Catholic Action Speaks Out Against Nast

When we speak of honor many of us associate the term with something special or something that stands above all other things.  Fame, glory and high public esteem are mentioned when we look to the dictionary for proper definition. When we choose to bestow a title these are words that must be identifiable and should be followed. If the words are not identified I surmise that the honor or trophy no longer has meaning and loses all its praise and distinction.  So when we look to the New Jersey Hall of Fame, we as everyday citizens look at a list of men and women with a connection to our State. The guidelines are mentioned and the rigorous process that a group of more than 30 of the most prominent individuals in their selected fields, from historians to journalists, sift through the master list of nominations. One startling step mentioned in the process is that, “once someone’s nomination has been approved by our expert panel, the name stays on the master list indefinitely.” The ballot, as of now, the master list contains approximately 250 names, with the hall of fame less than 5 years in existence. While there are many notable and outstanding men and woman presently in the hall and a large number still waiting, we must look at the life of some of these candidates and perhaps the “expert panel.” There seems to have been a communication breakdown or just a blind eye turned when Thomas Nast was approved by the experts, the list which is then submitted to Hall of Fame Voting Academy at that time the academy votes to narrow the field to ten individuals in each category. I am unsure how the experts investigate the potential honorees.  A quick internet search of Thomas Nast would startle most men or woman in New Jersey or in the nation.  Nast was a German-born American, Catholic bigot. That opening fact and his associated caricatures of hatred for Catholics, especially Irish Catholics should be sign that Mr. Nast does not comply or identify the highest moral principles or the absence of deceit or fraud. Again, words associated with honor. Nast, a German Protestant, considered the Roman Catholic Church a threat to American values, and often portrayed the Irish Catholics and Catholic Church leaders in very hostile terms. In 1871, one of his works, titled “The American River Ganges,” portrayed Catholic bishops as crocodiles waiting to attack American school children; they wanted to have Catholic schools for Catholic children. Nast expressed his feelings about ethnic Irish in his depictions of the Irish as violent drunks. Nast also identified Irish Catholics as part man – part ape.

In my short non-expert investigation, I read via the New Jersey Hall of fame website (  “The New Jersey Hall of Fame was created to honor citizens who have made invaluable contributions to society and the world beyond. The Hall of Fame reinforces the message to children that they can and should strive for excellence in any endeavor of their choosing. By presenting significant and powerful role models and teaching young people about the voting process, the Hall of Fame is a source of learning, inspiration and hope for children.”  Startling? Yes!  I believe that the presence of Thomas Nast on the ballot of the New Jersey Hall of Fame is a disgrace to not only Irish Catholics but to all men and women of our nation. I also believe that the presence of Mr. Nast’s on the ballot is an injustice to all of the remaining potential members and the present honorees. I ask all of the over 30 major sponsors to rethink their commitment to this hall. Is this a person that they are willing to venerate and honor with others that have shown us, the people of New Jersey qualities of excellence and wisdom in their life’s works?

We as Hibernians have fought many battles here in America from the day of our stance at St James Church in New York in 1836. If we consider all of them of the utmost importance, I contend that this may be the biggest battle of our Order since our defense of our clergy.  We at this time must stand up with a loud voice that stands behind our values, faith, and the wisdom of the Hibernians of the past, that help build the church’s that will now honor the birth of our savior on this Holy Day. Our motto must carry us in either, celebration or defeat, our expression of Friendship, unity, and Christian charity must be complete, total,and absolute. We cannot afford to let an issue of this importance slip through our fingers a second time.

I applaud the work of the New Jersey State Board on this issue especially our spiritual leaders Fr Dan Cahill, Fr Brian Woodrow. Also the hard work and continued effort of President Sean Pender and Treasurer / Public relations Chairman Sean Hughes.