of the classical theory of profits: “The profit motive is the natural right of humanity. Socialism kills incentives because of the community of goods.” McGrady, like Connolly, corrected such arguments with the idea that economic science was outside the province of the church:

Whoever heard that political economy was a spiritual question? Did God reveal the laws of economics to Moses on Sinai’s burning peak? Socialism deals only with the science of economics, the forces of production.[44]

It does not require the aid of Christianity to look through a telescope, for we read of renowned astronomers who did not accept the authenticity of divine revelation, and they were very successful in their observations, for they had no fears that they would discover a star that was condemned. If religion could settle the economic problem, Italy and Spain would be the first countries on the globe. Two and two make four, and all the religion in the world will not alter these figures. Let us apply the same principle to the economic question. Socialists offer a scientific solution. Christ did not teach science.[45]


Rerum Novarum’s capitalist reading of scripture found that there was no progress in history. The suffering of the worker was the result of the fall. It was fruitless and blasphemous to complain of it, much less speak of class struggle and attempts to push toward a higher stage of development (the poor you have always with you; slaves be obedient to authority). The worker should look to relief in the afterworld.

McGrady answered by showing the accuracy of the Marxian laws of economic and historical development: history progresses through stagesprimitive communism, slavery, feudalism, socialism, communism. In each stage, the domination of humans over each other lessened and their domination over nature increased. Each stage in its turn was truly progressive and honestly inspired loyalty. There was no inherent evil in humans or the world. Lacking scripture, McGrady made up a passage to drive his position home:

St. Paul says “These three, faith, hope and charity, and the greatest of these is charity.” In the language of the economic sciences we find the counterpoint of the climax of the Cicilian in his description of the theological virtues: these three, feudalism, capitalism, socialism, and the greatest of these is socialism.[46]

Unions and Violence

In Rerum Novarum the Vatican, after a century’s resistance, when presented with the fait accompli of established unions, and realizing it had no influence over them, was forced to admit workers had the right to unionize. However, in place of militant, class consciousness unionism, it substituted the feudal guild and the handicraft—worker—proprietorship ideal. In practice it adopted the morality of Gompers’s anti-socialist, pure and simple, business unionism elitist, craft unions, not industrial unions. For the great masses of industrial workers, this meant no union, no right to strike, boycott, picket, to have control over the conditions of work or to collective bargaining.

U.S. bishops quoted Rerum Novarum as a justification to destroy various socialist controlled AFL locals. These used local union funds for SP purposes and operated labor publications to elevate socialist consciousness and morality among the workers. The bishops pressured AFL internationals to eliminate local autonomy over dues and publications. McGrady correctly taught that no matter how progressive guilds may have been at one time, they were no answer to industrial capitalism. Guild unionism served only the skilled minority and ignored the so called “unskilled” industrial worker. Class struggle had built the unions, not appeals to the morality of the capitalist class. Industrial production, not craft production, brings universal education, domestic comforts and elevation of morality. As in discussing the laws of historical and economic development, the Vatican simply had no competence in addressing the union issue:

[DA, p. 222]

The pope’s encyclical on socialism has no dogmatic value in view of the fact that it is not the work of Leo XIII, or the head of the church proclaiming a doctrine of faith and morals, but merely the opinion of Joachim Pecci as a writer on social economy.[47]

Despite its distortions and shortcomings, McGrady quoted Rerum Novarum against “scabs” (McGrady’s word) like Bishop Messmer of Green Bay, who used scripture as justification for violent union and strike busting. Union baiting bishops and priests were violating church law, which recognized the right of the worker to organize.

Rerum Novarum condemned socialism for violating scriptural prohibitions on violence. McGrady responded that socialism was a science: “To speak of violent socialism is like speaking of violent mathematics or violent and revolutionary physics.”[48] Socialists held legality and constitutional rule as fundamental: “Under socialism there will be no law-breaking for laws will be just.” It was capitalism that could not abide majority rule, that perpetrated legislative illegality and that engaged in violence. Capitalist clergy like Fr. John Belford of Brooklyn and the Jesuit John Sherman advised gunpowder as an acceptable method of ridding the country of the socialist menace and condoned the use of soldiers and militia to bust strikes. McGrady summarized:

The capitalist is responsible for this reign of fire and blood. He violated every principle of honor and justice in the starvation and degradation of the workers. He sat in the legislative hall and impeded the passage of laws which would prevent the exploitation of labor. He sat on the judicial bench and nullified the enactments for the triumph of right and justice that had escaped the vigilance of the Senate chamber. Under socialism, violence would disappear, for the causes which breed violence would cease forever. Violence is the fruit of oppression. whenever robbery is sanctioned by law and exploitation is legalized, the reign of violence is institutionalized. Whenever the rich can fleece the poor, justice is annihilated and the right of might is proclaimed.[49]

McGrady taught the ideal of pacifism, but reminded the church leaders that the just war theory, the theory of self-defense and struggle for liberation from oppression were also church teachings. He noted that Cardinal Gibbons had said to the pope:

Some violence is inevitable in the struggle of the masses for fair treatment against the “mail-clad power” of hard and obstinate monopoly.

Jesus himself was a national liberation fighter in the struggle against Roman colonialism, if some scriptural traditions are to be trusted:

It was the fond hope of Israel that the visions of her seers would be accomplished in the achievement of national independence, and then restoration to pristine splendor and glory; and the people of the chosen race had long dreamed that another Josua would arise from the ages, armed with the shield of justice and the sword of vengeance, and would chase the Roman legions from Jerusalem.[50]

With international working class rule established, pacifism would become reality:

Your battleships will be dismantled, your armies disbanded, your swords turned into ploughshares and your spears into pruning hooks.[51]


To Rerum Novarum ‘s teaching that charity was the way to solve poverty, McGrady responded that when the people and not the rich became the dominant force in government, there would be no need for charity and no poverty. The worker would get his share as a matter of right, not of charity. Almsgiving, as Marx had said, was the cheap way to absolve the conscience without parting with the stolen property. The capitalist returned ten percent of the stolen wages and kept the rest.

The scriptural ideal of justice demanded that workers, since they created wealth, should get the benefit from it. As he put it: “Karl Marx says that the masses have been expropriated by the few, and justice requires that the few should be expropriated for the benefit of all.”[52]

[DA, p. 223]

Child Labor/Women/Family/Shorter Work Day

McGrady corrected Rerurn Novarum’s allegations that socialism was out to destroy such scripturally valid institutions as the family (by supposedly instituting state ownership of children, free love and abolition of colleges and universities). He taught that the real enemy of the family was the Vatican and bishops who resisted legislation curbing child labor and mandating compulsory free public education: ”You have risen up, shamelessly, in our legislative halls, and declared that profits were impossible without the toil of children and babes.” Rerum Novarum, adopting the morality of the capitalist class, proclaimed that children factory workers “whose bodies and minds are sufficiently mature” must be allowed work. The 1900 U.S. census listed 1.7 million children laborers.

Citing Capital, McGrady taught that socialists sought the 8 hour day and reasonable wages so children would not have to work to supplement family income and parents would have the leisure to be in the home.[53] It was Rerum Novarum that supported the 6 day/60 hour week, saying rest on Sunday and holy days was enough. McGrady writes:

The present system of expropriation deprives the millions of liberty and education. The child must go to the factory at an early age and the rest of his life is spent in hopeless toil. Under socialism the parent would get all that he produces and could afford to send his sons and daughters to school until they had acquired a thorough knowledge of science and literature. The hours of labor would be reduced, and the compensation of the toiler would be enhanced, and he could spend his earnings in the moral and mental advancement of his family.[54]

In 1922 Cardinal Daniel O’Connell of Massachusetts was still opposing AFL attempts to have Congress enact child labor legislation. The real friends of the family were those like the socialist Haymarket martyrs (1886—1887) who gave their lives in the struggle for the 8-hour day. Michael Schwab, a Catholic, was convicted by a capitalist dominated judiciary, but pardoned by Altgeld. Bishop John Ireland preached against the 8 hour movement and supported the legal lynching, while priests in New Jersey and Connecticut were forced to give up their parishes for speaking out in behalf of their people, the Haymarket martyrs.[55]

The bishops were contributing to the breaking up of homes by refusing to endorse health, safety and unemployment legislation. Accidents and worker ill health meant poverty and destroyed families. The thinking of the hierarchy was that this was an area of charity and the church should be allowed to keep its hands in the matter. Rerum Novarum stated: “Charity belongs to the church; for it is no virtue unless it is drawn from the Sacred Heart of Jesus.”

But it was capitalism, not socialism, that forced women into low paying work, into intolerable marriages to avoid such jobs and into prostitution during cycles of economic depression and job layoffs. McGrady wrote:

There are thousands of women working in our factories and stores, with a salary of not more than three or four dollars per week, and in many cases they are compelled to support a widowed mother, or help her to sustain a number of young children. And as it is impossible to accomplish this with small compensation they get from their labor, they are necessitated to seek the assistance of gentlemen friends, and their purity is sacrificed to secure their daily food. This is not an overdrawn picture. It is a common occurrence in all our great cities....

The young women of this country enter into undesirable alliances for the sake of financial assistance... Woman is dependent and seeks assistance in matrimony. She is an article of merchandise, and she is sold to the highest bidder.[56]

Despite his consciousness of women’s plight, he failed to identify with the progressive thinking of his day on the subject. He failed to recognize the desirability of women working and contributing both toward family finances and toward the building of socialism in the work place. He accepted the ideal of women mainly being homemakers. Rerum Novarum had rejected the demand of equal pay for equal work with the idea that “woman is by nature fitted to home-work and it is that which preserves her modesty and promotes the good bringing up of children.” McGrady’s answer to wage discrimination against women was to demand that men be paid enough to support a wife.

[DA, p. 224]


Rerum Novarum made much of materialism’s denial of God’s existence. McGrady answered with several points that were more or less responsive. First, the SP and its materialistically oriented counterparts throughout the world, following the policy adopted at Erfurt (1891), held religion a private matter. The constitution of many working class parties mandated that there be no discrimination in party membership based on religious belief. As to U.S. socialism, McGrady summarized:

I read the Appeal to Reason (Girard, Kansas), Wilshire’s Magazine, the Missouri Socialist (St. Louis), Public Ownership (Erie, Pa.) and many other socialist works. I have never seen a sentence antagonistic to religion and morality, a line in favor of atheism. Moreover, I have heard speeches delivered by Eugene V. Debs, our late candidate for the Presidency and Job Harriman. I have failed to detect atheism or immoral teaching in their utterances.[57]

McGrady was not aware of Engel’s criticism of the Erfurt formulation, contained in a document suppressed by Kautsky, though it was published in German in 1901. Engels criticized the declaration that religion was a private matter for and within the German Social Democratic party. The declaration had been substituted for the political demand that governments must declare religion a private matter in relation to the state. However, Engels did not make much of the issue. Lenin, writing in 1905, offered a defense of Engels’ formulation on the grounds that since scientific socialism was materialist, a party founded upon it “must necessarily explain the actual historical and economic roots of religion.” But, he added:

We must not allow the forces waging a genuinely revolutionary economic and political struggle to be broken up for the sake of opinions and dreams of third-rate importance.

Secondly, in shortening the working day and increasing the leisure of the worker, materialists gave more time that could be devoted to religious matters. Materialism was the basis of the spiritual:

Wealth is the key to all earth’s treasures, and the poor are deprived of the comforts of life and the advantages of education and excluded from the realm of mental joys. Knowledge is light and is God, and I ask Fr. Mackey (who said socialism was atheistic) to show that atheism is begotten by the means that would give the toiling legions the opportunities of mental development, that would enable them to live in the realm of intellectuality, that would afford them ample leisure for the cultivation of art, science and literature, that would destroy the tenement house and annihilate the slum districts, and would give the laborer a clean and healthful habitation. Mental and material progress are the aim of socialism. Perhaps Fr. Mackey thinks “ignorance is bliss” and science is antagonistic to faith and morals.[58]

Thirdly, the hierarchy should look to its own atheism before baiting the materialists:

In France republicanism is identified with atheism and the royalists, in cooperation with the church, have utilized the superstitions of the ignorant peasantry to overthrow democratic government and reinstate the Bourbons, though both the clergy and the nobility are permeated with unbelief.[59]

Further, those among the clergy who supported capitalism were driving workers from the church and toward atheism. Some two-thirds of the Catholic working class had left the church:

The poor are losing their faith in God, for the church, which pretends to be the exponent of heaven’s fiats, sanctions all the wrongs that are inflicted on them. When ministers look on and see the laborers robbed, and sanctify the robbing with scriptural quotations, are you surprised that the laborer hates the minister and the religion that he preaches? The beggar goes to church on Sunday and he hears the preacher expatiating on the necessity of eternal punishment, and he concludes that God could occupy His time more profitably in settling the labor problem than in making a hell. Hunger is hell enough for him.[60]

[DA, p. 225]

A system of economics that is based on selfishness and injustice and inflames the worst passions of the human heart, repudiates the principles of Christianity, and that is the reason that the empire of religion has been losing ground ever since the dawn of capitalist domination.[61]

Fourthly, to materialists who had left the church, McGrady advised that there was room for atheists. The church had many functions and dimensions, including its service as a social and cultural center. Socialist consciousness could be raised not only at the union hall and on the job site, but also where the whole family was present. Progressives who left the church both isolated it and also made it more difficult for those who remained. The church organization was powerful, and it was being left to the reactionaries. In the past it had been progressive and could be in the future. James Connolly made the same point:

The first result of the winning to socialism of a worker of the Irish race should be that he should become a channel for conveying the socialist message to others of his race.

But this he could only do as long as his socialism did not cause him to raise barriers between himself and his fellow countrymen and women, to renounce his connection with, or to abjure all ties of kinship or tradition that throughout the world makes the heart of one Celt go out to another no matter how unknown. Yet this is precisely what their adoption of socialism has caused in the great majority of cases among Irishmen.

Led away by a foolishly sentimental misinterpretation of the socialist doctrine of universal brotherhood, or internationalism, they generally began by dropping out of all the Irish societies they were affiliated with, no matter how righteous their objects were, and ended by ceasing to mix in Irish gatherings or to maintain Irish connections. The results upon the minds of their fellow-countrymen were as might be expected.

We propose to show all the workers of our fighting race that socialism will make them better fighters for freedom without being less Irish.[62]

McGrady was not aware of Engels’ discussion of the various Catholic materialists. Engels wrote:

Materialism is the natural-born son of Great Britain. The British schoolman, Duns Scotus (meaning William of Ockham had already asked, “Whether it was impossible for matter to think.” In order to effect this miracle, he took refuge in God’s omnipotence, i.e., he made theology preach materialism. Moreover, he was a nominalist. Nominalism, the first form of materialism is chiefly found among the English schoolmen.[63]

Unlike James Connolly,[64] McGrady did not address the Feuerbachian notion that theism was inherently alienating and dehumanizing (inverted world-consciousness). Nor did he address, as did Connolly, Feuerbach’s position that fundamental to materialism is the concept that matter produces mind and mind exists apart from matter. Mind is the highest form of human activity. This means that nature exists independently of mind but that no mind can exist apart from matter. The material world existed long before humankind or any thinking being came into existence. As Feuerbach said:

The true relation of thought to being is this: being is subject, thought is predicate. Thought springs from being, but being does not spring from thought.

This precludes the existence of God, gods, spirits, souls or other immaterial entities having influence on the operations of nature and society.

Feuerbach’s materialism covered only religion, not the rest of the world. McGrady’s materialism covered the world and seemingly much of religion. Jesus was an historical, material figure. The entire Old Testament, except for the last book (Daniel) said nothing about life after death. The emphasis was on moralityhow to live in the present world, among other things. McGrady’s lectures and writings had nothing to say about otherworldly, non- material matters. McGrady did not accept the young Marx’s view, as set forth in the Cornmunist Manifesto (1848): “Christian socialism is but the holy water with which the priest consecrates the heart-burnings of the aristocrat.” But McGrady was in agreement with what Aptheker suggests in the mature Marx’s more positive view of religion:

[DA, p. 226]

Central to Marx’s thought is the insistence that religion is a necessity, given the existence of oppressive, unjust, or unreasonable relationships. Marx insisted upon the deeply persistent quality of religion because it serves real needs. In his great work Capital, which presumably reflects the fully mature Marx, he wrote “The religious reflex of the real world can, in any case, only finally vanish when the practical relations of every-day life, offer to humans none but perfectly intelligible and reasonable relations with regards to their fellow humans and to nature.”[65]

Church Government

McGrady’s work for church democracy coincided with the modernist movement that was seeking similar goals. Viewing church history from a materialist perspective, he was optimistic about the ultimate success of progressive forces in the church. Time and struggle, transformation of the relations and forces of productionhistory would force the church to adjust to reality, to democratize its governing structures and philosophy. Even while there was no real democracy, he taught that the progressive opposition did not, and must not, stop seeking and utilizing the legal means of expression available. The opposition proclaimed its demands, took action to secure their realization, to the extent that the balance of class forces permitted, and upheld legality and other democratic principles against encroachment by the reactionaries. Such activity prepared for the revolution that would transform the church from monarchy to democracy: the form of the new church was determined by the maturity of the one destroyed. In each stage in historical developmentslavery, feudal and capitalistthe Catholic people and their church had made positive contributions and helped push history forward toward the next stage. The transition from capitalism to socialism would be no exception.

McGrady used Rerum Novarum to illustrate how progress had been, and could be, forced on the church. In the industrialized nations of the world, working class Catholics and their non-Catholic comrades in the 19th century built their unions. They fought or ignored Vatican anti-union dogma. The great majority boycotted the church. In consequence Leo XIII was compelled to modernize church doctrine and bring it into conformity with reality. Rerum Novarum conceded that unionism was a right of the working class. As Cardinal Gibbons had told the pope, unions (Knights of Labor, AFL) were established and would never be undone. The hierarchy either would recognize this or lose the working class that still remained in the church. McGrady summarized:

She (the church) maintains her position with heroic courage. She disputes every inch claimed by science, and only submits when absolutely conquered, though she never admits defeat. She meets the enemy with scorn and defiance. When victory ultimately perches on the flag of her adversary, she adroitly veers around, and qualifies her doctrines and attempts to reconcile her view with the logical and indisputable deductions from the facts of scientific discovery, and finally adopts the universally accepted conclusion of the learned without reservation. But in this triple attitude of defiance and condemnation, compromise and reconciliation, submission and acceptance, she maintains that she never changed.[66]

James Connolly took the same optimistic view of church progress, and used Irish church history to demonstrate. The church, historically, adapted its policies to expediency and accepted the established order, even if it had warred upon those who had striven to establish such an order. In Ireland, the hierarchy maintained its position by its subservience to the English government and its dominant Anglican Protestant church. Its history was one of support of British and Irish capitalism and intrigue against people’s movements. In the revolutionary movements of 1798, 1848 and 1867, the bishops, in opposition to the lower clergy and laity, had supported the counter-revolutionary, pro-English government forces and denounced the revolutionaries. In later years, when the Irish people honored the revolutionary martyrs, the bishops also accorded them honor. Summarized Connolly:

[DA, p. 227]

When the church realizes that the case of capitalism is a lost cause, it will find excuses enough to forget the anti- socialist encyclicals and then approve of the position of those lowly priests who embrace social ideas.[67]

In addition to optimism, McGrady’s lecturing and writing on behalf of church democracy were characterized by several factors. First, he used the history of the church’s democratic tradition to raise Catholic consciousness. Both the primitive church and the local U.S. church in the 19th century trustee era were marked by democracy:

Rome has been too conservative in her government and too obstinate in the defense of her authority, or rather in the centralization of that authority. In the primitive ages of Christianity, the laity formed a constituent part of the body politic, and had an elective voice in the appointment of bishops and other ecclesiastics. With the contemporary restricted elective franchise, the laity is a nonentity in the ecclesiastical government. Those who choose bishops owe their promotion to the kindness of their superior. They are often distinguished for mental inability, cerebral crudity and moral debility.[68]

The trustee era in 19th century history was a genuine achievement in local democratic (congregational) church government. It demonstrated the importance of the people holding church property (church deeds). Trusteeism had been made possible by the democratic, anti-clerical legislation rising out of the U.S. revolution. This legislation required property to be owned by a board of lay trustees; and the elected trustees hired and fired the pastor. When the clergy stopped seeing the laity as servants and became themselves workers and tenants, they more readily acknowledged the dignity of the workers and fought the landlords and capitalists. Wrote McGrady:

God does not make servants. This is the work of man. It originated in usurpation. If there were no menials, we should be noble enough to wait on ourselves, and consider it no disgrace. Labor would be dignified, for the proudest in the land would toil.[69]

Secondly, he corrected Rerum Novarum’s romanticized version of history which the Vatican used to justify its feudal orientation, its monarchical, medieval governing structure (pope/bishops) and its possession of private, income producing land, which contributed to its identification with landlord and feudal morality. When compared with the slave era, feudalism was an advance, but Rerum Novarum’s glorification of it and the church’s dominating role was unmindful of the fact that for the majority of people feudalism meant illiteracy, poverty, barbarity, obscurantism, ignorance, disease, high infant mortality, bigotry, superstition and continuous war and strife. Feudal lords robber barons -- including the church leadership, used serfdom to exploit workers and peasants. By legislatively setting low maximum wages, feudal era workers were in effect captive, having no economic incentive to migrate to places of higher wages. After reviewing various passages from Capital, McGrady summarized:

You will see the measures that were adopted to expropriate the peasants and reduce the wages of the laborer to the point of bare subsistence. The legislative hail, the judicial bench and the armed battalions were called to expropriate and enslave the masses.[70]

James Maguire, McGrady’s friend and lawyer colleague in San Francisco, adopted the same approach to Rerum Novarum (and romanticized feudal history) in studying Irish history:

Under all their Catholic majesties, from Henry II (1133—1189) to Henry VIII (1491—1547) (nearly 400 years) the Irish people, with the exception of five families, were outlaws. They were murdered at will, like dogs, by their English Catholic neighbors in Ireland, and there was no law to punish the murderers. Yet during all of this unparalleled reign of terror, history fails to show a single instance in which the power of the Catholic church was ever exerted or suggested by the pope for the protection of her faithful Irish children.[71]

[DA, p. 228]

A third characteristic of McGrady’s church democracy propaganda involved refuting Vatican Thomistic natural law and divine right justifications of church and secular monarchy. Socialist rights theory, like Enlightenment natural law, taught equality in this life, not equality of the grave:

By natural law all men own the earth. He who would appropriate land and exercise ownership should be compelled to substantiate his claims by showing that the law had been suspended.[72]

The church preaches that there will be no castes in heaven; all will be alike there; yet there must be castes here. She is opposed to equality on earth though admitting that it will be one of the joys of heaven. It seems to me that it would be prudent to practice equality here, so as to get used to it. It will be an awkward thing to fall into the brotherhood of heaven without any previous experience.[73]

McGrady speculated that with socialist revolution and the nationalization of church property by the people, “Rome would go down in ignominious defeat with her capitalist allies.”[74] Monarchy (papal) and aristocracy (cardinals and bishops) would have no support from the people. Mere moral exhortations to the hierarchy, as to the capitalists, were of no value. The clergy, as owners of income producing property, were as class conscious as the capitalist, and just as hostile to worker rule:

I have advocated this method (democratic election) of filling parochial vacancies to several Catholic clergymen. They have, without exception, staunchly opposed its utility and applicability, giving as their reason that clerical independence would be utterly destroyed, making the priest a servant of the people.[75]

Catholic Schools

Progressive Catholics like Fr. Edward McGlynn (1837—1900) resisted the hierarchy’s extension of Catholic schools. Catholic non-integration into the public school system coincided with anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic feelings. It tended to feed bigotry and divide workers rather than unite them against their common enemy, capitalism. McGrady summarized:

Capitalism has engendered religious prejudices, for religion has been used for obtaining temporal advantages. All bloody wars, waged in the name of religion, have been created by selfish motives. Bigotry has been utilized to inflame nations against nations, in the struggle for empire and wealth. After three hundred years of carnage, the masses of the people are beginning to awaken to the reality of the situation. Members of the various denominations have used the influence of the church to secure positions of emolument; and sectarian hatred and religious antipathies have been fostered in the hearts of defeated contestants.

Destroy the struggle for existence (capitalism), and religious prejudices will wane. Man cannot hate his fellow man for his opinions, unless those opinions are detrimental to his interests. Men have never fought about the color of the clouds, and nations have never been involved in war over the ponderosity of the sun; for the clouds rain on the poor and rich, and the sun shines on the just and the wicked, and all have enjoyed the common gifts.[76]

Non-integration in schools, as well as in hospitals, unions, recreation and marriage, gave the bishops, as Tammany apologists, an influence that was detrimental. The dual school system resulted in less popular support for spending public funds and energy in behalf of education. A major SP campaign theme was “Vote socialism for more schools.” Mc- Grady spoke against those in the hierarchy (like Archbishop Quigley of Buffalo) who worked “to get rid of free public education because the church wants to have control of all schools, so it can form the minds of youths to capitalism.”[77] It was wrong for the bishops to oppose free textbooks and compulsory education laws:

We have free schools and yet illiteracy is dense, because the millions of poor children have not the clothes to wear or the necessary books; and even when supplied with these, they must enter the factory or the sweat-shop at the early age of twelve years, and their long hours of labor render future study and reading an impossibility.[78]

McGrady opposed both the hierarchy’s attempts to gain government money for Catholic schools and the efforts of racist anti-Catholic public school boards and teachers that made the Bible and prayer school subjects.

[DA, p. 229]

To lessen the damage created by the dual system, McGrady taught that Catholic schools should be controlled by the Catholic people and not by pastors and bishops. The hierarchy’s role in education had too often been reactionary: the execution of Savonarola, who “lost his life trying to save Florence from moral putrefaction”;[79] persecution of scientists for advocating that the sun was the central figure in the solar system; and claims that astronomy was a black art. When the fanning mill for winnowing grain was introduced, “The church condemned it as being in league with the prince of the power of air, for the Bible says, ‘The wind bloweth where it listeth.’[80] Inoculation, vaccination and anesthesia were condemned as agents of hell defying the power of heaven. Lightning rods were denounced as disturbing the equilibrium of heaven. The first steamboat was called the Devil’s boat: hell turned loose and floating on the sea, the leviathan mentioned in the Book of Job.


McGrady’s socialist career lasted a relatively short time, less than 10 years, cut short by an early death at age 44. Bishop Camillus P. Maes (1846—1915) of the Covington Diocese exercised jurisdiction over McGrady. Maes was not supportative of McGrady’s socialism but appears to have kept hands off initially, for McGrady recorded that socialist priests in Europe and the U.S. were left alone by their bishops to the extent they remained inactive in politics. A few progressive bishops like Baron Wilhelm E. von Kettler (1811—1877) of Mainz, whom McGrady admired, used their influence to work for socialism. Catholic socialists in Chicago (Cook County) obtained an SP charter with church approval in 1902.[81] However, McGrady never worked under a socialist bishop. As the success of the SP and McGrady’s own propagandizing increased, the more reactionary bishops, capitalists and politicians around the country increasingly pressed Maes to do something to stop McGrady.

Maes was in a difficult position as McGrady had wide popular support in Kentucky. Socialism and the Kentucky SP were growing political forces. McGrady took being a priest seriously and had served the people faithfully for 15 years. He looked to their interest, as in the early 1890’s when he converted the old church at St. Edwards into a non-denominational community recreational center. In Bellevue he was close to the workers, boarding with a working class family (William and Louisa Hasenzahl) and their five children. Hasenzahl had immigrated to the U.S. in 1866 from Germany and was a machinist. In the same block lived a cigar maker, shoe maker, clock maker, paper box maker, barber, tailor, music teacher, iron moulder, teamster, glass cutter, blacksmith, railroad clerk, paper hanger, cook, railroad engineer and dry goods salesperson.[82] McGrady had support from the nuns of Kentucky, three of whom were members of the largest order of nuns in the diocese. Their influence put that group on McGrady’s side. Even those who did not understand his socialism, admired him, as the Commercial Tribune put it:

Let it be said that Fr. McGrady, no matter how far he departed from the rules and doctrines of his church, was still greatly beloved by his congregation in the little city. He comforted them spiritually, but he also had time and again comforted them and others physically. For he went about often doing good to those of the faith and to those not of the faith.[83]

Maes started his undermining of McGrady by prohibiting the priests of the diocese from speaking to him, or letting him speak from their pulpits in 1899. Because McGrady was a good speaker, he had been frequently invited by his fellow priests to be a guest speaker. Maes also attempted (with little success) to prevent and censor what McGrady wrote. The national smear campaign by the Catholic and capitalist media against McGrady had its counterpart in the diocese of Covington. A lawyer, D.G. Falconer, spread the word via Fr. Ferdinand Brossart, Maes’s assistant, that McGrady was insane, that his brother was an imbecile and that his uncle died in a lunatic asylum.[84]

[DA, p. 230]

On November 8, 1902 Maes escalated his harassment. He sent McGrady a letter stating:

We admonish you not be absent from your parish so frequently without permission and to refrain from emitting views on socialism, either by speech or by letter, which are at variance with the teachings of our Supreme Pontiff or of the church.

We admonish you not to allow the sale of any books written by you for which the imprimatur has been refused, for cause, or for which the imprimatur should be in accordance with the rules of the Holy See.

We admonish you to fulfill your obligations toward the seminary collections of 1901 within two weeks and of 1902 before the end of the year.

We admonish you to bring into us a letter recalling such praises of Darwin, Zola and Renan and some other writers whose names as mentioned in your letter published in Wilshire’s Magazine (July 1902), which shall be given the same public notice that your fullsome praises to the detriment of the church, and the scandal of the faithful, gave. That scandal must be repaired, and an earnest promise given by you that you will obey the directions and conform to the teachings set forth in the encyclicals of our Holy Father, the Pope.[85]

On November 12, 1902, McGrady responded, submitting eight propositions covering the entire teachings of socialism and requested the bishop to answer and state in writing any or all of the propositions that were condemned by him. The bishop ignored the propositions. As McGrady put it: by condemning the propositions submitted, Maes would condemn the teaching of the church of the first four centuries and if he affirmed them he would approve of socialism.

Maes shifted position and dropped the question of socialism completely, dropped the question of imprimatur on the books, dropped the question of being absent from the parish on lecture tours and confined himself to three points in a letter written on November 26, 1902:

We hereby order you, first, to send to us in writing, within a week from this day, a promise that for the future [drops the whole past] that you will do your duty toward the seminary and other diocesan collections; second, to take up and forward to our chancery by December 31, 1902, the seminary collections for the current year; third, bring or send to us a retraction in writing of the unqualified approbation of authors condemned by the Holy See, contained in your letter, which appeared in Wilshire’s Magazine. You shall make retraction in writing within one week, and promise to have the same published, if possible, in Wilshire’s Magazine or in such journals or magazines as I select.[86]

McGrady responded in late November, 1902:

My duty to the collection is to announce them and have the trustees take them up and forward them to the bishop, after deducting the ordinary Sunday collections. Frequently nothing is left after the deduction and the bishop is only notified; therefore, no delinquency can occur. The bishop has no right to exact such a promise, unless there is a delinquency. I refuse the promise. It is probable that the bishop referred to personal donations when speaking of the seminary collections. Personal donations are a free gift, and can not be demanded by the canon law. I refuse to consider it. It is true that it is a diocesan statute but it is illegal.

I inquired into the origin of the statute and was told by a priest that a synod was held in Covington several years ago. The director of the cathedral mentioned the fact that many priests were invited to take part in the cathedral services on Holy Thursday. The director was compelled to give them dinner and required a compensation. It was proposed by one of the clergy of the synod that it looked mean to invite guests to the church services and then charge them for dinner. It was then suggested that each priest donate $5 annually to the seminary fund, and the same could be used to pay for the dinner served the guests. I have never been present at the Holy Thursday services and I refuse to pay for a dinner that I do not eat.

In the letter to Wilshire’s Magazine I referred to a number of brilliant men of world-wide reputation (Count Tolstoy, Cesar Lombroso, William Morris, Joseph Renan, John Ruskin, Alfred Wallace, Buchner, Darwin, Thomas More, Fourier, Proudhon, Saint Simon. Marx, Lassalle and Zola), who had adopted socialism and I praised their genius to show that these persons of vast intellectual acumen had adopted the teaching of Karl Marx. This is the second charge which the bishop calls a scandalto praise people of genius, whose writings are not all accepted by the church. Therefore a Catholic would be guilty of heresy if he praised the Declaration of Independence which was written by an infidel. He would be excommunicated if he went so far as to state that Thomas Jefferson was a great person. If I submitted to these conditions, I would sacrifice my manhood and consciousness and stultify myself before the public. Every intelligent person would say that I should be confined in an insane asylum.[87]

[DA, p. 231]

McGrady received national support in defending against Maes. Appeal to Reason (Girard, Kansas), a progressive newspaper, organized a petition campaign:

Have you read Rome’s message to McGrady? It is your turn now. Let the Appeal army send a message to McGrady one hundred thousand strong, and tell him we are entered for a million. Let your message to the hierarchies which deny political liberty to its most devoted workers be “whom despotism deposes, the people exalt to brotherhood and comradeship:

We are coming, oh, McGrady, coming many thousands strong.
We are leading hosts behind us, stretching out a million long.
Despotism may depose you, in no temple may you preach,
But upon the open hustings there your voice ever reach.”

Maes’s lack of support, bad faith and harassment wore McGrady down. On Sunday December 7, 1902, McGrady told his congregation that he was resigning his post, effective as soon as a replacement could be sent, which took several weeks. He summarized:

I resigned to preserve myself from a charge of idiocy and to protect myself from a charge of everlasting infamy. They want to condemn socialism, but my eight propositions were a stumbling block to their proceedings. Therefore they drop socialism and confine themselves to the charge of not paying for a dinner that I did not get and of stating that an infidel can have a great mind.[89]

According to the Commercial Tribune (Cincinnati), the congregation of men, women and children bowed their heads and wept. They pleaded with him and offered him monetary inducements not to go. A few weeks later he said at a lecture:

I wanted to stay. My parents, friends and relatives all are Catholics. My first fondest recollections are of Catholic associations. I have three sisters in the convent, and they begged me on bended knees not to take the step I have taken, but I said to them that humanity is above fraternal affection and sentiment. This very morning one of my sisters, a sister of Charity, came to my study and implored me with tears in her eyes not to come here tonight and deliver this lecture.[90]

McGrady’s resignation allowed him to devote full time to SP work. He remained a Catholic and a priest in good standing, not excommunicated. As he put it:

I have not abandoned priesthood. I have not abandoned the Catholic Church. I will be a better member than before, for the gyve of bondage has been broken, and I am free to proclaim the true doctrines of Christianity. There are no trammels on my limbs. I am no longer a slave and I rejoice in my newborn liberty to bear the light of truth to the homes of the poor and lowly. When I was engaged in the active work of ministry I was constantly harassed by episcopal despotism.[91]

After leaving St. Anthony’s, McGrady continued his SP work as writer and lecturer.[92] He sometimes toured with Fr. Thomas Hagerty, his comrade in the SP. The anarchist leaning Hagerty was a founder of the IWW and editor of its newspaper.

Eventually McGrady made San Francisco his base and took up lawyering there (1511 Baker St.).[93] He was probably attracted there by James G. Maguire (1853—1920), a progressive Catholic, lawyer, judge (1882—1888) and member of the U.S. Congress (1893—1899). Maguire unsuccessfully ran as a Democrat for California governor in 1898. He was defeated in part by the smear tactics of Fr. Peter C. Yorke (1864—1925) and the Catholic Church.[94] Maguire refused to go along with Tammany-Catholic politics, the driving of wedges between workers along religious lines. In 1907 the anti-socialist, anti-Protestant editor of the Review (St. Louis), Arthur Preuss, wrote:

McGrady is still heartily interested, as he put it recently, “in the triumph of social democracy and the new religion” and occasionally lectures in Protestant churches “against the barbaric splendor of commercial cannibalism” and for the “growth of socialist thought in the Christian church” and “the emancipation of humanity.”[95]

[DA, p. 232]

A few passages in McGrady’s last article, published five months before his death, indicate he felt himself and his socialism were incompatible with Catholicism. He had opposed this position during his earlier writing and even in some passages within his last article. In canon law, as in Roman law, citizenship (church membership) was irrevocable.[96] This reflects scripture, where the rite of initiation (baptism) conferred an indelible mark of membership. McGrady, following canon law, had taught that penalties, such as excommunication, or individual beliefs and non-beliefs, such as atheism, were irrelevant to membership. Progressive Catholics always had and continued to make positive contributions to the building of socialism. In 1939 then secretary of the Communist Party, U.S.A., Earl Browder, noted:

We have more communicants of the Catholic church as members of the Communist party than of any other denomination. While we make sympathetic contacts among protestants, they seldom become party members; but among Catholics, the speed with which a sympathetic contact develops into a loyal and active party member is much greater, and the proportion much higher.[97]

Except for the few passages in his last article, McGrady’s whole socialist life was one dedicated to showing that socialism was acceptable within the limits of Catholic teaching. What Greaves says of Connolly’s career goes also for McGrady:

To the allegation that socialism was based on covetousness, he quoted St. Chrysostom’s aphorism: “The rich man is a thief.” To such infantilities as allegations of “compulsory equality,” “state ownership of children,” “free love,” “destruction of incentive,” “inability of socialists to agree,” “impossibility of planning” and “obligatory atheism,” he made replies which were not only scientifically and historically acceptable within the limits of Catholic teaching, but threw a piercing light on the realities of Irish history in general and the class struggle in particular.[98]

Perhaps McGrady’s poor health, his distance from his family and Kentucky, or the bad faith hate campaigns got to him. He died of chronic myocarditis (inflammation of the muscular part of the heart) at St. Mary’s Hospital in San Francisco on November 27, 1907. He was in the hospital for a week before death, attended by Fr. T.C. Clancy, OP, prior of St. Dominic’s Priory at the corner of Stern and Pine in San Francisco. The death certificate listed McGrady’s occupation as priest, not lawyer. Eugene Debs wrote a lengthy and laudatory obituary of McGrady.[99] Working class communities mourned and party chapters throughout the country draped their charters in black in his memory.[100] His body was returned to Lexington, where he is buried in the Catholic cemetery.


[1]Toby Terrar is associated with the National Lawyers Guild, Washington, D.C. Grateful acknowledgement is made to, in alphabetical order, James Abajian, archivist, Archdiocese of San Francisco; Mary Ann Acosta, archivist, Diocese of Galveston-Houston; Joseph Cunneen; Dick Dieter; Lucy Fandell, Rev. Charles Hess, archivist, St. Albert’s Priory, San Francisco; Maggie Louden; Mary P. Trauth, SND, archivist, Diocese of Covington.

[2]Those who touch on the history of Catholic materialism are Georgii F. Aleksandrov (b. 1908), A History of Western European Philosophy (New Haven: Yale Insti tut of International Studies, 1949) and his (ed.) History of Philosophy (Moscow: Progress, 1957—1965); David H. DeGrood, Philosophies of Essence: An Examination of the Category of Essence (Groningen: Walters Noordhoff 1970), pp. 5, 38—40; V.1. Lenin, Material is and Empirico-Criticism: Notes Concerning a Reactionary Philosophy (NY: International, 1970); Theodor I. Oizerman, Problems of the History of Philosophy (Moscow: Progress, 1973); and George Thomson, The First Philosophers (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1955). In the Russian language there is much on Catholic materialists, especially in the scholarship of Sergei S. Averintsev, Josif R. Grigulevich (b. 1913) and Mikhail M. Sheinman. Each has had short articles dealing with aspects of materialism translated in the Great Soviet Encyclopedia (NY: McMillan, 1973).

[3]Walter M. Abbott (ed.), “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World,” Documents of Vatican II (NY: Guild Press, 1966) art. 41, note 130.

[4]Aaron I. Abell, “American Catholic Reaction to Industrial Conflict: The Arbitral Process, 1885—1900,” Catholic Historical Review, vol.41 (1956), p.405.

[5]Karl Marx, Ireland and the Irish Question: A Collection of Writings by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels (NY: International, 1972) p. 24.

[6]James Connolly, “Labor, Nationality and Religion,” (1910) Selected Writings (NY: Monthly Review Press, 1973), pp. 64—65.

[7]Thomas McGrady, “The Catholic Church and Socialism,” Arena (Boston), vol. 38 (July 1907) p. 18.

[8]Data on the family is contained in the federal census records beginning in 1850, in the records at the courthouse in Lexington, Ky. and in scattered references by McGrady in his writings.

[9]See Leon A. LeBuffe, Tensions in American Catholicism, 1820—1870: An Intellectual History (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University PhD, 1973), p. 140.

[10]William Clancy, Catholicism and Socialism: An Answer to the Question “Can a Catholic be a Socialist” (Bridgeport, Conn.: Advance, 1912), p. 8.

[11]Paul E. Ryan’s History of the Diocese of Covington, Ky.: 1853—1953 (Covington, Ky.: Diocese of Covington, 1954) has information about 19th century Catholic life in Lexington (the APA, the nuns).

[12]Thomas McGrady, “How I Became a Socialist,” Comrade (New York), vol. 2 (October 1902), p. 74.

[13]Ibid., p. 75.

[14]Connolly, “Labor,...” pp. 62, 64. For information about the seminaries, Nicholas Gallagher and his grandfather’s part in the Irish rebellions of 1798 and 1803, see Michael J. Kelly, History of Mt. St. Mary’s of the West (Cincinnati: Diocese of Cincinnati, 1894); John H. Lamott, History of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati: 1821—1921 (NY: Frederick Pustet Co., 1921); William S. Morris, The Seminary Movement in the U.S.: Projects, Foundations and Early Developments (Washington, D.C.: Catholic U Press, 1932); J.A. O’Donohoe, “Seminaries,” New Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 13 (1969), p. 72.

[15]Thomas McGrady, “How I Became , p. 75.

[16]Philip S. Foner, Labor Movement in the United States: From the Founding of the AFL to the Emergence pf American Imperialism (NY: International Publ., 1955), vol. 2, p. 499.

[17]William D’Arcy, The Fenian Movement in the U.S.: 1858—1886 (NY: Russell and Russell, 1947).

[18]Thomas McGrady, “How I Became , p. 75.

[19]Oakley Johnson, Marxism in US. History Before the Russian Revolution: 1876—1917 (Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1974), pp. 24—27.

[20]Herbert Morais, Gene Debs: The Story of a Fighting American (NY: International, 1948), p. 55.

[21]Arthur Preuss, “McGrady,” Review (St. Louis), vol. 10 (no. 22, May 1903), p. 350.

[22]Rev. Gregory G. Rybrook, “McGrady,” Review (St. Louis), vol. 8 (November 21, 1901), pp. 538—539.

[23]David Goldstein, Autobiography of a Campaigner for Christ (Boston: Catholic Campaign for Christ, 1936), p. 23.


[25]Those who write on the social gospel movement are: James Dombrowski, The Early Days of Christian Socialism in America (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1936); Richard B. Dressner, Christian Socialism: A Response to Industrial America in the Progressive Era (Ithaca, NY: Cornell PhD, 1972); Robert T. Handy, “Christianity and Socialism in America 1900—1920,” Church History, vol. 21 (March 1952) pp. 39—54 and his (ed.), The Social Gospel in America: 1870 —1920 (NY: Oxford UP, 1966); Charles H. Hopkins, The Rise of the Social Gospel in American Protestantism: 1865— 1915 (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1940); Peter d’Allory Jones, The Christian Socialist Revival, 1877—1914: Religion, Class and Social Conscience in the Late-Victorian England (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1968); Ira Kipnis, The American Socialist Move men 1897—1912 (NY: Columbia Univ. Press, 1952); Rev. Thomas J. McDonagh, Some Aspects of the Roman Catholic Attitude Toward the American Labor Movement 1900—1914 (Madison, Wise.: Univ. of Wisconsin Ph.D., 1951).

[26]Thomas McGrady, The Clerical Capitalist: Reply to Father Mackey (Terre Haute, Indiana: Standard Pub. Co., 1901); reprinted, NY: Socialist Co-operative Pub. Co., 1901 (Socialist Library, vol. 1, no. 10); also reprinted as The Capitalist Class (no place, publisher, or date).

[27]Bishop Messmer, “Letter,” Gazette (Green Bay, Wisconsin) (March 1902).

[28]Arthur Preuss, “McGrady,” Review (St. Louis), vol. 10 (no. 22, May 1903), p. 350.

[29]Philip Foner, History of the Labor Movement in the US: The Policies and Practices of the AFL, 1900—1909 (NY: International Pub., 1964), vol. 3, p. 122.

[30]Goldstein, Autobiography ..., p. 26.

[31]Harry F. Bedford, Socialism and the Workers in Massachusetts 1886—1917 (Amherst: Univ. of Massachusetts Press, 1966), p. 187.

[32]Eugene Debs, “Comment,” Wayland’s Monthly, vol. 92 (December, 1907), p. 5.

[33]Robert F. Doherty, “Thomas J. Hagerty, the Church and Socialism,” Labor History, vol. 3 (Winter 1962), p. 50.

[34]Philips Foner, History of the Labor Movement in the US.: The Policies Practices of the AFL, 1900—1909 (NY: International, 1964), vol. 3, p. 113.

[35]Leo R. Ward, “Preparing for Social Action 1880-1920,” The American Apostolate (Westminster, Md.: Newman Press, 1952), p. 18. See also George Morris, “The Vatican Conspiracy in the American Trade Union Movement,” Political Affairs (NY), vol. 29 (June 1950), pp. 46-57; and his “The Vatican’s Labor Philosophy,” Political Affairs vol. 28 (April 1949), pp. 18-34.

[36]McGrady’s books were: The Mistakes of Ingersoll (Cincinnati: Curts and Jennings, 1898), 344 pp.; The Two Kingdoms (Cincinnati: Joseph Berning Printing Co., 1899), 304 pp.; and Beyond the Black Ocean (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr, 1901); reprinted NY: Arno Press, 1971. His pamphlets were: Socialism and the Labor Problems (Bellevue, Ky.: printed by the author, 1900), 40 pp., reprinted as Socialism and the Labor Problem: A Plea for Social Democracy (Terre Haute, Indiana: Standard Publishing. Co., 1901, 1903); The Clerical Capitalist: Reply to Father Mackey (Terre Haute, Indiana: Standard Pub. Co., 1901), reprinted (NY: Socialist Co-operative Pub. 1901, Socialist Library, vol. 1, no. 10), also reprinted as The Capitalist Class (no place, publisher or date); City of Angels: Review of Bishop Montgomery’s Christian Socialism (Terre Haute, Ind.: Standard Pub., 1901), 40 pp.; Unaccepted Challenges (Terre Haute: Standard Publishing, 1901), 15 pp.; and A Voice from England (Terre Haute: Standard Pub., 1901), 44 pp. His magazine articles were: “What a Catholic Priest Says,” Wilshire’s Magazine, vol. 2 (March 13, 1901), p. 10; “How I Became a Socialist,” Comrade (New York), vol. 2 (no. 1, October 1902), p. 74; “Is Socialism Anti-Christian?”, Literary Digest, vol. 24 (January 11, 1902), pp. 51—52; “Lecture,” Record (Philadelphia), (April 25, 1902).

[37]McGrady, The Clerical Capitalist..., p. 11.

[38]Frederick Engels, Marx—Engels: Selected Works (NY: New World Paperback, 1968).

[39]Karl J. Kautsky, Foundations of Christianity: A Study in Christian Origins (1908) (NY: International Publishers, 1925).

[40]McGrady, Beyond the Black Ocean, p. 260.

[41]Ibid., pp. 232—233.

[42]Ibid., p. 231.

[43]Ibid., p. 230.

[44]McGrady, The Clerical Capitalist..., p. 9.

[45]McGrady, City of Angels..., p. 26—27.

[46]McGrady, The Clerical Capitalist..., p. 28.

[47]McGrady, Unaccepted Challenges, p. 6.

[48]McGrady, City of Angels..., p. 24.

[49]McGrady, The Clerical Capitalist..., p. 15.

[50]McGrady, The Two Kingdoms, p. 15.

[51]McGrady, Beyond the Black Ocean, p. 269.

[52]McGrady, The Clerical Capitalist..., p. 17.

[53]Ibid., p. 13.

[54]Ibid., p. 17.

[55]Friedrich A. Sorge, Labor Movement in the U.S.: A History of the American Working Class from Colonial Times to 1890 (1890) (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Pub., 1977), p. 217.

[56]McGrady, Beyond the Black Ocean, p. 269—270.

[57]McGrady, The Clerical Capitalist..., p. 8.

[58]Ibid., pp.6—7.

[59]Thomas McGrady, “The Catholic Church and Socialism,” Arena (Boston), vol. 38 (July 1907), p. 22.

[60]McGrady, Beyond the Black Ocean, p. 263.

[61]McGrady, City of Angels..., p. 26.

[62]D. Desmond Greaves, The Life and Time of James Connolly (NY: International Publishers, 1972), pp. 180—181.

[63]Frederick Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach and the Outcome of Classical German Philosophy (NY: International Pub., 1935).

[64]Greaves, The Life and Times of James Connolly, p. 181.

[65]Herbert Aptheker, The Urgency of Marxist—Christian Dialogue (NY: International Publishers, 1970), p. 6.

[66]Thomas McGrady, “The Catholic Church and Social ism, Arena (Boston), vol. 38 (July 1907), p. 20.

[67]Carl Reeve, James Connolly and the US: The Road to the 1916 Irish Rebellion (NY: Humanities Press, 1978), p. 244.

[68]McGrady, The Two Kingdoms, pp. 126—128.

[69]McGrady, Beyond the Black Ocean, p. 17.

[70]McGrady, The Clerical Capitalist p. 16.

[71]James Connolly, “Labor, Nationality and Religion,” (1910) Selected Writings (NY: Monthly Review Press, 1973), p. 7.

[72]McGrady, Beyond the Black Ocean, p. 69.

[73]Ibid., p. 264.

[74]McGrady, “The Catholic Church and Socialism,” p. 27.

[75]McGrady, The Two Kingdoms, p. 138.

[76]McGrady, Beyond the Black Ocean, p. 272.

[77]McGrady, “The Catholic Church and Socialism,” p. 27.

[78]McGrady, Beyond the Black Ocean, p. 222.

[79]Ibid., p. 287.

[80]Ibid., p. 286.

[81]Arnold Petersen, Bourgeois Socialism: Its Rise and Collapse in America: The Sage of the Reformist “Socialist”Party (NY: Labor News Co., 1951), p. 61.

[82]U.S. Archives, Washington, D.C., Census of Kentucky, 1900.

[83]Anonymous, “Rev. Thomas McGrady Resigns,” Commercial Tribune (Cincinnati), (December 8, 1902), p. 1.

[84]Covington Diocesan Archives, Letter of D.G. Falconer in McGrady Files.

[85]Bishop Camillus P. Maes, “Rev. Thomas McGrady Resigns, Commercial Tribune (Cincinnati), (December 8, 1902), p. 1.


[87]Thomas McGrady, “Rev. Thomas McGrady Resigns,” Commercial Tribune (Cincinnati), (December 8, 1902), p. 1.

[88]David Goldstein, Autobiography....

[89]McGrady, “Rev. Thomas McGrady Resigns,” Commercial Tribune (Cincinnati) (December 8, 1902), p. 1.

[90]Arthur Preuss, “The Case of Fr. McGrady,” Review (St. Louis), vol. 10 (January 1903), p. 6.

[91]Thomas McGrady, “Statement,” Commercial Tribune (Cincinnati), (December 9, 1902); reprinted in Review (St. Louis), vol. 9 (December 1902), p. 782.

[92]McGrady’s post 1902 writings are: “Speech,” American Labor Union Journal (Helena, Montana), no. 32 (May 1903); “Letter,” Christian Socialist (Chicago), vol. 4 (1907) no. 6; “Why the Catholic Church Opposes Socialism by a Leading Socialist,” Arena (Boston), vol. 37 (May 1907), pp. 520—524; “The Catholic Church and Socialism,” Arena (Boston), vol. 38 (July 1907), pp. 18-27.

[93]McGrady, “Letter,” Christian Socialist (Chicago), vol. 4(1907) no. 6.

[94]McGrady, “The Catholic Church and Socialism,” Arena (Boston), vol. 38 (July 1907), p. 24; Bernard C. Cronin, Fr. Yorke and the Labor Movement in San Francisco 1900—1910 (Washington, D.C. Catholic Univ. Press, 1943), pp. 33—35.

[95]Arthur Preuss, “Fr. McGrady,” Review (also known as Catholic Fortnightly Review) (St. Louis), no. 9 (May 1, 1907).

[96]Richard J. Murphy, The Canonico-Juridical Status of Communist (Washington, D.C. Catholic Univ. Press, 1959).

[97]Earl R. Browder, Religion and Communism (NY: International, 1939), p. 11.

[98]D. Desmond Greaves, The Life and Time of James Connolly (NY: International, 1972), p. 192.

[99]Eugene Debs, “Obituary of Thomas McGrady,” Appeal to Reason (Girard, Kansas), (1907); reprinted in Christian Socialist (Chicago), (January 1, 1908).

[100]Henry F. Bedford, Socialism and the Worker in Massachusetts 1886—1912 (Amherst: Univ. of Massachusetts Press, 1966).