First Advisor

David A. Horowitz

Date of Publication

Fall 1-1-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in History






Hall Stoner Lusk (1883-1983), Francis J. Murnane (1914-1968), Catholic Church -- Oregon -- Portland -- History -- 20th century, Catholic Action



Physical Description

1 online resource (x, 102 pages)


Catholic Action was an international movement that encouraged active promotion of the Catholic faith by ordinary believers. While the idea gained force at a local level in Italy in the early twentieth century, Pope Pius XI gave the philosophy official Church approval in 1931. Catholic Action served as a major intellectual and religious force among American Catholics from the Great Depression until the transformations in Catholicism caused by the Second Vatican Council from 1962 to 1965. The program encouraged American Catholics both to promote the practice of the faith among fellow Church members and to express Catholic teachings in the public realm in order to influence political and economic policy.

Because the Church's social teaching articulated strong reservations regarding free-market capitalism, Catholic Action proved compelling to progressives and leftists among the faithful. American Catholic leftists during this era continued a long tradition of social justice activism among Catholic immigrant workers and their descendants. Yet Catholic political mobilization could also serve conservative ends, as when believers gathered in rallies against Hollywood movies or communism. Regardless of whether they engaged in progressive or conservative activism, however, Catholics' organized efforts in the mid-twentieth century fortified their already strong sense of religious identity.

This thesis examines two Catholic public figures in Portland, Oregon during the era of Catholic Action: Hall S. Lusk, a lawyer who held many public offices including that of Oregon Supreme Court Justice, and Francis J. Murnane, a leader in the International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union. Biographies of the two men demonstrate that the two served as important spokesmen for Catholic principles in mostly non-Catholic Portland. While Lusk viewed Catholic Action as an opportunity to strengthen American Catholics' devotion to the nation, Murnane's version authorized radical dissent against the nation's social and economic structure. An analytical chapter examines how the same Catholic Action philosophy drove the two men in different directions politically but imbued each with a strong sense of Catholic identity. The Conclusion discusses the continued relevance of the study of the Catholic Action period by pointing to the surprising durability of Catholic cultural cohesion throughout American history and to the powerful force that religious faith possesses to inspire activists on both the left and the right.


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