Steven Waldman

Steven Waldman


Anti-Catholicism & the Birth of America

posted by swaldman

Pope Benedict has praised the American tradition of religious freedom and separation of church and state. But what is often forgotten is that Catholics were not originally part of this arrangement in America. I’m always amused when I hear about the Judeo-Christian heritage of America because not only were the Judeos not equal partners, neither were Catholics. What we really had for most of the early years of the colonial America was not even a Christian heritage but a protestant heritage.
Over the next two weeks I’m gong to explore the early history of Catholics and religious freedom (drawn from my new book Founding Faith), including some episodes that bely the notion that America has forever been a bastion of religious freedom.
Christopher Columbus believed that making the New World Catholic was a crucial reason for his voyage – and that God was guiding his trip. “With a hand that could be felt, the Lord opened my mind to the fact that it would be possible to sail from here to the Indies.” Though Columbus didn’t succeed in settling all of America, his success did spook England into getting serious sending their own in the 600s.
The twin goals of converting Indians and defeating Catholics provided a strong rallying cry for Virginia’ settlers. Prospects were instructed to bring “no traitors, nor Papists that depend on the Great Whore.” An Anglican promotional booklet argued that if the Spanish had so much luck pressing their corrupt religion, imagine how successful the English could be with their noble goals of saving “those wretched people.”
At that moment in history, the Catholic Church was viewed in England not as a competing form of Christianity but as a fraudulent faith. It was called “the Whore” because it had prostituted itself by selling indulgences (the promise that for a fee, the church would make sure that the soul of a loved one wouldn’t be stuck in purgatory). Protestants believed Catholics should be called “Papists,” not Christians, because they had substituted worship of the Pope for devotion of Christ. And only the “anti-Christ,” it was thought, would use the trappings of faith to so distort the message of Jesus. Not surprisingly, the Virginia government attempted to squelch Catholicism within the colony. In 1640, it prohibited Catholics from holding any public office unless they “had taken the oath of allegiance and supremacy” to the Church of England. It decreed that any “‘popish priests” who arrived in Virginia “should be deported forthwith.”
Massachusetts, of course, was settled by the Puritans, who believed that despite Henry the VIII’s split with Rome, the Church of England had retained too many vestiges of the Catholic Church. “Kneeling at the Sacrament, bowing to the Altar and to the name of Jesus, Popish holy days, Holiness of places, Organs and Cathedral Musick, The Books of Common prayer, or church Government by Bishops…They are nothing else but reliques of Popery, and remnants of Baal,” sniffed one prominent Puritan. And they Pilgrims who settled Plymouth? They were Puritans who had become “Separatists” because they believed that the Church of England was so corruptly entangled with Catholicism that nothing short of a clean break would suffice. Catholics were not allowed in the colony. (Since the Puritans tried to embody the compassion of Jesus, they did allow that any “Jesuits” who had ended up in their midst due to a shipwreck need not to be killed.)



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Charles Cosimano

posted April 3, 2008 at 11:10 pm


The Dutch were similar. Resolved Waldron was a great flogger of Quakers in New Amsterdam.



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Man o' man

posted April 4, 2008 at 9:46 am


Neither Jesus, nor the Apostles and Disciples ignored this issue. “Christians” are to be wary of, and to test teachers, leaders and even Angels for a “different Gospel.” No wonder, this is how “The Sermon on the Mount” is concluded:
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.



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RJohnson

posted April 4, 2008 at 10:27 am


Man o’ man…you left out one verse.
“Then Jesus told them to bring these false teachers into the public square, tie them to stakes, and flog them until they repented of their evil teachings. If they die before repenting then consider it glory for the number of souls who did not hear their teaching and fall away.”
After all, the killings of “false teachers” by the Puritans was justified by Scripture, wasn’t it?



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Man o' man

posted April 4, 2008 at 11:17 am


RJ,
No it wasn’t. The same scriptures that oppose just about everything that “The Left” promotes, also, gave no license for killing anyone that wants to pursue the pagan beliefs and behaviors that “The Left” embraces with abandon and without reason. All Jesus taught was to preach to them, live as His follower should and NOT join with them, and, either let them “as weeds” dwell within the community, or, better yet, leave them alone and let Him deal with them on judgment day. You know, “Don’t cast pearls before swine.” Jesus was indeed a good prophet looking at the condition of “secular” society today.
And RJ, please present “how many” people were actually killed by the Puritians. I’ll present how many people are killed by non-believers (inside AND outside of the womb). Your handful, versus the millions and millions I present will be fascinating debate material for people that follow wrong behaviors and actions and try to justify them.



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read some history

posted April 4, 2008 at 11:52 am


Before anyone starts feeling sorry for the RC religion- please read about their history – of abuse of power, the Inquisition ,modern day child abuse-and the list goes on and on…. be informed !!!!



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RJohnson

posted April 4, 2008 at 1:47 pm


Man o’Man: “And RJ, please present “how many” people were actually killed by the Puritians.”
I would say that even one would be too many, wouldn’t you? Or are you one of those who find it OK to kill in the name of Jesus if it promotes your particular cause?
Your comparison fails, Man o’Man, because the standard of comparison is not unbelievers. For Christians, the standard is Christ. That is one reason that the church in this nation is failing. For too long we have accepted it as a good thing that we are better than “those nasty liberals” instead of focusing on how far we have to go to measure up to the example set by Jesus.
If we are looking backwards instead of forwards, is it any wonder we are losing ground?



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Jonathan Carpenter

posted April 5, 2008 at 1:49 pm


Congratulations, Steve. A great read. I applaud you for doing more to address Anti-Catholicism than in all of the 12 years Mr. Crunchy-Con was a “loyal Catholic.”



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JP

posted April 6, 2008 at 9:42 am


I think most people forget that civil rights was something that this country grew into, not something that was simply born in the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution.
If I had to rate Anglo-American prejudices in the 17 and 18th centuries, my interpretation would probably be, blacks, Native Americans, atheists, Catholics, and Jews … in that order. And atheists probably shouldn’t even rate since there were so few of them.
Nativism was common well into the 19th century and even had a strong political party in the 1850s (the Know-Nothing Party) with which to press its agenda against Catholics and non-Anglos.
I think few people realize how little integration existed in American society and how culturally stratified it was. And yet, at the time, it may have been the most diverse nation in the world.



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K.K.

posted April 6, 2008 at 2:14 pm


In much of the U.S. today (once you leave the coasts) Catholics are STILL not considered Christians by the Protestant majority. I was shocked and confused when my Ohio girlfriend asked me, while we still lived in New York, “are your family Catholic or Christian?”



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Reaganite in NYC

posted April 7, 2008 at 12:06 am


As a Roman Catholic who is pretty active in his parish, I’m doubtful about the value (if not accuracy) of Steve Waldman’s “correction” of the American colonial historical record towards Catholics and Jews. I think Steve is committing a pretty basic error in historical analysis: interpreting the past through the narrow lens of current prejudices and current norms. I also find some of the comments by those in response lacking in perspective and/or objectivity.
Compared with conditions elsewhere at the time, the American colonies provided perhaps the best opportunities for religious freedom anywhere in the world. Yes, some colonies were more accepting of certain faiths than others. And some had religious tests for office. As a consequence, some colonies were actually formed to provide a haven for believers not accepted in other colonies.
Nevertheless the principles of religious freedom and disestablishmentarianism were laid here during the colonial period. That foundation was built upon and reflected in the Constitution and Bill of Rights of the new American republic and in the constitutions of the various 13 states.
Steve made the comment that Jews and Catholic were not “equal partners” (with the Protestants) It should be pointed out, however, that their numbers were so VERY SMALL at the time; it is hard to see how any partnership could have been “equal” in a political sense under those circumstances. Nevertheless, despite their small numbers in the overall population, Jews numbered among those active in the Revolution and at least one Catholic (Carroll of Maryland) was among the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
As for the anti-Catholic bashing of “read some history,” he sounds like one of these poorly-read secular progressive crackpots who’s got a problem with orthodox believers in general. These kind will go after the Catholics on one day, then swing their axe against evangelical Christians the next day, and then go after orthodox Jews the following day … and so on and so forth. My advice for “read some history:” keep reading MORE history to overcome your lack of knowledge.
Jonathan Carpenter: What have you got against Rod Dreher and the “crunchy con” blog? Rod continues to exhaustively deal with bigotry against believers of all kinds, including anti-Catholicism. Your criticism of him doesn’t add up.
Catholic Americans — and I think all religious believers in this country — appreciate that conditions for religious freedom never have and never will be perfect. Some things in the past were regrettable.
But we move on! During the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), the Catholic Church was heavily influenced by the thinking of American theologians, including Father John Courtney Murray, in issuing its “Declaration on Religious Freedom.” The Holy Father’s recent comments are merely a reiterations of truths that were declared well over 40 years by the universal Church.



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Bob

posted April 7, 2008 at 7:58 am


“Then Jesus told them to bring these false teachers into the public square, tie them to stakes, and flog them until they repented of their evil teachings. If they die before repenting then consider it glory for the number of souls who did not hear their teaching and fall away.”
And which verse is that? Oh, that’s right — it’s NOT in the New Testament.
Why would you make that up? Especially when you consider there are a lot of people who will read that quote and assume you’re telling the truth without actually looking up the Sermon on the Mount themselves.



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Katie Angel

posted April 7, 2008 at 2:09 pm


Reaganite,
One of the big pushes of both John Paul II and the current Pope is to reverse as much of Vatican II as possible. Both of these men want the Church to return to the powerful authority that it had before the lay people were given any power. Pope Benedict has restored the Latin mass and has exhorted American Catholics to return to the “traditional” teachings of the Church. He has spoken out strongly against the doctrice of Freedom of Conscience (which was all but removed by John Paul II) and has catagorically stated his postion that those Catholics who do not follow all of the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church should not receive communion. Although John Paul II had a more pastoral mien, both of our last two pontiffs have shared a committment to restoring the power of the hierachy and returning the Church to its position as the sole source of morality for Catholics. Both men want to remove the influence of Fr. Murray and the other American theologians from Catholic doctrine and thought. Both pontiffs have been removing teachers from the Catholic colleges and seminaries when their teachings are not in direct accordance with the pre-Vatican II law. The latest salvo is the pontiffs position that all “good” Catholics will return to receiving the host on the tongue and, whenever possible, kneeling at an altar rail. Symbolically, this shows that the priest is above the congregation and that they recieve the grace of God through him. It is returning to the theology of precedence and a refutation of the servant model of Christianity – that we are all servants to each other – as Christ served his disciples, so we (and especially Christ’s representative the priest) serve each other.



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Reaganite in NYC

posted April 7, 2008 at 3:35 pm


Gee, “Katie Angel”, where to begin?
First, I would invite you to ACTUALLY READ the documents of the Second Vatican Council. Not the interpretations of the Council by various partisan “commentators.” But actually read the documents that were approved over the course of four years (1962-1965). You will find nothing in those documents which either Pope John Paul II or Pope Benedict XVI have worked against.
Second, I remind you that both of these individuals were actively engaged in the discussions at the Second Vatican Council. Benedict was a young “peritus” (or theological adviser) to the Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Fringe, a prominent “liberal.” John Paul was, at the beginning of the Council, an auxiliary bishop, and then, by the end, an archbishop. He took on major drafting roles on both the Declaration on Religion Freedom and the Pastoral Council on The Church in the Modern World (Lumen Gentium). It is inconceivable that as authors who were “present at the creation” they would in any way roll back the meaning of Second Vatican Council which they helped to create.
Thirdly, NONE of the so-called “salvos” you mention (receiving the host on the tongue; permitting, in limited ways, the celebration of the Tridentine Rite in Latin; even, receiving the Precious Body and Blood while kneelind) were EVEN MENTIONED in the Second Vatican Council documents.
Besides, I can’t understand YOUR IDEOLOGICAL RIGIDITY in hassling a few old-fashioned Catholics who want to receive Holy Communion in these albeit old-fashioned ways. It’s not my style nor yours — but who are we to criticize these folks for wanting to receive Communion that way? I mean to ask: “What’s it to you?”
By the way, which theologians have been removed? Only Father Curran, if I am not mistaken? But he wasn’t actually “removed.” It’s more accurate to say that since he wasn’t ACTUALLY teaching the official theology of the Catholic Church, then he was denied the the Catholic equivalent of the “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.” Makes sense to me! I call it the church version of “truth in advertising.” If a “Catholic” theologian is going to hang out his shingle as a “Catholic theologian,” shouldn’t he ACTUALLY be teaching the theology and the moral truths of the Catholic Church? If you went to a doctor with an MD after his name — and who advertised himself as Board certified — and it turned he was actually practicing voodoo medicine, wouldn’t you be the first to report him to the American Medical Association. I know I would!
There’s so much more one could say here, but first I would urge to actually read the documents of the Second Vatican Council. After that, I might then entertain your fables about how these two Popes are undermining the Second Vatican Council.



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Reaganite in NYC

posted April 7, 2008 at 3:42 pm


One correction to previous post: The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World was “Gaudium et Spes” NOT “Lumen Gentium.” Sorry :-)



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Mark

posted April 7, 2008 at 3:44 pm


Steven -
You make no mention of colonial Maryland – which pretty much destroys your disjointed and quarrelsome argument. It was founded in 1632 by royal charter issued to the second Baron Baltimore who was a staunch Catholic and has had a continuous Catholic present up to this day.
Asser Levy and a group of 23 Jews arrived in New York in 1654 and when Peter Stuyvesant the Dutch director general tried to deport them he was rebuffed by the Dutch West India Company which helped create the concept of religious tolerance in the new world transplanted from the religiously tolerant Netherlands.
In 1657 Stuyvesant, who did not tolerate full religious freedom in the colony, and especially the presence of Quakers, ordered the public torture of Robert Hodgson, a 23-year-old Quaker convert who had become an influential preacher. Stuyvesant then made an ordinance, punishable by fine and imprisonment, against anyone found guilty of harboring Quakers. This action led to a protest from the citizens of Flushing, Queens, which came to be known as the Flushing Remonstrance, considered by some a precursor to the United States Constitution’s provision on freedom of religion in the Bill of Rights.
Steven as someone who has just supposedly wrote a book about the “founding faith” you must mention the long strain of religious tolerance in this country. And simply stating that religious bigotry existed – just as racial and ethnic bigotry existed is not a very illuminating topic. You need a better thesis.
Mark



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JP

posted April 8, 2008 at 10:01 am


Mark:
I don’t believe Steven “supposedly” wrote a book on the “Founding Faith”. Since I just read it, let me be the first to confirm its existence. He did indeed write the book, :)
I would also say to your post specifically that I believe religious tolerance in this country has been presumed by the majority. Religious tolerance is far less of a “thesis” than religious bigotry as it pertains to American history. Religious bigotry towards Catholics was vocal and widespread in the 18th century, and is frequently overlooked or misunderstood by the vast majority of Americans. It’s not standard curriculum.
As for Maryland, the Catholic premise it was founded on had completely collapsed by 1700. The best the Catholics could do by 1700 is ward off anti-Catholic voting laws and other acts of discrimination by the Protestant majority.



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Mark

posted April 10, 2008 at 4:18 pm


JP -
The Catholic population grew enough that in 1789 Baltimore was erected as the first Diocese of the United States, covering the entire country! From these humble beginnings, the Catholic Church in America has grown to over 181 dioceses and archdioceses, over 49,000 priests, over 95,000 religious men and women and over 60 million Catholics, making them the largest single religious denomination in the United States.
Prior to 1776 there was no division of church and state and people were persecuted for various things including witchcraft – remember Salem. Slavery existed in many countries and people often had bigoted views about other nationalities.
Yes white Catholic Marylanders were persecuted by Protestant Virginians; and white Catholic Frenchman tried to persecute Protestant British settlers in Ohio and New York in the French and Indian War (1754 – 1763).
To state that somehow Catholics were an especially targeted minority does a disservice to Quaker, Jewish, and African minorities who where persecuted even more vehemently.



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Theodore C.

posted June 4, 2011 at 9:06 pm


Mr. Waldman,

My name is Theodore, and I am a sophomore in high school. I’ve been doing some research on Catholics in Colonial America, and I find your blog posts fascinating. Thank you for all your research.

I was hoping you might be able to direct me to some of the primary documents you reference in this article. I’d like to look at the Anglican pamphlet and the Virginia government ordinance in 1640. If they are accessible online, I would appreciate if you could send me the URL.

Also, for any others interested in Catholics in the colonial time period, I’m starting a blog on just that topic. The URL is http://www.colonialcatholics.com . If you have any research you’ve done or would like to share some resources, please feel free to post there. I know there’s not a lot on it – I just launched it, and I’m waiting until school’s out (two weeks!) to begin populating the site.

Thanks again,

Theodore



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