The Social Action Department

In 1919, U.S. bishops formed the National Catholic Welfare Council (NCWC) as the annual meeting of the Church's American hierarchy. One of the original departments with NCWC was the Department of Social Action, better known by the acronym SAD, which sought to implement in practical ways the Church's thoughts on social issues. To accomplish this, the department would sponsor addresses and lectures, publish literature, and conduct conferences. Much of the department's focus tended to be on industrial relations, which is seen in the documents presented here.
(More on this subject can be found in the exhibit "The Catholic Church, the Congress of Industrial Organizations, and Labor in the United States, 1930-1950")

-In a series of letters dated December 12 and 14 1934, and April 1935, Father Raymond McGowan, assistant director of SAD, provides incoming department director Bishop Edward Mooney with information on the department's activities.

-McGowan would author, and SAD distribute, a pamphlet in 1935 titled Organized Social Justice, which not only laid out SAD's ideas on social justice and the working class, but also presented the idea of improving society by organizing it into occupational groups.

-SAD also organized "schools for priests" to give local Church leaders information regarding the labor movement and how to respond to it. Monsignor Francis J. Haas addressed one of these schools in 1938, and in a speech titled "The Right and Necessity of Organization," gave priests an introduction to industrial relations terminology, as well as an overview of Church teachings on workers' rights.

-The NCWC would follow SAD's Organized Social Justice with Church and Social Order in 1940. This is significant, as it represents the official statement of the U.S. Church social justice and labor, while the previous statement published by SAD was only the viewpoint of that particular department.

-In 1940, SAD staff member Father John Hayes began issuing a regular newsletter titled Social Action Notes (Feb. 1941, March 1941, Sept. 1941) for priests. The newsletters were designed to keep priests apprised of social and labor issues throughout the country.