Thursday, October 10, 2013

"Why Do You Persecute Me?"

As I looked up at the spires of the magnificent Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Savannah, Georgia, I was startled when our walking tour guide, stated, “When Savannah was established lawyers, Jews, slaves and Catholics were not allowed to live here.” It had been the second time in a week that I felt the sting of prejudice toward Catholics. 

The first: While visiting Pinehurst, No. Carolina, I stopped into a lovely shop that displayed many Christian items along with delicious looking fudge. As I wandered about, I spotted Jack Chick booklets …some of the most anti-Catholic literature of modern days…I left, wiping the dust of that store off my feet. It was a hurtful reminder of how some Christian brethren still feel about Catholics. 

In this day of political correctness, Catholic bashing is still the #1 sport.  I could only imagine what it must have been like in 1700 America esp. in the deep south. It’s ironic that in our great nation, built on religious freedom, early settlers discriminated against the Catholic faith. What religious freedom really referred to was…As long as you are not Catholic then Religious Liberty is afforded you. Upon hearing what our guide said, I wondered  how extensive was prejudice against Catholics in American history.

I discovered, to my dismay, that admired persons such as, Mark Twain (A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court), Edgar Allan Poe, (Pit & the Pendulum), cartoonist, Thomas Nast, & President Ulysses S. Grant supporter of the Blaine Amendment, rallied against Catholics through their professions.

American Anti-Catholicism has its roots in the Reformation, no surprise. It was thought that common hatred of the Roman Catholic Church could bring together Anglicans and Puritans despite their many other disagreements. 

In the years between 1642-1776, Wikipedia states:
The colonial charter of Savannah prohibited Roman Catholics from settling in Savannah. The English trustees feared that Catholics would be more loyal to the Spanish authorities in Florida than to the English government in Georgia.

Even though the Bill of Rights was in place, Catholics in the United States encountered prejudice on many levels based on: 1. Catholics were accused of being superstitious, and of practicing magic because of the misunderstanding of Catholic sacraments and sacramentals such as holy water.

2. The Catholic religion was charged with anti-freedom and democracy because of the failure to understand the teaching authority of the Church.


Until the 1830s, Catholics remained a very small minority. This changed dramatically with Irish and German immigration. Catholic immigrants in the 1800s, notably the Irish, were seen as conformists unable to be fully assimilated into the American system.  In time, the influx of millions of Catholic immigrants in the 19th-Century added to the religious diversity of the United States despite fierce opposition and occasional violent actions. 

Anti-Catholicism was widespread in the 1920s. Catholic churches were targeted by the Klu Klux Klan. Restriction laws placed a quota on how many people were allowed to enter from each foreign country. Quotas for Catholic countries were set so low that Catholic immigration virtually halted by 1924.

In Alabama, Hugo Black was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1926 having built a political base by denouncing the Catholic Church at local Klan gatherings. Christianity Today editorialized that, "Black's advocacy of church-state separation, in turn, found its roots in the fierce anti-Catholicism of the Masons and the Klu Klux Klan…” My, my, my!! No wonder the Blessed Mother warns against the Masons.

Famous 1876 editorial cartoon by Thomas Nast depicting 
Roman Catholic bishops as crocodiles 
 attacking public schools, with the connivance 
of Irish Catholic politicians

In 1928, Al Smith became the first Roman Catholic to win the nomination for President, but Protestant ministers spoke out against him because of his faith. However, Smith's strong anti-Klan position split the South, carrying the Deep South. The surge proved permanent, as Catholics comprised a major portion of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal Coalition. President Roosevelt depended heavily in his four elections on the Catholic vote.

World War II was the decisive event that brought religious tolerance to the front in American life. Differences in religious belief fell away as military life reminded man of all they had in common as Americans. Friendships and trust were forged in the fire of war.

Then there was Eleanor Roosevelt….who had a public disagreement with Francis Joseph Spellman, the Catholic Archbishop of New York. Roosevelt had attacked proposals for federal funding of certain nonreligious activities at parochial schools, such as bus transportation for students. She feared the Catholic Church gaining school aid, stating, "Once that is done they control the schools, or at least a great part of them."  Really?

John F. Kennedy had a smear against him because of his Catholicism. Famed preacher & author, Norman Vincent Peale, rallied the aid of Protestant ministers to preach against having a Catholic in the White House. His efforts were exposed by the press in a time when the main stream media was fair & balanced.

On the surface, after 1980 the historic tensions between evangelical Protestants and Catholics seemed to fade. Political leanings shifted. By 2000, the Republican coalition included about half the Catholics and a large majority of white evangelicals.

Historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Sr. characterized prejudice against Catholics as "the deepest bias in the history of the American people." Conservative writer Peter Viereck once commented that "Catholic baiting is the anti-Semitism of the liberals." Historian John Highham described anti-Catholicism as "the most luxuriant, tenacious tradition of paranoiac agitation in American history".

LGBT activists and others criticize the Catholic Church for its policies on issues relating to human sexuality, contraception and abortion. In 1989, Gay Rights protesters stormed St. Patrick’s Cathedral in NYCity during Sunday Mass, desecrating Holy Communion hosts. One hundred eleven protesters were arrested.

On January 30, 2007, John Edwards' presidential campaign  hired Amanda Marcotte as blogmaster. The Catholic League took offense at her obscenity- and profanity-laced invective against Catholic doctrine and satiric rants against Catholic leaders, including some of her earlier writings, where she described sexual activity of the Holy Spirit. She eventually resigned.

No one can deny Catholic prejudices in the Mainstream Media and the Entertainment Industry with attacks on television shows such as, "Nothing Sacred," Broadway offerings like "Corpus Christi" and exhibits like "Sensation" at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. In an advertisement for Grateful Palate, a food and wine wholesaler, a nun named Sister Mary Lemon Curd is featured (in full habit) with the following quote: "I love Grateful Palate products, especially Burton & Co. curds.... Sometimes I just rub it all over my...oops. Never mind.... I’d rather eat curd than anything else, except the holy sacrament." Can you expect less from industries that have sold their immortal souls? 

Sadly, Catholic churches continue to be vandalized; statues decapitated and defaced. The persecution of Catholics continues world-wide. In Maalaula, Syria, priests are imprisoned. Nuns are abused and arrested and century old churches destroyed. This sacred place where Aramaic, the language of Jesus, is still spoken has been a safe haven for Catholic/Christians for 2,000 years--until now. The United States & other nations turn a blind eye to this tragedy.
In this modern era, there's no reason for ignorance of the Catholic faith. One need only go to the Internet to be properly educated. God-willing, someday, people of different faiths will realize the enormous contributions the Catholic Church has made & the veil of prejudice may be lifted. Read: Violating Catholic Conscience for this info

As the beloved Bishop Fulton J. Sheen said, "Not 100 in the United States hate the Roman Catholic Church, but millions hate what they mistakenly think the Roman Catholic Church is." 


  1. Amazing and informative. I had't known that Catholics were not allowed to live in Savannah at one time. Thank you for sharing all of this!

  2. Aw, thanks for reading my post...dear faithful Nancy. Yes, I didn't know until recently. I found a bunch of interesting facts as I began my research. God Bless America. Take care. N