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Part Ten Of “Catholic Power: Irish American Politics” Series


In 1971, Pennsylvania lawmakers introduced a bill that would have allowed no-fault divorce.

Pennsylvania State Representative Martin P. Mullen stood up against the bill and defended the family. During debate, he declared:

We are just trying to protect motherhood and womanhood. A woman is born clean and decent. If she is bad, it is because a man made her go wrong.”

Later, he further explained: “This is only the beginning, abortion is next.”

Mullen understood the importance of Catholic morality and recognized the consequences of sin. He strongly opposed abortion, adultery, pornography, and fornication.

He was born in Philadelphia’s Irish community in Elmwood Park and a devoted member of the Most Blessed Sacrament parish. There were eight masses every weekend, each filled with twelve thousand Catholics. It was the largest parish in the world at the time.

Mullen’s parents were Irish immigrants and committed Catholics.  His father was a fireman and died when Martin was three. His mother took a job as a maid to support the family.

He attended Most Blessed Sacrament School, the largest Catholic grade school in the country with over 3,500 students. A former student recalled: “This school was my life and so was my neighborhood. We lived and breathed family, church and friends.”


Mullen was a parish politician and built a Catholic coalition that dominated state politics for twenty years. He consistently had the heaviest booking schedule of speaking engagements, banquets, and meetings of any politician of his time.

He later explained: “People fail to realize that why I was successful was that I had a power base around the state. I didn’t win battles here in Harrisburg. I won them back in the districts. We organized our groups at the local level, with the objective of delivering the votes in Harrisburg.”

He served fifteen terms in the Pennsylvania State House of Representatives and described himself as “carrying the banner of God“. He introduced laws against abortion, adultery, divorce, pornography, and immorality.

Many of his laws passed but were later vetoed by the Governor or declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In December of 1965, Mullen protested government funding of birth control and refused to release the state budget. He was chairman of the House Approporiations Committee which controlled spending. His opponents attacked him and claimed he was violating the will of the people.

However, Catholics understood the consequences of birth control and recognized the threat. In 1959, Philadelphia Cardinal John Francis O’Hara claimed “Birth control programs were aimed largely at two groups with the highest birth rates – Catholics and Negroes.”

In August of the next year, Mullen finally won his battle and birth control funding was removed from the state budget.

In 1971, Mullen introduced a bill to outlaw all abortions in the state of Pennsylvania. He declared: “This bill prohibits abortion 100% under any circumstances… This bill would make all abortions for any reasons unlawful.”

Mullen’s bill was passed with an 80% majority, but Jewish Pennsylvania Governor Milton Shapp vetoed the abortion ban.

Then, Mullen threatened to run against Shapp in the next election. He explained:

“Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to be governor, but if Mr. Shapp kills the bill and the Legislature doesn’t come with two-thirds majority to overturn him, I’ll have to take my case to the people. This is my life. I want the damned bill to become law. Why? Because I don’t want to see more innocent babies getting killed.”


In 1974, Mullen announced he was running for Governor of Pennsylvania and based his entire candidacy on “the whole morality question”.

However, the media began a vicious smear campaign against him. Mullen was ridiculed for the clothes he wore, the simple home he lived in, and his traditional values. They referred to him as “Pope Martin” and “Monsignor Mullen“.

He eventually lost in the Democratic primary and Shapp remained the Governor of Pennsylvania. Later that year, the Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, Jewish State Congressman Herb Fineman removed Mullen as chairman of the House Approporiations Committee.

The next year in 1975, Mullen fought back and attempted to overthrow Fineman as Speaker of the House. He recieved 80 Republican votes to go along with 13 Democratic votes, almost defeating Fineman, 93-109.

In 1977, Mullen passed more laws restricting abortion. They were vetoed again by Governor Shapp, but this time was overridden by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. However, the U.S. Supreme Court eventually ruled these laws were unconstitutional.

Mullen also passed three bills to aid Catholic schools and two laws to restrict pornography, which were later declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.


Meanwhile, Mullen’s home neighborhood was being destroyed by gang violence. When some of the Irish began to relocate into more “prestigious” neighborhoods, Mullen bought their houses prevent blacks from moving in. Eventually, Mullen owned eighty houses and rented them to ethnic Catholics at discounted rates.

However in 1980, Mullen’s district was redrawn by Democrats who wanted to force him out of office. His new district included areas with more minorities and less of his supporters.

In the next election, the Democrats ran a straight-up racial campaign against him and he was defeated by a black candidate.

Gradually, the Most Blessed Sacrament parish was destroyed and Elmwood Park became a black ghetto. The former members, 100,000 Irish Catholics had been scattered into the suburbs. They gradually lost their culture and became “white” Americans.

However, they still gathered occasionally and remembered what had been lost.

In “Slaughter of Cities”, Catholic author E. Michael Jones recalls an occasion when the group met at West Philly night on the beach of Sea Isle, New Jersey. They yelled:

Where are we from?”
The crowd chanted “MBS (Most Blessed Sacrament).”
Why did we leave?”
Because of the niggers,” it answers.”

The ethnic Catholic neighborhoods across the country had been destroyed. Therefore, the Catholic politicians that represented them and stood up for their values were also eliminated.


This article is part ten of the “Catholic Power: Irish American Politics” series:

Introduction: Jett and Jahn Media Presents “Catholic Power: Irish American Politics”
Al Smith: New York Governor
Father Charles Coughlin: Catholic Fascism?
John Fitzgerald: Boston Mayor
Joe Kennedy: America’s Royal Family?
James Michael Curley: Massachusetts Governor
Frank Hague: Jersey City Mayor
Joe McCarthy: Wisconsin Senator
John F. Kennedy: United States President
Richard J. Daley: Chicago Mayor
Martin P. Mullen: Pennsylvania State Congressman
Conclusion: Modern Catholics & Politics

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