Cardinal O'Connell, "Evils of Modern Society," 1920


John Mitchell Addresses a Meeting of The United Mine Workers of America
1905, Courtesy of ACUA

When William Cardinal O'Connell gave this address in early 1920, the country had just ended a year of turbulent employer-employee relations. Historians report that approximately 20 percent of all workers had gone on strike at some point during that year. Violence and fear of violence heightened tensions in the country; Fannie Sellins, a labor organizer who patterned herself after Mother Jones, had been killed by guards during a steel workers strike; Americans were scared that Russia's so-called workers' revolution would spread to the United States, and a growing fear of radicalism and Socialism were making more people suspicious of unions and social reform.


"Evils of Modern Society," from Address at Close of Men's Mission at Cathedral Boston, MA, March 7, 1920


As you read the document, reflect on the following questions:

  • According to Cardinal O'Connell, what are some of the reasons for unrest among laborers?
  • Do you agree with his position on the importance of work, the responsibilities of workers, and the role of the Church in labor issues? Explain your opinion.
  • Compare the expressed ideas of O'Connell to those of Fr. John A. Ryan and Mother Mary Harris Jones. Describe their similarities and differences.