My scholarship has focused on the intersections of U.S. politics, religion, culture, and foreign relations during the Cold War and in the origins, evolution, manifestations, and legacy of the concept of “United States Empire.” My book manuscript, entitled “Catholic Mission and United States Empire in Central America, 1940s-1990s,” explores the interplay of religion, U.S. foreign policy and economic development in Central America, and U.S. domestic politics. The book explores Catholic ambivalence regarding United States imperialism in Central America while highlighting the crucial role that Catholics played in debates over U.S. policy in the region. I am now completing revisions of this manuscript in a multi-year seminar on Religion and U.S. Empire, sponsored by the Kripke Center at Creighton University, and I am in initial conversations with a university press about publication.
I am working on a second project on the geopolitical and religious dimensions of deindustrialization in the American “rust belt” from the 1950s through the 1970s. I am interested in Catholic life in the suburbs where new white-collar jobs and living arrangements, more regular contact with Protestants in public schools and on municipal governments, and the reforms of Vatican II transformed Catholic America. I focus on Pittsburgh’s southern suburbs where more than a few Catholics worked in Westinghouse’s Bettis Atomic Energy Lab or for U.S. Steel. I am interested in the emergence of Catholic engineers and executives who were pushing the limits of science and moving many of their operations overseas, the simultaneous and connected decline of the Catholic labor movement, and the implementation of Catholic reforms in liturgy, church governance, and orientation to the wider world. How did Catholics worship, work, and engage in politics under these new conditions? Cardinal John Wright, who serve as bishop of Pittsburgh before his appointment as Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, is a central figure in this history I am also interested in Vatican II documents related to atomic power and suburbanization.